Coming soon to Early Access
Next week, yet another video game will be hitting Steam’s Early Access program. The culprit? A parkour joint by developer Gregor Panič, titled Welkin Road. The pitch is easy to comprehend. It’s a 3D freerunner set across multiple abstract setpieces. In other words, the best part of Mirror’s Edge — the Pure Time Trials DLC.
In a refreshing change of pace, the tutorial doesn’t feel painfully remedial. At points, an exclamation prompt will pop up in the corner of the screen, and by pressing F1, new concepts (like wallrunning) present themselves. Or, you can ignore them and forge your own path, which has the potential to be quite addicting with the right emphasis on leaderboards (which Welkin does have, mind) and a focus on complex level design.
Hopefully the controls can get ironed out during development. At the moment, there isn’t any form of gamepad support, and one maneuver in particular isn’t as responsive as it should be. When running (WASD) and jumping (spacebar), players can use the crouch button (control) to lift their legs up and gain a bit more distance. It’s just as awkward as it sounds.
The game isn’t entirely a Mirror’s Edge homage though, as a Ratchet & Clank Swingshot-esque dual grappling hook gimmick plays a core role. It creates some interesting scenarios, like additional wallrunning opportunities or more open-ended paths. But the central crux of what makes Welkin unique is also its most finicky element. You have to be really close to a grappling point to connect, and the actual thread is woefully short. Unless this is a deliberate choice meant to add to the learning curve, I suspect this will be one of the first things that’s altered.
Right now, there are eight levels in all that comprise the “campaign,” but there isn’t a narrative to truly unite them yet. Based on my early impressions, I see Welkin Road as nothing more than a relaxing diversion, but that may change over time. I’ll keep my eye on it.