Twenty years Later, Castlevania: Symphony of the Night is Still Young

Remember Konami back before it was always spelled with a “Fuc” in front of it? Those were the days. As storied gaming franchises go, it’s hard to top Castelvania for sheer nostalgic value. I have endless memories of being a young horror geek wasting away my weekend afternoons hunting for Universal monster movies on the television and then assaulting Dracula’s castle on my NES with Simon Belmont as my avatar. I feel bad for people who never discovered the joy of demolishing a giant bat with throwing axes.

Castlevania and Metroid have two major things in common: both franchises have been practically abandoned in the modern era, and both remain extremely popular amongst older gamers. They also can be combined to form an entire genre: Metroidvania, which survives and thrives in the indie scene even today with titles like the lovable Shantae series leading the charge. Other than being 2D and awesome, Metroid and Castlevania didn’t have much in common gameplaywise, but they still get lumped in together for some reason. And that reason is 1997’s Symphony of the Night in which the series, and perhaps 2D gaming itself, reached its zenith. It’s been nearly twenty years since then, and with Netflix nearly ready to unleash a Castlevania animated series,  I’d say it’s time for a look back at a truly enduring classic.

Building off of elements introduced in the spectacularly underrated Castlevania II: Simon’s Quest, Symphony expanded the series in new and exciting ways and lived up to its musical title by introducing several new and adventurous elements to create something truly harmonious. Classic Castlevania gameplay typically involved linear level progression, and deviation from that was often met with resistance (like with Simon’s Quest). But when PlayStation released this, there was no denying it. The story begins at the usual ending, the by-then predictable Dracula boss fight, and then goes where no Belmont had gone before by continuing on as the vampire lord’s son, Alucard, on a mission to indulge his Oedipus complex.

While taking the gameplay elements exactly as they were, right down to hitting candles for hearts -which is a dated element if anything is- it did away with linear levels in favor of an explorable castle with a floorplan that required you to gather and utilize a large number of powers, abilities, and items to progress, like in Metroid. Hence, Metroidvania. Adding in RPG-style experience gains and progression, a large number of weapons and items, charming familiars to accompany your quest, and a vampiric protagonist able to shapeshift into various forms and you were looking at an immensely deep game with huge replayability.

But what really sets this Castlevania game apart for hardcore gamers was the insane amount of secrets. In fact, you can’t even properly beat the game without discovering some seriously esoteric and hard to find places. The ending you will likely get without using an internet walkthrough is really just a preamble; an accumulation of skills. A story misdirection, even. And even if this is all you experienced of it, you will still have played a fantastic game. But the real test came after you uncovered the true plot through a series of hidden areas, secret items, and events leading to the castle you just explored in its entirety being flipped upside down and filled with new, much more challenging horrors where you need to use all of your accumulated skills to survive.     

The massive and varied arsenal (chakrams and holy water ftw), the classical feel, the incredible music, the constant nag of which of the five familiars to use (fairy is adorable and gives hints, but bat means double chiropteran fireballs!), and multiple endings all add up to a game with a genuinely timeless appeal. The endless options and combinations of equipment and abilities make even returning to the same rooms over and over again a joy. And Alucard being able to pull off his father’s classic move of teleporting and then opening his cape to unleash a trio of fireballs? Mwah!  

“What is a man? A miserable little pile of secrets.” states Dracula in the game’s opening scene. Symphony of the Night seems to willfully spend the entire rest of the game showing the immortal lord of the undead that a pile of secrets can be anything but miserable. A challenge for sure, but extremely rewarding as well. To think that a game like this came out when the internet was still in its toddler stage and not every game had walkthroughs and Let’s Plays on tap is mind-boggling. It’s no wonder it was less appreciated in its time than it is now.

In retrospect, Symphony is possibly one of the most important and well put together games ever to grace our consoles. Even today it feels familiar and nostalgic (as it did then), but still completely fresh and with a depth that even modern games struggle to match. It was Dark Souls before Dark Souls was Dark Souls, and even that series doesn’t let you play it as a wolf with a floating sword for a companion or force you to find its most eldritch secrets just to get to the second half of the game. Yet.  

