Pax West 2023 – The World of Kungfu

When it comes to tactical RPG’s, few have been able to grab me like Final Fantasy Tactics and Fire Emblem Fates. However, when they do grab me, I find myself losing countless hours as I progress through the story, reloading save points to check out different story branch outcomes. At Pax West 2023, we got to check out the alpha of The World of Kungfu, created by indie developer ChillyRoom. This in-development title has been available as a Steam Early Access game since August 2022. ChillyRoom has been using player feedback as they steer the game’s development to completion, targeting a Q2 2024 full release. While the Steam Early Access version has only been available in Simplified Chinese, our Pax West hands-on was of an English-translated version.

Let’s dive in.

In The World of Kungfu, you look to make a name for yourself in a fantastical ancient world of Chinese martial arts (or “Wulin”). Meet, fight, and team up with Kungfu heroes as you build up your own legend from the ground up. From the early access version alone, you can learn over 250 different martial arts, collect over different 60 weapons, meet new allies, and make important story-changing decisions across four playable areas.  You start off by choosing your own character portrait and background, which will not only affect your character’s attributes, but also various aspects of the game’s plot down the road.

What grabbed me about this game was its old-school graphics coupled by an interesting story setting. Then, after seeing the wide variety of Kungfu-themed attacks play out in a turned-based strategic RPG, I was sucked right in.

We were fortunate enough to be provided with a copy of that English translated alpha to spend more time with after the show. As of the timing of this post, I already have 30 hours of play time racked up with this game. Whether it is the nostalgic gameplay style, the constant collecting of new martial arts, or the interest in seeing the different story branches, I clearly got hooked after the show.

There is a lot of freedom in how you build your character and team. Some martial arts can have some strict requirements for learning. However, with the wide variety of characters you can ally with, you are bound to find someone that can use a martial art whenever your own character cannot. There is also a good variety of weapon and attack types, giving you and your teammates many options to consider. Being a lover of bare-handed combat in all game genres, I personally loved how many “Fist”-styled attacks there were in the alpha version, alone.

For an early access game that promises much more content in the full release, there was a lot to explore, from the story to side and hidden quests. Completing those more out-of-the-way side quests lead to some pretty unique and rewarding treasures. So, at least the game does a good job at teasing you to explore outside of main story points and areas.

The game as it is now does not do much to teach you how to play it. Nor does it clearly give you direction as to how to progress the main story. While “rumors” and “anecdotes” give you some hints, I found myself progressing the main story accidentally when I thought I was only hunting for side quests and hidden items. While the lack of direction was definitely “nostalgic” in its own right, that “direction” could use a bit of polishing.

The main story, as it is so far, is at least interesting enough to keep you playing the game, even if you are not the side-quest type. The game’s presentation is campy with hints of adult themes here and there. There are over 250 martial arts, over 60 weapons, and 50 different items to collect from the early access version alone. So, you are bound to be showered with rewards and gear even if you choose to focus on the main story.

While the game can use some improvements in its directions and a lot of its hard-to-follow poetry puzzles, this alpha showed that this game has a lot of promise. If The World of Kungfu was able to provide 30-hours of enjoyment despite being an unfinished game, then there should be plenty to look forward to in the second quarter of 2024. You can check out the title on Steam for yourself by clicking here.