Adventure Gamers Awards
Even the simplest of decisions have game-changing effects, and they are often less obvious than they seem. Remaining supportive of Nour, for instance, is vital to her morale, while being emotionally distant or persistently second-guessing yourself can have serious implications for her journey and where she ends up. She also carries an inventory that you cannot access, but which she updates you on when the need arises, such as some money, basic necessities, and also her Syrian passport. Losing these items has weighty implications and a mistake that sees Nour’s belongings stolen will make it very difficult to continue the journey if events arise where money or identification is required.
Because of all these very real concerns, my first playthrough was a hesitant and overly-cautious one, and as a result of such scepticism this attempt saw Nour through to Germany but hauled back to Bulgaria, where she was settled due to an error I made earlier on. Nour’s unhappiness was made clear to me in one final voice message signalling the end of the game – the only time you ever hear a voice throughout. I got the definite sense at this point that, despite succeeding in getting Nour out of Syria, Bulgaria was still a “bad ending” since Nour is ill-treated by the authorities and made to sign registration forms in a language she does not understand.
In my second playthrough, I saw Nour detour through Aleppo early in the game. Although I expected this to bring the game to a swift conclusion, it is to the credit of the designers that she actually went on to succeed well beyond my first try after being assisted by the Doctors Without Borders NGO and helped out of the country. This second ending, which saw Nour get to Germany without issue, is still bittersweet, however, as the process of granting a request for asylum is a lengthy one. I was left with a pleasant sense of optimism this time, but, true to life, it offered no real closure or certainty over whether Majd and Nour had succeeded. Honestly, I appreciated this conclusion, which again showed the writers were committed to providing a realistic portrayal of what an application for asylum involves, instead of succumbing to truth-be-damned, feel-good endings.
Finishing the game invites you to restart the journey in the hopes of improving Nour’s fate. An average playthrough clocks in at around three hours, give or take an hour depending on your route and the time you take weighing your options. I found it worthwhile before replaying to consolidate what I had learned and also take the opportunity to go through some of the other features of Majd’s phone that can be accessed for additional information. There is a map app, very similar to Google Maps, which traces Nour’s path and helps you visualise her route and also includes geographical and historical information about places she has visited along the way.
Majd’s phone also catalogues photo messages you receive from Nour, which are worth looking back through. Usually when you receive a new photo or image from her, it casually fades into the background (behind the phone screen) to replace the last photo you received. These images are all illustrations in a visual novel style and include photos of Nour, the people she meets, and places she visits. They complement the experience well, and although they are often pictures of refugee camps or buildings turned to rubble, they still do a good job of adding colour to a dialogue-heavy game. Some of the graphics are actually very pretty, such as a quaint street from a Syrian cultural district in Istanbul, and the outside view of grass moving alongside a train to Salzburg. If there is any issue with the artwork in BMML, it is that there’s just not enough of it, as every once in a while I started to feel that the time between backgrounds was becoming less frequent. In saying that, the less you can “see” of Nour’s surroundings, the more the writing and your imagination are allowed do their jobs, which can be good thing given the high-quality dialogue.
BMML definitely requires a degree of compassion and open-mindedness to enjoy. Without it, some might struggle to connect with Majd and Nour and misinterpret the uncomfortable reality it presents as something politically motivated. And yet it would have been very easy for a game like Bury me, my Love to fall into the trap of trying to make a statement and beating the player about the head with it at every opportunity. One of the greatest things about the game, however, is that it never once does this or tries to influence your views. It is simply a story based on detailed accounts of real refugee experiences – which are never inherently political. In this way, BMML fairly invites others to explore unfamiliar themes through an interactive medium and offers you the chance to confront the assumptions you may hold.
Bury me, my Love is a breath of fresh air, but it is also a cold, sobering wind blowing through the window it opens into the lives of those who have left war in pursuit of a peaceful life. Its lack of any real gameplay or puzzles certainly won’t appeal to everyone, but its mind-broadening, heart-warming story will benefit many. So whether you already have an interest in the rich themes it explores, or simply possess a passion for purely narrative-driven adventures, give this game a go to spend some time in the shoes of Majd and Nour.