A lot of games are either very focused on leading you around by the nose explaining exactly what’s expected of you, or on throwing so much crap to do at you that you can’t even keep it straight without a bunch of waypoints and journals. Not progressing almost feels like a waste of time because there’s just so much to go and so many places to go that the fun can get drained right out of it at times. Symphony was and is just a joy to play, even when you have no idea what to do next. Even when aimlessly wandering through the same rooms killing the same enemies again and again hoping some inspiration strikes you and you’ll find whatever it is you’re looking for, there is always a new way to approach everything to keep it interesting. Maybe try dashing through multiple rooms as a wolf, try out that cool looking floating skull familiar, trade in your sword and shield combo for a double-handed weapon, or practice your Street Fighter-esque spell inputs (which can be a bit challenging on a gamepad). There’s always something else to try and master.  

While it didn’t exactly set the world on fire in its day, over the years the legend of Symphony of the Night has grown and endured far beyond most of its PlayStation contemporaries. Going back to play the likes of Resident Evil and Final Fantasy VII can often be an underwhelming experience for modern players with gaming having come so far since then and old control schemes, basic writing, and certain graphical styles not feeling or looking as good as they used to. But this is a game as timeless as its immortal protagonist.

While the above are being remastered, remade, and ported forward with fresh coats of paint, the only remake Symphony is likely to get is in Plinko machine form. Thanks, (fuc)Konami! But the game’s designer, Koji Igarashi is hard at work on a spiritual successor called Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night that set records with its Kickstarter and made ten times its goal, so clearly the legacy of Castlevania’s finest moment is not lost. And long may gamers continue going out for pleasure because even after two decades, this Night is still young .

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Why Grand Theft Auto IV was the Pinnacle of the Series

In 1997, a developer called DMA Design created a monster. It sold a million copies, largely due to the controversies and bans that went along with the then-revolutionary concept of selling what was basically a virtual crime simulator, but the original Grand Theft Auto was a true gaming landmark whose long-term repercussions have been felt persistently in the twenty years since.

Now flash forward to 2017, a world where Grand Theft Auto V sold seventy million copies, garnered countless game of the year awards, and is still among the most played games in the world nearly two years after its release. Rockstar Games runs the show now, and under their guidance the monster has become an unstoppable juggernaut.  The series on the whole has sold over two hundred and thirty five million copies, so I think it’s safe to say that GTA is as much a gaming institution as any franchise, which brings up the natural question of which game should be considered the standard setter.

Allow me, gentle reader who is perhaps still raging in indignation at my presumptuous title whilst mentally listing off the various technical achievements of Rockstar’s latest or waxing nostalgic for one of the series’ previous entries to make a case for one of the most divisive entries. I say that more than any other GTA game, Grand Theft Auto IV acquitted itself as an outstanding gaming experience while both pushing the medium forward and conveying an artistic respectability to its story that the series never had before and has not had since. The critics roundly applauded it, but gamers are more divided and tend to prefer its successor by a large margin. But screw those people.

Yes, GTA V crafted an amazing world to play in with lots of stuff to do, but its characters are silly archetypes. Entertaining, yes. The satire is strong with this one, but in maximizing the doofy madcap fun, they left a lot by the wayside. A lot of the elements that made GTA IV special weren’t designed to appeal to the dudebros that make up a substantial portion of the franchise’s player base. You know, the ones who will spend way too much time in the stripper-groping minigame and still reflexively stop for every prostitute and then cackle while running them over  with their car afterwords to get their money back.

The world of this game felt more alive than any other game at the time, or maybe even since. Liberty City was filled with sights to see and things to do that made it feel like much more than a video game where you run around performing arbitrary tasks for wooden NPCs. It was a true virtual experience. I spent hours surfing the in-game internet and sitting in my virtual home watching the television programming. I placed personal ads on a dating website and actually got responses. I’d never seen anything like this and GTA V’s greatest strength was in reproducing some of this. Only they didn’t do it nearly as completely.  

The most widely hated feature of GTA IV was part of what made it so different, the dreaded “hang out” missions. A lot of gamers balked at having to play darts or whatever with NPC’s while they advanced the plot and built characters, but I personally found these oases of normalcy in such a historically senseless series to be a fantastic addition. You could literally pull out your cellphone, call up just about anybody you’d met in-game, and go out on the town with them and do whatever you felt like with their accompaniment, complete with unique commentary.

Going to see virtual reproductions of stand-up routines from actual comedians and vaudeville-style shows at the theater, stumbling out of a bar together drunk off your asses, and the twisted humor of taking a date to a strip club were all fun (and mostly optional) diversions and for my money, more fun than the usual “two dudes talking in the car while you drive from objective to objective plus the occasional cutscene” standard that had been what passed as story in the past. The surprising and often hilarious conversations made for excellent character development and fleshed out the NPCs as more than just one-note jokes that appeared at the beginning of the appointed mission, and then vanished.

