Trek to Yomi

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Trek to Yomi review
Justin Van Huyssteen


Be the samurai

Doing aesthetics right

Some games go all in with a specific aesthetic. Most just look like a game. Trek to Yomi is definitely one of the former. If you’re a fan of classic black and white Japanese samurai films like Seven Samurai, then this game is most assuredly for you. It is very clearly an intense labour of love born out of a genuine appreciation for all things Edo Period and 50s/60s samurai film.

The game even emulates a film camera in many of its shots and set pieces, such as the continuous use of the silhouette-style profile view of samurai as they do battle or how the camera will move behind foliage as a character runs across one of the many gorgeous black and white vistas you visit. It all feels like a series of visual vignettes punctuated by a rather robust combat system.

Now, the visuals alone may be enough to catch a lot of people and compel them to play. And for those who do decide to jump onboard, you will be treated to an all-Japanese voice cast, stunning sound design and beautiful visuals that, for an indie game, do incredibly well to have a near photorealistic look (at least until there are close ups of character faces, because that’s about the only time it shows some of its lower-that-AAA budget).
Now, that’s all visual stuff. What about the narrative behind that visual stuff? Well, it’s a rather simple story of samurai honour and maintaining a certain code. It’s exactly the kind of thing you may find in these kinds of films, and so if you want a classic Japanese narrative then go for it. However, I would prefer not to spoil things aside from stating that the main character is a samurai who has sworn to protect his town and that the term “Yomi” from the title of the game is the Japanese term for a Shinto afterlife. So, maybe that will give a few hints as to where this narrative of steel and blood will take you.

Bushidō: Way of the Warrior

When it comes to the gameplay of this film-inspired game, you are, as mentioned, a samurai. You follow the way of the warrior and seek to defend your village from attack. You do so with your sword and a variety of long-range weapons. Now, before we even get into it, I would recommend using a controller for this game as it seems to be built around it.

The majority of the gameplay is found in the sword. As you play the game, you gain new attack combos that constantly increase your overall moveset, but there is no way to actually increase your damage output or anything like that. You do a rather large amount of damage regardless as there is a fairly realistic portrayal of sword damage. You die fast (on the normal and harder difficulties) and your enemies often die even faster. This means that while attacking is an ever-present aspect of the gameplay, another fundamental aspect, and a very necessary component needed for survival, is parrying.

The game does not encourage blocking as it often fails to even work and can lead to you getting staggered, but parrying is always a viable option (unless someone has a bow, because you have to roll to evade those things!). Many enemies must be parried or else they won’t give you much of a chance to strike, but as soon as you parry you can often go in for the kill. However, the parry window tends to be quite a lot more forgiving than Soulsbourne games. Think Dark Souls slow-paced combat but significantly easier (although on the harder difficulties it does become more of a dance with swords and requires a lot more strategy, but on easy, you can often button mash your way to victory).

Whenever you enter combat, the game changes from a more 3D perspective to a 2D perspective in which enemies can either be in front of you or behind you, and so you parry one side, slash back, attack to the front, roll back and stab the one behind and repeat. You enter a great flow state as you slash your way through the many enemies you face, and the fact that they die rather quickly only adds to the speed with which you fight. In addition, there are a variety of enemy types that force you to change up the way you fight. An enemy with a bow or a gun is a more immediate threat than one with a sword as they can strike from afar, so you may want to run across the screen to deal with them first. Or some may have a poleaxe or have certain other abilities that may be a spoiler to discuss.

There is also the very occasional environmental kill, but they’re few and far between and often feel unnecessary. These are things like breaking open a dam to kill a handful of enemies at once with the runaway water rather than fighting them one on one, but these are very contextual and hardly show up. So, their addition seems more like an afterthought than an integral aspect of the design.

Now, one nice thing about the combat is that while it is often rather challenging, you never have to redo much if you die. Save points are frequent and get you back to the fight within moments. And the projectile weapons you find are also often like insta-kill screen clearers. Too many enemies on screen? Well then kill two with a bow before you engage in combat. Although, the ranged weapons take longer to use, so in the middle of combat they’re often somewhat useless (except for the rather weak shruiken weapons).

What about that pretty world

While fighting your way across the game, you also have the chance to sort of explore. There isn’t much exploration, as the game is very linear, but rather the occasional go-left-instead-of-right-to-find-some-extra-arrows kind of situation. Which is a little disappointing as it would have been great to see more of the world, as it is superbly implemented.

But instead, you find extra ammo or the occasional health/stamina/ranged capacity upgrade and very little else. Maybe a line or two of additional dialogue but that’s about it. So, that’s a little disappointing as it would have been great to experience more of this expertly crafted Edo world, but at least there are the occasional optional collectibles that give you some additional information about the Edo period and the people who lived during that time. So, if you want a rather great combat system with a gorgeous aesthetic then give Trek to Yomi a try, but don’t expect a game that’s going to last dozens of hours. It has a story to tell, and that story is not very long.

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fun score


Gorgeous aesthetic, compelling swordplay.


Quite linear with little exploration, combat can get rather same-y over long periods of play.