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Today (or rather, tonight), I played my first Visual Novel - Analogue: A Hate Story.  You are a... archaeologist/salvager/PI... it's not exactly clear what your job is, but you're given an assignment to investigate a derelict generation ship, the Mugunghwa, which was launched a nearly a thousand years ago, and never reached its destination.  Your job is to find out why. That isn't necessarily going to be simple, however.
Apparently, actually boarding the ship would be inconceivable, so your only avenue of investigation is through remotely accessing the ship's computers.  Fortunately, you quickly manage to reactive the ship's archival AI, who offers to help you piece together the ship's history from whatever scraps of documents you can find.  (She actually doesn't know it herself).  Unfortunately, there is a major complicating factor in that the ship, in addition to being ancient, was apparently designed by the United Federation of Planets, and therefore, nothing works or makes sense - Mainly, the 'chat' function is broken, so you can't actually *talk* to anyone.  The bulk of the 'gameplay' is therefore just going through the archives, trying (often vainly) to communicate via pointing in the general direction of important documents and the occasional yes/no question.

But then, it's a Visual Novel, and it isn't about gameplay - it's about the story, and that, mostly, is... interesting, if short.  Discovering the events that lead to the Mugunghwa's downfall, to say nothing of the present, is (at least to me) quite... haunting.  The logs you read are appropriately terrible, there's plenty of moral ambiguity to go around (bar bs gur punenpgref vf onfvpnyyl n tbbq crefba jub qvq fbzrguvat greevoyr, gur bgure vf n xvaqn onq crefba jub'f gelvat gb qb gur evtug guvat...), and the lack of effective communication contributes to an atmosphere of oppression - that you can't quite succeed, or really do all that much... which, considering it is theoretically a horror game, is in many ways a good thing.  However, I am apparently not a big horror fan, as I find the restrictions rather limiting - especially when my 'alternative solution' count runs into the dozens.  (I know they're really doing it because they know they can't manage a realistic conversation, but still.  You know that annoying moment in games like Mass Effect where you've got a bunch of responses, but none of them seem right?  Imagine that, except all the time.)

All in all, I mostly like what I've seen so far...   It almost reminds me of a Doctor Who story (or at least the Bad End to one) - the story is endearingly creepy and the main characters mostly sympathetic (or at least understandable.)  On the other hand, while the writers were clearly going for something hard scifi-ish, but didn't quite succeed - the technical accuracy never rises above Star Trek median, and if you're like me, that'll annoy you.  

More importantly, it is ultimately sabotaged by its core mechanic's limitations - even without considering 'alternate solutions', a social game that cripples your ability to communicate has certain... problems.  Though again, I do like this game... but more for the haunting concept than the execution.

Trigger Warnings (for the game), rot 13'd for basically summarizing the 'secret': Encr, zhgvyvngvba, rkgerzr zvfbtlal, genafuhznavfz, Fbcuvr'f Pubvpr (ol lbh), znff zheqre, genafcbegre cnenqbk.  I may be missing some, it is not a 'family friendly' game. 

Rot 13'd for spoilers.
Cbfgfpevcg: Bxnl, V'ir pbzcyrgrq n ovg zber bs gur tnzr (gubhtu fgvyy abg nyy bs vg).  Vg pbagvahrf orvat ebhtuyl rdhny zrnfherf greevoyr naq fjrrg, naq rnearq n fvtavsvpnagyl zber fngvfslvat raqvat - gubhtu V (urer zrnavat gur znva punenpgre) jvyy unir na vagrerfgvat gvzr vasbezvat n pregnva fbzrbar gung fur pnaabg, va snpg, 'gnc gung'.  (Bxnl, gurbergvpnyyl, fur pbhyq*, lrg V qba'g guvax n znffvir fnivbe pbzcyrk jvyy uryc nalbar).  Ohg... jbj, gur grpuavpny qrgnvyf bayl trg jbefr, gb gur cbvag gung vg'f ernyyl boivbhf.  V whfgvsl zlfrys ol svthevat gung gur fcrnxre va dhrfgvba whfg qbrfa'g xabj.  Ubjrire, vg qbrf gura cebprrq gb Genafcbegre Cnenqbk vgfrys, juvpu, vs lbh'er zr, naq qvfgheorq ol gurfr guvatf, vf qvfpbapregvat, naq abg va n tbbq jnl. 
*Uzz.  Vs fbzrbar trgf 'Hcybnqrq', jung unccraf gb gurve frkhnyvgl?  Qbrf vg whfg tb njnl?  Qbrf vg erznva, pbafpvbhfyl?  Be vf gurve fbzr fbeg bs 'ubezbar rzhyngbe' va gurve zragny nepuvgrpgher?

** (Added Trigger Warnings, Rot 13'd spoilers) I have now edited this post three times...

*** (Added Cuts) Make that four.


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Base Delta Zero

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