But this is all coming from an RPG gamer who adores character interaction and immersion. I spent like half an hour after every Mass Effect mission seeking out every single crew member on the off chance that they had something new to say. So of course I’d like that GTA IV let you get to know characters in a new and interesting way in different settings. “But broooooo”, you ask, “what about the rampages, bro? I just wanna blow stuff uuuuup.” Well, that’s a whole other thing, and I will return to it shortly..

On some level, GTA has always been striving towards art’; usually in the form of satire. They make fun of the over-the-top violence with over-the-top social commentary, setting the stage for a unique and silly tone that celebrates the inevitable goofiness that ensues when you let a gamer do whatever they want. GTA IV dared to be different. It told a serious story and invited gamers to join them for the ride. I mean, how many video game enemies have you blown up just because they were there and the game you were playing wasn’t interested in doing anything more interesting? Ninjas have kidnapped the president! The bad guy stole your girl! Rescue the princess! KILL ALL OF THE THINGS.

GTA IV was not short on things for you to kill or reasons to kill them. But it did put you in the shoes of a character who questioned the point of it all, and that seems to have made people uncomfortable. Maybe they should be. The story put you in the shoes of an immigrant arriving in America with big dreams of leaving his life of violence and corruption behind. Naturally, it turns out America is full of more of the same because wherever you go, people are bastards. That’s why days after a US president bans Muslim immigration for fear of the theoretical violence they might maybe bring some day since brown people are all alike, a French-Canadian goes on an anti-Muslim murder spree and is declared a ”lone wolf” due to his whiteness. Because art imitates life and life is one big satire. Over-the-top comedy is not really necessary anymore. We have become the comedy.

Having you stop in the middle of your oh-so-urgent story mission to run around with a katana killing random gang bangers on some pointless “rampage” for some arbitrary achievement or whatever detracts from the story any way you slice it (pun intended). In fact, one of the criticisms leveled at GTA IV was that the serious tone of the story was a bad fit for player behavior. That sounds to me like more of a criticism of the player than the game. Any game can craft a story with a given tone and then have it ruined by gamers being gamers. A bunch of co-op Halo: Reach players teabagging each other every step of the way might detract from the whole “dramatic last stand” theme, yeah? The adage is wrong. Don’t hate the game. Hate the players.

GTA V managed to find a humorous context for one of the characters to have rampage missions, and it worked. But they counterbalanced this by adding in all of the features of GTA IV and leaving them empty. I called almost every NPC in the game on my cell phone to try and set up some dates or hang outs and over the dozens of hours I spent in single player, maybe two characters ever picked up. And it was a long list. The dating site was back, but not one response was ever received. It was like Rockstar had every intention of bringing these features back and then just said “meh, fuck it” and left parts of them in there without never actually adding the content. This made GTA V feel incomplete. They should have excised all traces of these features if they weren’t even going to flesh them out properly.

The early GTA games were great fun, GTA III was a true landmark with its 3D gameplay, Vice City was a joy, San Andreas represented a whole other level of depth with its character customization and RPG aspects, and GTA V is a technical marvel and its multiplayer aspect has given it legs even beyond its legendary predecessors. But in terms of giving narrative respectability to the franchise and depth and immersion to the sandbox world, developing characters you genuinely care about, and generally pushing forward gaming as an entertainment medium, GTA IV stands out, even in a franchise that has never not been associated with peerless quality. It may not be the most popular with fans, but in terms of gaming as an art form, no other entry can compete with that pedigree.  

Six Features that Should be Standard for Multiplayer Shooters

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Everybody’s got that competitive itch down in there somewhere. We can only mow down endless hordes of mindless AI mobs for so long before we crave the blood of our fellow gamers. And that’s where multiplayer shooters come into play. There’s a special twisted satisfaction in knowing that the guy you just no-scoped was being controlled by another gamer who is likely raging at your awesomeness.   

As the genre has evolved, many features have been added collectively and many different franchises have contributed to its growth with new ideas. But even as the esports scene gathers momentum, the discrepancy of features that set our favorite shooters apart may also be what is holding back some of them from being all they can be.

Imagine if the NBA didn’t use replays or the UFC didn’t bother with match highlights anymore. Some features should be standardized to ensure that players are getting the best experience for their buck and that all AAA shooters are worthy of our cash and the attention that they will inevitably get as a representative of one of gamings’ premiere genres. Here are the six I’d like to see.

