By Christiane Biederbeck
Next to Irony Curtain we spotted the post-apocalyptic 3D adventure game Paradise Lost from Polyamorous. This project lets us experience the five stages of grief, represented by interactions, dialogues, and the environment. After a nuclear disaster, people live in bunkers deep underground. While the surface is still accessible, it is dangerous, deserted and very cold. The story of this non-linear experience is told from the perspective of two playable characters in two different timelines. The choices of one character can have consequences for the other.
In Cologne, we played an early version of this game to get a better idea of it. The 3D visuals are already impressive and immediately caught our attention. Movement on PC is possible via WASD, while with the mouse we interacted with most of the objects in the bunker. Taking into account the console versions that are also in the works (PS4 and Xbox One), we can expect that controllers will work as well. Paradise Lost is likely not going to be a mere walking simulator, as below ground we can do a lot of things that let us empathize with this rather depressing situation. Flowers can be watered, notes and pictures checked out. And the protagonist talks to another person called "mother" via walkie-talkie, which reminded us a lot of Firewatch.
At first glance, this seemed to be designed as a first-person game (which probably makes the most sense for this type of story), but later we realized it was possible to switch to a third-person perspective too. It remains to be seen if that will still be possible in the final version, however. After all, the game’s release won't be happening before early 2020, so Paradise Lost still has a long way to go.
At first glance, ARTE as games publisher may seem like a weird combination. However, the renowned TV network from France already has some experience in this field (for example, the narrative game Californium). In Frankenstein: Birth of a Myth and A Fisherman's Tale, ARTE displayed two new projects at gamescom that should appeal to adventure fans.
Frankenstein: Birth of a Myth
by Christiane Biederbeck
Let's begin with Frankenstein: Birth of a Myth, which is being developed by La Belle Games. (Keep in mind that this is only the working title, so there will be some changes to it.) Mary Shelley and her literary classic Frankenstein are at the center of this narrative adventure game, which allows the player to make some individual choices that can shape the course of the story. With this interactive adaption, the publisher is hoping to provide a different perspective on the topic and to complement their own Frankenstein movie in an interesting way.
At gamescom we saw the free prequel (not yet publicly available) for the main game, which is all about the genesis of the famous novel. The beautifully drawn backgrounds immediately created a memorable atmosphere, thanks especially to an art style that is reminiscent of watercolour paintings. This is a different take on the Frankenstein monster, who seems more like a young child discovering the world for the first time. We are therefore confronted with basic emotions, choices and questions. Do we kill an animal to satisfy hunger? What does it even mean to be human? In between, we also get to meet Mary Shelley, who is with friends during a stormy night. At the fireside they discuss her thoughts on her new book. These are also moments where the player is able to shape Frankenstein's journey a bit and the environment surrounding him.
Our first look at the game was definitely promising, with its unique approach to a well-known story combined with intriguing visuals. The release is due in 2019 for Windows, Mac, iOS and Android.
A Fisherman’s Tale
by Matthias Glanznig
The other ARTE production we were able to play is the 3D puzzle adventure A Fisherman's Tale, a VR game designed for HTC Vive, Oculus Rift, Windows Mixed Reality VR and PlayStation VR. Developer Innerspace VR let us know that it won't be possible to play this game without such a device.
The story is about a hand-made fisherman's puppet called Bob, who inhabits a seemingly ordinary looking lighthouse. Upon closer examination, there's more to this place: in the middle of the living room is a miniature model of the very same lighthouse. Everything in the main building is also happening inside the model, which has another even smaller version of the miniature model within it. Basically, Bob exists in an endless number of rooms.
One day a storm nears the lighthouse, which changes everything. Our protagonist needs to activate the light of the tower to warn others. Leaving the room to get upstairs is not an easy task in a place that comes with highly unusual quirks. Some objects are too big to be of any use, such as a simple key. Fortunately, if we take the same object from the model, that makes it a perfect size. In a similar way, we deal with tiny objects. A large part of the gameplay revolves around this intriguing game mechanic.
Despite this surreal aspect, the puzzles are as grounded in reality as possible. For example, to look out the window at the beginning, we need to remove the wooden planks from it. While doing circling movements with the hand holding a hammer, we remove each nail from the planks. For the most part, A Fisherman's Tale is more like a puzzle game than a full-fledged adventure game. Then again, the story appears to work on an interesting meta-level, which could provide an interesting take on serious topics like social isolation. It is worth mentioning that we are not entirely on our own; sometimes we do get help from others.
We certainly enjoyed our time with the bearded puppet fisherman, although the VR controls took some getting used to. Interacting with objects requires standing close enough to them, but instead of moving around freely inside the building, a part of the room needs to be targeted by the controller to teleport there. At first it wasn't always easy to know how close to an object we actually need to be. On the plus side, the 3D graphics have a distinct and appealing style. Sadly, we can't say much about the sound, since it was too loud to hear anything.
As for this game's length, we were told by the developer that it will probably take about two or three hours to complete A Fisherman's Tale. A release is due this fall, but the PlayStation version could be available a bit later than the PC version. Those of you who love puzzles and virtual reality should watch out for it.
Translations provided by Peter Färberböck and Matthias Glanznig.