On the surface, Kitaria Fables looks to be a charming mixture of Stardew Valley and Diablo. Blending elements of the iconic farming simulator with the ferocious action of the latter is a great setup. In its initial opening hours, the game demonstrates a perfect blend of the two, delivering a satisfying gameplay loop. But it's not long before the cracks begin to show and the true grind of the game is revealed.

While the opening hours are fairly slow at introducing new elements, you'll spend your initial time with Kitaria Fables smashing away at enemies, exploring dungeons and learning new skills. You see, you've been sent to protect a small village from monsters by the capital, but it's not long until you learn more is at play. It's actually a fairly engaging narrative, despite being aimed at a younger audience. The town's fluffy inhabitants create a cosy atmosphere that perfectly balances against the game's darker political themes.

It's not until the training wheels are removed that the true problems begin to arise. With a game split into two halves, RPG and farming, it never manages to juggle both elements naturally. How it attempts to do so is via grinding, which may mean you have to venture out into the world to collect resources, kill enemies or find specific items. The quest objectives never evolve beyond this and it's not long before roadblocks stop you in your tracks, forcing you to take part in the dull grind. It doesn't help that the game is littered with loading screens every few steps.

None of this would be so bad if Kitaria Fables made it easy to navigate the world. Instead, you walk at a relatively slow pace with fast travel points available far too distant away from each other. If everything had just been sped up to provide more sense of urgency, the loop would have felt a lot more satisfying. As a result, you'll end up groaning when you realise you'll have to kill ten wasps in a far-out location. It doesn't help that you start with a ridiculously small inventory space that resides behind a clunky UI.

With all this said, there is enjoyment to be had in Kitaria Fables if you can look past the clunkiness. The combat, for one, feels really great and gives you a ton of abilities as you progress through. Farming is also a satisfying system. If the game had just lent harder into one aspect, we can't help but think the end result would have been a tighter experience. There were times when it felt like we were playing a classic original Xbox title with its presentation, which lent a nice charm. Unfortunately, there's only so much that can carry you through its 20-or-so hour-long story.