by Murray Lewis
reviewed on PC
Majestic Nights, developed by Epiphany Games, is an isometric-3D action-adventure set in an alternate, dystopian 1980s where every conspiracy theory – from Roswell to JFK – is true. Although only Episode One is currently out, it will eventually consist of six chapters, plus the free ‘Episode Zero’ which acts as a prologue and a playable demo.
In keeping with the conspiratorial theme, episodes are only tenuously connected. As you play, you build up a so called ‘Wall of Crazy,’ visible from the main menu, which shows the uncovered links between people, places, and projects. At this stage, it’s difficult to see what it’s all leading up to, but no doubt the next five episodes will add a great deal.
So is this a game worth looking into, or should it just be disappeared?
THIS PLOT WILL SELF-DESTRUCT IN 10...
From the very start, you will notice that the dialogue scrolls past at a roaring pace. It’s a blizzard of codenames and jargon, with no option to pause conversations mid-flow, so good luck keeping up. The saving grace is that there’s a constant thread of humour in the responses available. At one point you break into your neighbour’s house and confront him while he’s sitting on the toilet. When he asks you what you want, one option is: ‘I’m your neighbour, and I missed you.’
Mostly, though, the writing puts such a heavy emphasis on the conspiracy theories that it forgets to build a plot. Every conversation name-drops agencies and secret projects just for the hell of it. It might interest someone well-versed in conspiracy theories, but the fact that it all goes unexplained means the average gamer will find themselves thoroughly confused throughout.
Even some way into the game, it’s not 100% clear what you are doing or why – you just follow objectives, and hope everything works out. When a game is meant to be so steeped in lore, it’s inexcusable that the story feels like a rushed afterthought. The game goes to great lengths to convince you that it’s dripping with intrigue and intricate plots, but utterly fails to deliver on anything more than the most superficial of levels.
That feeling of having been rushed pervades the whole game. It’s very obvious that Majestic Nights was developed for mobile first, the PC version bearing all the hallmarks of shoddy porting: low-resolution textures, an almost complete lack of options, and no manual saving. The menus even require you to click and swipe, mimicking a touch-screen, to scroll through lists. Apparently even the game isn’t certain which platform it’s running on, since it would randomly change on-screen prompts to show gamepad buttons instead of keys (I didn’t even have a pad plugged in).
Once you get going, there’s a fairly even split between non-violent investigation sequences, stealth gameplay, and outright violence.
Investigation consists of exploring, finding the right people, and saying the right things to them. Conversations have branching dialogue trees, and it’s possible to open up new paths by asking the right questions, but important characters will only accept one set of responses. Getting it wrong will boot you out of the conversation, but there’s no game over; you can try again as if nothing happened. When the game won’t progress until you choose the ‘right’ answers, it becomes a pointless sequence of trial and error.
Great soundtrack. Wry sense of humour. Potentially great concept.
Littered with bugs. Story leaves a lot to be desired. Lazy mobile port.