by Murray Lewis
reviewed on PC
TRUTH, DOUBT, LIE
It isn’t all so enthralling, though. The main character is portrayed as sharp, confident, and likeable, but there is sometimes a jarring disconnect when the player is allowed to take control. Certain dialogue choices seem incredibly out of character, and it makes it difficult to form a clear picture of the man. Multi-dimensional characters are always welcome, but here it just doesn’t always feel very convincing, and it puts a real dent in that carefully cultivated sense of immersion.
Another key feature is the use of a minigames, sprinkled throughout. Sadly, these are of uneven quality, and are certainly the game’s biggest weakness. The majority are LA Noire-style games of social manipulation, in which you must choose the correct responses to convince someone to see things your way. Just like in LA Noire, though, it really doesn’t work all that well. The ‘correct’ responses feel entirely arbitrary, and it’s rarely clear what sort of approach is going to succeed. There’s no MotionScan facial animation technology here, either, so the required feedback for this sort of gameplay just isn’t there. Players are given the option of using ‘sellers intuition’ to get a hint, but this cheapens the experience, and just shouldn’t be necessary.
The remaining minigames are also disappointing, more often than not being exercises in frustration. The effort to break up the traditional point & click style is appreciated, but I always found myself wishing I could just get back to the main story. It’s a real shame that these sections were not brought up to the same level of polish as the core gameplay.
In terms of visuals, the background art is evocative, and conveys the sense of the ‘City Beautiful’ very well. The architecture, key to the plot, is faithfully reproduced, and many backgrounds feature attractive special effects like reflective water and working mirrors, rarely seen in indie adventure games. The character art is also well done, and smoothly animated, although some of the close-ups used during dialogue leave something to be desired.
As with all Wadjet Eye releases, A Golden Wake is fully voiced, although the quality is unusually spotty. While the actors deliver the lines well enough, some of the writing is stilted. There’s also a noticeable lack of ambience to the recordings, giving them an unappealingly clinical sound at odds with the lush visuals. The music, however, is excellent throughout, and adds personality to the game in spades.
A REAL FAST-TALKER
Clocking in at around 5 hours for an average play-through, the game is not particularly lengthy for a commercial adventure, and a lot more story could have been packed in. There are a number of characters treated as being quite important who are seen only once or twice, for example. At times, it feels as though the storyline is being relentlessly hurried along, and it would have been nice to be able to stop and smell the roses along the way – especially given how much work went into creating a captivating environment.
The 1920s is a period rarely covered in games, but A Golden Wake is a game that takes on the challenge and, in places, succeeds. History buffs and those just after an interesting, unique story will find plenty to enjoy here, although an extra hour or so of content in which to enjoy that story would not have gone amiss. Sadly, more seasoned adventure fans looking for a new challenge will not find it here, and are instead likely to be frustrated by the patchy attempts at diversifying the gameplay.
Excellent sense of time and place. Enjoyable story. Unusual setting.
Poorly executed minigames spoil the fun. Feels a little too short. VO is spotty.