How deceiving can a game be? With Sofiya and the Ancient Clan, I foolishly assumed I’d be dashing through, not speedrunning, the chapters at a reasonable pace, then at the end wish there was a bit of a challenge so I could have dragged it out a little. Well, egg on my face: Sofiya and the Ancient Clan is pretty challenging.
No doubt there are some eye rolls now saying how a baby could do it, or how you did it with your arms behind your back while casting a hex on some wizards at the academy, but not me. Nope. I immediately liked the visuals, and dismissed the sometimes jerky animation on that basis alone. The video/screenshots were accurate: this is a nice-looking game. The score’s pretty nifty, too, if on a loop.
But you aren’t playing a painting – Sofiya and the Ancient Clan is a platform game, so you have to get a-moving and a-jumping. It’s not a precision platformer, but the jumping is pretty accurate. But, and a big fat hairy one, the landing of said jumps can be harsh. Sofiya comes equipped with a fair amount of health, but falling onto spikes or colliding with some enemy units is an instant kill. Not so bad? Well, you typically have to start the level again.
Having recently bought Elden Ring and fast approaching 100 hours of playtime, I found that more forgiving. It’s not that this platform game from Eastasiasoft is ridiculously hard, but the insta-deaths are frustrating. I didn’t rage quit, but sometimes I would repeat the same mistake or a similar one, and starting all over wasn’t rewarding enough, so I played in small doses.
Sofiya has two gauges to keep an eye on. The obvious is her health, the next is her mana. She’s able to cast spells on her enemies, and there’s an infinite supply, but it has a cooldown. To fast-track this, slain enemies will drop both health and mana potions, though there’s a very tight window for picking them up. This can be frustrating when you’ve killed an enemy but can’t get there in time to pick up the potion. These situations are often life and death as well.
Alas, Sofiya and the Ancient Clan doesn’t fulfil in terms of feedback. The first enemy encounters consisted of patrolmen walking back and forth, and simply walking into them would damage your health. There are no animations for attacks with these characters, and when you kill them, they just disappear. Later enemies may fire a spell or two, but they’re predominantly static, albeit on a pre-defined path. That meh feeling of killing an enemy is much like taking damage as Sofiya makes soft grunts when hit. In comparison to the music, the sound effects are terribly understated.
But perhaps my biggest beef with the game has to be the unfair damage caused by enemies and subsequent restarts. Sometimes it’s almost impossible to avert a projectile. Yes, you can shoot them out of the sky, but in the game there are a lot of sections that involve you holding up or down on the d-pad to see the area above/below. It’s typically a leap of faith to get your timing right to land on a platform. There’s a fair amount of miscalculating it, but those instant deaths mean you learn. The problem is, you’ll find yourself jumping to avoid a projectile, at the risk of landing on a spike.
For a non-pixel art fan, I have to say that Sofiya and the Ancient Clan is a standout with its presentation, but as stated, you’re not playing a painting. The mechanics are good for jumping, but having to juggle enemy attacks without falling to your death and restarting the same level, again and again, may test quite a few people.
Sofiya and the Ancient Clan claims that you can unlock saucy pics (of Sofiya, not your best friend’s mum. For that, go to www..). While that’s never been my incentive, having unlocked them, they’re out of context and not sure what many of them were about. Maybe it’s a preferential thing? Anyhoo, it’s well-priced, so you just have to weigh up if you have the resilience to restart a stage again and again, or feel comfortable killing indifferent enemies.
An alternative recommendation? Why not try Wife Quest instead?