A New Beginning

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A New Beginning review
Christopher Coke

Review

Discovering adventure or losing translation?

A Story For Generations? (cntd)


The scenario is a good one for a science fiction adventure. All of the requisite elements are there: power versus responsibility, advancing technology versus morality, and perhaps most importantly, eliciting profound change for mankind. When it works well, A New Beginning draws you in and leads you to wonder where everything will end up when your role has run its course. When the writing lines up, it just works. Coupled with the beautiful and well-used soundtrack, it can be genuinely effecting.

While the setup does work as a game contrivance, that its creators are trying to usher change is worn on its sleeve. The introduction, which seemed to point the finger squarely at today's society, lingered in my mind as I played. I have never experienced a game with such a heavy handed and overtly political message. That I agree with the creators should have allowed me to become more invested in events of the story. Instead I felt like the game was consistently trying to get me to agree with it which engendered a degree of separation that kept me from consistently connecting with the story.

Presentation and Delivery


Even worse, however, is that the game seems to suffer from its translation. There are many instances when dialogue seems stilted and abrupt. On several occasions character's reactions to game events, and to one another, don't seem realistic. At one point shortly after Bent and Fay first meet, she calls him an idiot for killing a bird. Forgive me, but if a stranger walked into my house, yelled at me and called me an idiot for an accident, I would be showing them the door. Bent, on the other hand, pretty much sums things up with an oh gee and goes on with his business.

The translation is also apparent in cutscenes. These are presented in a comic book fashion with panels and brief animation. The English dubs often fail to line up with lip syncing. It's a small quibble but certainly noticeable.

Visually, the game is reminiscent of 1980's animation and is a mixed bag of effectiveness. Areas are mostly static with little movement. These settings are all hand drawn and painterly. At times they can be beautiful. Character models, on the other hand, are more stylized and lack fine detail. In some cases this isn't an issue but in others it undermines the tone of the larger game. It is an odd contrast to carry such weighty messages with such lighthearted characters.

The game's biggest, most unforgivable offense, however, is the delivery of dialogue. The vast majority of lines sound like they were recorded in isolation and then cut together to make statements. It is as if voice actors were hired to record sentence by sentence without any regard to context. This is especially noticeable because cutscenes and soliloquies don't seem to suffer from the same issues. When characters talk to each other it is as if two automatons were trapped in a room together and forced to make conversation. In a game where story and delivery are so important, it is almost game breaking.

Conclusion


All of that said, Daedalic should be applauded for taking such a grand and polarizing risk with A New Beginning. Games are a powerful, far reaching medium and too often their influence is wasted on jingoism and male power fantasy. Daedalic dared to make a statement. Their delivery could have used improvement, however, because a statement is only as powerful as the one giving it. Poor vocal delivery and curiously stylized visuals undermine the overall message. Still, adventure game fans should enjoy the classic gameplay. There are moments, too, when everything lines up and the game is just on. It is, after all, an interesting setting for an adventure game and the wonderful music by the game's composer will tweak and play at your emotions. If you care about vocal delivery, this game might be a pass. If you like adventure games, however, or are simply curious how the medium might address global warming and Earth's unnatural decline, you can pick it up from Steam's storefront at $9.99.

5.0

fun score

Pros

Interesting premise, classic gameplay, beautiful and effecting soundtrack

Cons

Terrible dialogue, polarizing and difficult to ignore message, inconsistent artwork