My first task in Reka sees me gather mushrooms and honeycombs in a forest framed by trees. The path before me is blanketed in an atmospheric mist, and as the early evening light begins to fade, I take a moment to appreciate the warming purple hues that decorate the skies above. When I find a patch of mushrooms in the grass nearby, I experience the game's unique twist on collecting resources. Instead of picking them up one by one, I command a flock of birds to pluck them up in a quick flurry thanks to my budding magical talents. As I soon learn, I've been instructed to fetch these ingredients for Baba Yaga, a much fabled and powerful witch who's taken me on as her apprentice.
I've spent all of five minutes in the forest at this stage, but the more time I spend with Emberstorm Entertainment's upcoming adventure, the more enchanted I become by its mysterious natural setting and overall feel. My hands-on session only gives me a small taste of what's in store, but when I try building a home, which is at the heart of the experience, I really start to fall under Reka's spell.
Guided by studio co-founders Julietta Grunewald and Tobias Hermann, my time with Reka begins in a village nestled in the forest. I'm free to have a look around and speak to some of the local residents before I set off to gather ingredients for Baba Yaga, and as I go, I take note of smaller decorations in one of the houses. As Reka's concept and 3D artist, Grunewald tells me that the adventure is heavily inspired by Slavic folklore, with its characters and artistic direction drawing from various myths, legends, and traditions.
When I'm led to meet with Baba Yaga for the first time, Hermann, who's also a technical artist, explains that she's a mysterious figure who recognizes your potential and sets you on the path to become a witch yourself. It's also thanks to her that you get a home to call your own, and as it turns out, it's a very special home indeed.
Reka is first and foremost a base-building game, but as with all things in this magical world, there's a bit of twist when it comes to the shape your abode takes. The home Baba Yaga grants you is also your means of transportation, since it's mounted on chicken legs. When I catch sight of it for the first time, I remark that it makes me think of Howl's Moving Castle, which Hermann points out also draws from similar folklore.
I'm then guided through the process of placing down walls on my newfound roaming home, and adding a roof to shelter me from the elements. It proves to be very easy to get the hang of, with each wall segment slotting together intuitively not unlike the building in the likes of The Sims 4. When I begin to build the roof and hit a corner, I see how it naturally compensates with a corner piece, making it easy to cover what I've just built.
Before long, my house starts to take shape. Grunewald explains that you're free to completely customize your home, with more decorations and objects available to you as you progress. I love how Reka channels both witchy and cottagecore vibes, with Grunewald saying the team very much want it to be a safe space for players to get lost in.
While I didn't get to do much more before my session ended, I'm already excited by the prospect of creating a witch, molding my own home, and seeing where its chicken legs will take me next. With lots of magic and mystery, Reka undoubtedly puts a unique spin on base-building, and it's definitely going high on my wishlist.
Reka is set to release on PC in 2024.