Highlights

It’s actually really surprising that it took until Overwatch to implement the concept of a post-match “Play of the Game”. Shooters have long celebrated multi-kill achievements and now that so many have had the satisfaction of seeing their most glorious moments projected on the screen for everybody else to bask in (or rage at), it’s going to be hard to go back.

It may seem cosmetic and unnecessary, but Blizzard really tapped into something with this feature. It inspires players to really reach for that brass ring during matches in hopes of achieving the honor and invests players in their own performance using nothing but their own pride and the promise of a brief moment of public glory. Expanding this feature into a brief showcase of a few impressive feats rather than just a single play would be even better, and inspire gamers even more.

Free Maps

Remember back when you paid through the nose every few months just to get a few more maps to shoot people on? Remember how they were usually just maps from older games with a new coat of polish? And you couldn’t play with your friends anymore unless you bought them all? Remember how much that sucked? Oh, sorry Call of Duty fans. You still go through all of that. No wonder everybody looks down on you.

Most shooter franchises have seen the light here and stopped gouging and dividing their customer bases by charging them for something so insubstantial, instead honoring their purchase and dedication to the game by offering new maps for free. But there is still at least one big holdout. In a perfect world, all non-story DLC would be free except for maybe premium cosmetics customizations to show your wealth off to more frugal gamers, but at the very least, new multiplayer maps should always be delivered free of charge.

Emotes

There was a time when teabagging was an art. The careful and concise skill of lining up your crotch to your downed opponent’s face during the heat of a match and delicately lowering your undercarriage onto it knowing that their in-game camera was still on their body and they were helpless to stop the desecration of their corpse held a special kind of satisfaction. Then it spread.

Soon, every scrub in every game would celebrate every kill with a “victory crouch”, even if they weren’t on or even near your body. Every match now looked dumb because even in fighting games the other player would knock you across the screen in a KO and start crouching and uncrouching without even understanding why this was a thing. It disgusts me.

Enter Destiny, Bungie’s fully multiplayer integrated Halo successor and Battleborn, the unfairly maligned Borderlands-ish Overwatch competitor. Destiny offered up emotes usually associated with MMOs that included the ability to literally dance over your fallen opponents’ corpse, while Battleborn’s greatest multiplayer innovation was a taunting mechanic where if you performed it immediately after getting a kill, the downed player’s camera would zoom in on your character with full audio so they could not possibly miss your celebratory middle finger or sneer and one liner. No more half-assed teabagging or victory crouching. This should be the future of virtual douchebaggery. Embrace it.

Integrated Tournaments

When is a competitive shooter not competitive enough? When scrubs and noobs are playing the same playlists as hardcore players. A lot of online shooters already have ranked and unranked matches, although certain kinds of hardcore players who aren’t feeling up to a real challenge prefer to prey upon casuals in the unranked matches and clueless losers still inflict themselves on decent players in ranked.

There should be more rewards for playing ranked and succeeding. In fact, there should be regular online tournaments. With esports becoming more and more a thing, wouldn’t it be nice if you could get a piece of that action from home? Giving out virtual currency and in-game prizes for players performing well in ranked online tournaments would give a lot of players incentive to git gud, form teams, communicate, and play competitively rather than the current climate where a bunch of randos run around like headless chickens getting picked off by players who were lucky enough to be matched with competent players or smart enough to bring friends.

This would also help with differentiating skill levels and maybe help cut down on the needless slaughter and driving off of noobs by pro-tier players. Persistent integrated tournaments could help separate the wheat from the chaff and keep hardcore and casual gamers from screwing up each others’ games. There’s nothing that drives off new players like getting hopelessly massacred in every match and with this level of separation, perhaps the quality of life for both kinds of gamers could improve.    

Theater Mode

Halo is the only franchise I’ve played that is fully on this boat, and that is really surprising, because its Theater mode is a true gift to gaming. The ability to go back and review your recent matches in their entirety is fantastic and should be considered indispensable to competitive gaming. The current DVR system integrated into modern consoles to record your last hour of gameplay isn’t good enough.

Finding yourself woefully overmatched when the entire enemy team decides to pursue you across the map while the objectives are still somehow not getting fulfilled by your enemy-free teammates inevitably begs the question “what the hell is my team even doing?” In Halo, you can go back after you’re done and find the match to watch the entire thing with fully controllable camera and even movie-making tools if you want to capture a particular moment. If your teammates were off camp-cowering or waiting to respawn, at least you can ease your mind that the game itself wasn’t out to get you.

