The Wind and Wilting Blossom by Picklefeet Games
The Wind and Wilting Blossom is a tactical role-playing game that also features Rogue-like progression reminiscent of that in FTL: Faster Than Light.
Here, however, instead of managing activities aboard a ship between battles, one guides an adventuring party through Heian era Japan, battling through fearsome yokai (monsters and spirits from Japanese myth) and dealing with many difficult decisions along the way. The Wind and Wilting Blossom is a game steeped in the folklore of Japan.
The Wind and Wilting Blossom provides a brief introduction and tutorial to its different systems. This brevity seems an apt decision, as the game feels intuitive and streamlined from the outset. I found it easy to slip into The Wind and Wilding Blossom’s two main arenas for action.
Zen and the Art of Map Design
The first is a beautifully rendered map of Heian-era Japan, overflowing with traditional Japanese aesthetics and full of character. This map is split into a selection of nodes, each with a randomly-generated scenario waiting to play out. The second is a hex map designed for tactical turn-based combat.
Anyone who has played FTL will find the overworld map somewhat familiar (although the comparison could be said to be unfair, given that it is a mere star map in FTL and here it is, frankly, a work of art). Each region must be crossed in order to progress, and there are different encounters scattered across each one. Many encounters are purely text-based narrative sequences demanding a decision to resolve an outcome. These are beautifully written and manage to convey the character of the setting in a way that stirs the imagination.
Other encounters range from story events to quests that designate another location, further along in the region, as the destination for the task. There are also shops where upgrades and equipment can be bought. It is important to maintain a stock of food, as one unit is consumed each time the party moves across the map, and if they run out of food they will, of course, starve. This creates a great sense of pressure as things progress, but not nearly so much as the area of corruption spreading across Japan.
As the party moves, they will be pursued by a purple mist that conceals the armies of yokai sent forth by the dreaded witch, Takiyasha, to wage war on her behalf. Falling behind this wave leads to an increasingly forlorn struggle against the monsters, so it is important to plan the journey forward carefully in order to stay ahead of this danger.
Bushido: The Way of the Warrior
Even in front of the wave combat will eventually strike; either by stumbling across groups of yokai or engaging opportunist bandits, battles can be found anywhere.
Each party member brings different skills to combat; some can knock enemies back, others can shoot from afar or even heal other fighters. Each combatant has a movement rating, allowing them to cross a certain number of hexes before attacking. They also have armor that depletes before health starts to degrade; armor resets at the start of each battle, while health needs to be replenished some other way (usually by buying healing at a shop).
I found combat to be rewarding and tactical; careful positioning and using the more armored fighters to soak up attacks from dangerous enemies proves a valid strategy a lot of the time. There are occasional difficulty spikes where new and dangerous monsters show up; I found these to be mostly engaging and fun challenges that help to give this Rogue-like teeth.
Each party member can be upgraded with scrolls that level up the character and give them access to new abilities or improved stats. Items can also be purchased that provide party-wide boons, such as slowing the progress of the corruption or enhancing combat damage.
Finally, the leader of the party can also be equipped with a variety of weapons to change their combat options. Between play-throughs, there is also a selection of leaders to choose from who all bring not only their own advantages to the game but also their own narrative quirks and goals.
Ukiyo-e: The Floating World
The art of The Wind and Wilting Blossom is absolutely jaw-dropping. I can’t get enough of the flavorful images of monsters from Japanese myth and the enchanting depiction of the lands of Japan itself. Animations are a little limited, but where they are used they are elegantly deployed; wind symbols animate across the map, and rainstorms pour down on parts of regions.
The music is also excellent, capturing the feel of ancient Japan whilst also managing to provide a solid rhythm to action.
The Wind and Wilting Blossom is a fantastic Rogue-like strategy RPG that marries all of its systems superbly. It does clearly draw inspiration from FTL, but this is no bad thing; in fact, I’m delighted to have more of this emerging subgenre.
The Wind and Wilting Blossom is easy to recommend to any fans of the Rogue-like RPG genre or anyone looking for turn-based tactics with a backdrop of beautiful Heian period art.
The Wind and Wilting Blossom is available via Steam.
Check out the official trailer for The Wind and Wilting Blossom below: