by Dan Lenois
reviewed on PC
A Sight to See…
The game's rather-eccentric stylized art style incorporates both realistic and cartoonishly exaggerated elements, merging them together into a Telltale Games-esque visual direction that initially can seem a bit much, but becomes less jarring as you become accustomed to it.
One of the things that helps offset this is the relatively high graphical quality and buttery-smooth performance throughout. While the game contains only a meagre handful of locations for the player to explore, with the vast majority of the story taking place on the Orient Express itself, the train itself is incredibly well-detailed. Add to that the fact that, as the player progresses further into the story, more compartments and other areas on the train will become available to you, it always feels like there’s something to do and somewhere new to go.
Finding Your Way..
One of the only issues with the train itself is the navigation involved. The game often does a poor job of communicating to the player where they need to go in order to progress the story. It will often tell you to seek out a certain NPC, or go to a certain room, but it's largely up to you the player to remember where that person or place is. While this usually isn't too difficult, it still sometimes means you'll spend a few minutes walking up and down the train as you try to recall which compartment is the right one.
There's no other way to say it. Something just feels incredibly off at times with this game's interpretation of Hercule Poirot. Setting aside any differences between this game and its source material, Poirot sometimes acts and reacts in ways inconsistent within the game itself.
It's a little strange for Poirot to pivot from having correctly identified the murder weapon to then immediately getting a Fortnite-esque victory screen where he emotes and verbally pats himself on the back for a job well done.
While a certain degree of gamification can obviously be excused, it does feel more than a little insensitive and unprofessional for Poirot to effectively be doing a victory dance when there is at least one active murderer skulking about unseen on the train. Also, its repetitiveness every few minutes throughout the game is excessive by far.
Poirot also has a tendency to be flippant and rude to other passengers for no apparent reason other than to entertain himself with clever remarks at the expense of others. This contrasts enormously with how he's otherwise portrayed in the game, as thoroughly being a gentleman at heart. This, in addition to the arrogant remarks he makes about himself, which feasibly seem to be intended as self-deprecating, makes him come across as pompous.
To a lesser degree, it's also strange that, throughout the game, all the characters dress as if they're from the 1920s, while simultaneously, they possess smartphones and other modern technology. It's never entirely clear whether this adaptation takes place in the modern day, or some awkward hybrid of past and present.
It's clear that the problem here is with the tone that the developers were trying to set. At times, the story is a clear-cut whodunit, with darkly thrilling twists. At others, it's an upbeat character-driven comedic adventure. It tries to do many things at once, and doesn't always succeed.
Mysteries within Mysteries…
With only a few minor exceptions, the puzzles here are varied and highly-enjoyable. From a strictly gameplay perspective, the game's pacing is incredibly fun and balanced. The player finds themselves constantly alternating between simplistic intuitive puzzles, such as identifying the correct timeline of events via a horizontal tile-based sorting minigame, and more complex challenges, such as thoroughly investigating a crime scene, or even in one flashback, defusing a bomb.
The investigative mechanics are where this game truly comes alive. People will not always tell you the truth, even when it's in their best interest to do so. Sometimes you’ll be forced to actively confront them and expose their lies, using the evidence at hand. Given the amount of legwork involved, it can often be extremely satisfying to catch their slip-up.
The twists and turns throughout the game are engrossing. The further you dive in, the more entranced you'll find yourself in not just the story, but also the characters and world at large. Each character offers up their own valuable contributions to the overarching story and its many subplots, and up until the end, you’ll still be second-guessing yourself as you attempt to catch the dastardly culprit behind it all.
Performance is key…
With the listed minimum and recommended GPUs being a Nvidia Geforce 640 and a Nvidia GTX 1060 respectively, it's not hard to blow these requirements out of the water in 2023. For review purposes, this game was played on both 1080p resolution on a Nvidia 2070 GTX GPU-powered desktop, and at 1440p on a Nvidia 3070 RTX laptop.
There were no observable performance issues whatsoever. Even as far as general gameplay bugs go, none were exposed during my full playthrough, save for one single audio glitch where the music loop unexpectedly stopped as my character freely roamed around, only ending at the initiation of a cutscene. This bug did not recur further.
From its first to last stop, Murder on the Orient Express remains a mesmerizing ride. Its investigative gameplay exceeds all reasonable expectations. The story is compelling, and its cast of characters are all delightfully suspicious. The visuals, sound effects and music together do a wonderful job of immersing the player in every regard. Even Poirot himself, who admittedly sometimes can get on the player’s nerve, remains an insightful and fascinating protagonist.
As far as detective games go, Agatha Christie's Murder on the Orient Express is one of the best modern offerings on the market. The game's handful of obvious flaws are outweighed tenfold by the many other areas where it goes above and beyond. Agatha Christie's Murder on the Orient Express is not just one of the best detective games of this year. It's a game other similar investigation games should compare themselves against in years to come.
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Gorgeous visual direction, well-written character dialogue, addictive investigative mechanics, etc.
Poirot's excessive self-flattery, some pacing issues, unclear time period