And obviously, as a tool for strategic study, Theater mode is fantastic. It baffles me every time I buy a shooter and this feature isn’t included. For pro-tier gamers it’s invaluable for formulating and refining strategy, for aspiring Youtube stars it’s a fantastic video creation tool, and for everyone else it’s still really cool to have.

Co-op Challenges

Just like gamers need to test themselves against each other in the online arena after battling endless mobs, sometimes after that competitive drive has been driven and the wheels are falling off, you need to unwind a little, but still keep killing stuff. Probably more than anything else, co-op modes is what kept me coming back to my favorite shooters and its absence is what kept me from coming back to Overwatch. Gears of War has Horde, Call of Duty has Zombies, Halo has Firefight, Destiny has Strikes and Raids, and at this point I feel like every AAA shooter needs an equivalent to these to really win me over and keep me there.

PvP scratches a major gaming itch, but any way you look at it, it’s pretty intense. The highs of victory and the lows of defeat tend to create strong emotions and prolonged exposure to those….well, you’ve seen what gamers tend to be like online. We don’t have the best reputation. Frankly, we need to lighten the hell up.

I find that unwinding with a cooperative game and working together with my fellow gamers relieves a lot of the stress that battling them tooth and nail accumulates. The chaos of PvP matches can be nicely balanced by pre-planned raids where you have specific goals to work towards and/or waves of enemies to blow away with friends and strangers instead of team after team of spawn-camping, lag-switching, trash-talking teens and fratboys to contend with. Designated co-op modes done right give shooters legs like no other feature does.     

Minority of One: Orwell’s Unique Approach to Dystopian Politics

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We’ve had a few months to digest one of last year’s premiere story experiences now. It was a pretty weak year for AAA gaming in terms of pushing the envelope, but with indie hits like the affable Oxenfree, mind-meltingly creative Pony Island, and artistic Inside it was far from a total loss. Among the indie class of 2016 was Osmotic Studios’ “Big Brother simulator” Orwell, which thrust the player into the role of a government agent whose job it is to spy on people online.  

While lacking in other games’ style, presentation, and gameplay, Orwell’s bare bones approach of turning your own PC into the protagonist’s PC and pushing the immersion factor that way as if you literally were the character as well as the game’s extremely nuanced and realistic approach to the morality involved with invading peoples’ privacy for the always-nebulous “greater good” offered up more food for thought than anything else I played last year to the point of questioning its own legendary source material. And that is a very special thing.

Orwell’s greatest strength is its inspiration, George Orwell’s novel 1984. To understand how bold the game it inspired is, you really need to have read this work. And quite frankly, if you want to pretend to understand governmental or social politics on any level, 1984 and Animal Farm are possibly the most important works of fiction ever committed to print. When you title a game after their author, you are already burdening yourself with a lot of expectation, and combined with tackling such a hot and current topic, this game put a lot of pressure on itself.  

But the game was not content with reproducing the well known dystopian masterpiece and its rather black and white morality. Instead, it chose to flip the script and make you the “villain” of the piece -or at least a cog in its machinery- and put you in a situation that governments likely find itself in all too often these days. Terrorists are bombing public places and killing people and it’s your job to find them and stop them using a new program that allows you to create profiles on individuals based on the information you find about them online. Should you succeed, the program will become part of the government’s standard operating procedure and we will all be subject to being monitored. Should you fail, the terrorists win. Choose wisely.

Conventional morality suggests that of course you have to save lives and catch the bad guys. And the question of the game’s success becomes whether Orwell does a strong enough job of explaining the central philosophical conflict to the player. On one hand, a lot of gamers are going to come away from the experience feeling like enacting mass surveillance was a victory while others will be upset that this wasn’t portrayed as a demonic evil. But on the other hand, the game by its very nature is inviting the player to think for him or herself, which is always the more effective artistic approach, even if it leads to the majority of the population misunderstanding it (see also: Bioshock: Infinite).

Corporate-advertisement-vehicle-masquerading-as-gaming-magazine Game Informer gave Orwell a vapid two sentence review and a meager rating after months of ignoring it altogether in yet another entire issue spent endlessly pimping the likes of Overwatch, Final Fantasy, Mass Effect, and Uncharted. But that’s why you have us, dear reader. Surely some of you understand the irony of criticizing a work for retreading a different story’s ground in a publication that writes the same articles every month, yes? The brief criticism was that the story has already been told better. But has it really?

The fact that Orwell chooses to ask the gamer the questions rather than handing them the answers it wants you to have is part of what makes it so fascinating. As you surf the web putting together pieces of peoples’ lives in an attempt to determine who is responsible for the terrorist acts and try to determine which characters represent an actual threat and which are just ranting online, the wheels start turning. Could somebody do this to me? Are they doing it right now? If a stranger read all of my Twitter and Facebook rants and message board arguments, how would I look to them? The answer to that last one for at least some of us is likely “like a complete goddamn psychopath”.

George Orwell foresaw a lot of the conflicts currently arising in our society, from the degradation of language leading to rigid and impotent thought processes (for example, when you hear words like “conservative” or “feminist”, do you think about their objective meaning within the context or is your initial reaction automatically a positive or negative emotion? If it’s the latter, congrats: you’re part of the problem), endless warfare as a tool to distract the population, and of course governmental surveillance.

While 1984 clearly missed the mark in terms of time frame, the fact remains that on some level, most of it has come to fruition, albeit in a much more subtle manner. And these subtle mannerisms of morality and manipulation, rather than the broad sinister strokes of the original work, are where Orwell the game challenges both Orwell the author and the player. The surface of hunting terrorists and uncovering the pasts of the potential suspects by tracing their online history is an interactive way of stimulating the thought process rather than a typical one-sided morality tale.

That is to say that rather than using the story to state that all surveillance is bad just because it’s bad, and here are bad things to prove it’s bad, the story relies on the unspoken threats to make its point. In reality, things are seldom as starkly contrasted as they are in fiction. Lines are blurred and shades blend together, making morality a confusing, subjective, and fluid thing more often than not. But what could be bad about something that can catch terrorists before they kill people? Orwell isn’t telling. At least, not outright. The best you’ll get is multiple characters expressing differing opinions that all seem to make sense although they say opposite things.

One conclusion you may arrive at is that while surveillance certainly has its practical uses for stopping bad people from doing bad things, nobody can be trusted with that kind of power over others’ lives. The capacity for everyday abuse is nearly infinite; far beyond the rare catastrophes it could theoretically avert. And those in charge of surveilling and judging us based on our past as it’s presented online? Who judges them? And who judges those who judge them? And who holds those judgements accountable? And if anybody is held accountable for any online wrongdoing, shouldn’t everybody? Even the ones doing the judging? Is anybody entirely innocent? Shall we turn the entire country into one big airport where every joke or aggressively exaggerated opinion is taken as fact and literal threat? Perhaps all mass surveillance really amounts to is a tool for those in charge to pick and choose who they want to prosecute and subjugate.

And all of that is still not taking into account the general unreliability of online information. How hard is it to make an account as another person? Not hard. You could be looking at somebody’s face and name and the words could be somebody else’s entirely and you’d never know. This is one aspect I really wish Orwell had brought into play more as false flagging is pretty much standard procedure in online trolling and when you take that into account, the concept of online surveillance becomes even more untenable, leaving only the open and honest as potential victims.

Orwell may stop short of the mind-blowing prophecy of the literary masterpiece that inspired it, but as a more practical and nuanced alternative, it’s pretty exceptional in itself. The titular author wrote “being in a minority, even in a minority of one, did not make you mad. There was truth and there was untruth, and if you clung to the truth even against the whole world, you were not mad”. And the game clings tenaciously to its own principles of truth, which are not necessarily those of its inspiration. Like i said before, Orwell the author wanted to teach you his truth. Orwell the game wants you to teach yourself and find your own truth. And like in real life, there’s no real way to win. Just various ways of accounting for yourself as you inevitably lose, whether you realise it or not.

In many ways, it feels like Orwell could have pushed its story to further extremes and done much more to illustrate the potential evils of government surveillance, but instead of beating us over the head with the axe-grinding fiction we’re used to, it chose to take a more nuanced approach that mirrors the potential real life situations that could arise and, in fact, may very well have already arisen. After all, this is no longer a dystopian science fiction dilemma. It is here and now.

Unlike 1984, Orwell isn’t a dark look at the future, it’s a look at the present. And if anything, it’s in-game internet is a brighter place then the cyberspace we’re living in right now. And that, friends, is a thought as scary as a rat eating through your face. It’s also why a lot of people may overlook the thoughtful indie game as a missed opportunity rather than one of the most unique and interesting experiences of 2016 in any medium. But being misunderstood is all part of being in a minority of one, and that is exactly what Orwell is. There simply isn’t anything else like it and that is always reason to celebrate.