Once upon a time, there was a team of developers who found that at Nintendo-Town, there was a lot of complaining about games that were not translated into the language of Molière. This passionate team began looking for a solution so that testers would be more lenient with games that did not have translations. That’s when they came up with the idea of an RPG that would allow players to learn a language other than their own. Therefore Terra Alia: The Language Discovery RPG was born.
Terra Alia: a game to learn English or Japanese…
Terra Alia offers us the opportunity to learn a language through a video game. The principle is simple, we choose our mother tongue then the one we want to learn. The game offers us: French, English, Chinese, Brazilian Portuguese, Italian, German, Russian, Japanese, Korean and Spanish. It will then begin in our native language.
We play an experienced wizard or witch who dreams of traveling the world. Our mentor, the dean Esperanto, invites us to join her at her university which is located in the country of the second language that we have chosen. Once there, we will not find Professor Esperanto, only his hologram. She will then explain to us that your life is threatened. We need to reduce the mystery surrounding our mentor’s disappearance, but because of the magical language shield, we’ll have to learn the language of the land to use our magic. We will then set out in search of clues to investigate the death of our mentor in this unknown country. Because yes, it is not clearly indicated in the game, but everything suggests that she is dead and not just disappeared. In short, it is in this context of investigation under the backdrop of legend that we embark on this magical and linguistic adventure.
Terra Alia: an immersion in another country from our Switch
Terra Alia allows us, in a way, to travel to another country thanks to our Nintendo Switch. Our character will evolve in different places and will be able to interact with all the objects that compose them. So there are around 200 words that we will be able to learn throughout the adventure. In order to properly record this new vocabulary, Terra Alia offers us several ways to use them.
What’s better than practicing to learn! This is the big strong point of the game: each word is read with the accent of the country, written and illustrated. This way we can interact with each element as many times as necessary. For example, we will find a lot of books and libraries all over the game: a good way to print that “library” is “bookcase” in English and “hondana” in Japanese.
Another way to work on this vocabulary will be to open chests by matching the translation of the words proposed. It’s well thought out, especially since we will recover many chests during our adventure: hidden in the scenery, quest or dialogue rewards and finally, combat rewards.
In the same way, during fights, the vocabulary learned can allow us to trigger a combo of devastating spells!
Finally, to advance in the story, the game will offer us the opportunity to interact with characters by constructing simple sentences in the language we wish to learn.
All of these elements allow us to learn a large number of words without realizing it while giving us basic sentence structures. Additionally, the words we will learn are those that are commonly used when traveling in a foreign country.
In summary, we will be immersed in the game as if we were in a foreign country. It’s particularly well done. Now let’s move on to the rest of the game! Let’s remember that this is also an RPG.
Simple, but not very intuitive gameplay
The gameplay is particularly basic. Our character will be able to move freely in the explorable areas and interact with the decorative elements, to learn vocabulary, and with the characters to chat or to start a magic fight.
Combat in Terra Alia
The fights will take place turn-by-turn according to a classic ATB (Active Time Battle) gauge which will define the order of passage of the different protagonists of the fight. We will then have the choice between different types of spell: esoteric, technological, support or physical. Thus a classic triangle of strength and weakness emerges in an RPG even if we paid little attention to it during our battles. It is also possible by reaching the point of concentration, that is to say by interrupting our opponent, to unleash a chain of 3 to 5 consecutive spells. Guaranteed effect! This sequence will often be saving in our battles.
To learn spells, we will need to gain experience in order to level up. We will thus have points to distribute in a spell tree to unlock new skills. Each level gained will also offer us a talent point to allocate in a passive tree to boost the characteristics of our character.
Of course, all these menus are written in our native language for ease and so that we can fully enjoy the game. However, despite the richness of this spell content, the combat is bland and has little interest at all. most of the time. It is generally enough to equip your mage well and chain together big spells to have the advantage in combat.
Let’s investigate in Terra Alia
In addition to fighting, we will also be able to practice speaking this foreign language by investigating the disappearance of Professor Esperanto. In order to find clues, we will have to talk to several characters and solve several puzzles. If the dialogues are particularly well done and intuitive to follow, the puzzles are too poorly guided to be pleasant to follow. Indeed, you will have to constantly go through the quest menu to have the clues necessary to resolve them…
In short, the puzzles are only a small part of the game.
The dialogues can be replayed endlessly via the numerous computers available on the cards. They will allow us to work on our vocabulary and the formulation of sentences. Playing mini-games will fill our language gauge. This gauge will help us in combat when we trigger a combo of spells, but also during dialogues in the event of an error.
The use of menus is very present in the game, whether to consult the map, current quests, our inventory or even spell trees. Unfortunately, in general, the keys used in menus or for dialogues are not intuitive. As if they had been assigned in a hurry without taking into account the habits of Nintendo Switch players. It’s a shame, because navigation in menus or dialog validations are frustrating.
A more than correct artistic direction
We told you, Terra Alia is a game created to learn other languages. Thus, each of them benefits from good quality dubbing, whether for the dialogues of the story or simply for the vocabulary that we discover by interacting with the surrounding objects. It’s very pleasant and promotes immersion in the game.
The soundtrack is also decent, making each location more alive thanks to appropriate sound effects and background music.
Graphically speaking, the game is not fabulous, but it remains very correct and pleasant for an independent game at 14 euros. In addition, each important passage in the story is entitled to a very nice little illustrated cutscene. It’s just a shame that our character is always represented by the same boy regardless of our customizations at the start of the game (man, woman, color of clothing, skin and hair).
Finally, the scenario is well thought out, but a little predictable. We sense the studio’s ambition to create a rich lore for the game, but which unfortunately could not be fully exploited here.
It should also be noted that there are still a few bugs or adjustments missing from this Nintendo Switch version. However, these do not prevent us from fully enjoying the game and learning lots of vocabulary, whatever language we wish to learn.
Learning and difficulty in game
The game does not offer a difficulty selection. However, this will create itself depending on the foreign language we have chosen. For example, by choosing English, since we learn it at school, the game will be easier than if we opt for Chinese or Japanese: the writing system is different and we have never had courses in this language. Terra Alia offers 10 different languages and therefore offers the possibility of learning “the basics” of nine of them. Which gives the game good replayability.
- Learning a language in a fun way
- 10 languages available
- Around 200 vocabulary words
- Audio dubbing for all languages and words
- A nice universe
- Well-designed vocabulary mini-games
- A real RPG designed to learn a language
- A real investigation to be carried out
- Unintuitive controls
- Bland fights
- Quests with unintuitive puzzles
- Predictable scenario
- Still a few bugs
- Lifespan / price