by Ingvi Snædal
previewed on PC
Reviving the Point-and-click
As a kid, two intro screens became more familiar to me than any other computer generated image has since. Sierra and LucasArts were the biggest names in point-and-click adventure gaming, and I played every one of their titles I could get my hands on religiously. Although the genre has become somewhat of a niche in the past decades, two publishers have already proved that the genre is not only marketable, it is also ripe with potential for innovation. Those studios, TellTale Games and Daedalic Entertainment, have been incrementally innovating a genre long thought to have become stagnant by introducing RPG style decision making which affects interpersonal relationships between characters, branching plot-lines, and many more exciting new features to their games. We got a sneak preview of Daedalic's upcoming title The Devil's Men at Gamescom this year, and I will freely admit that I'm pretty darn excited about it.
The Devil's Men is a crime mystery set in an alternate reality steampunk-themed Victorian England. The year is 1871 and you play Adeline Spektor, the 20 year old daughter of Karol Spektor, a famous detective. Your father has gone missing, and you have been forced to go into hiding as a result. Your only hope of finding him is embodied in Emily, the game's other protagonist. Emily is a murderous gangster and the right hand of the leader of a gang of thugs known as The Colony.
A string of murders force our leading ladies on a quest to discover the identity of the so-called “Devil's Men” and who would want them dead. The two protagonists will not, however, be working together in the classic sense. Initially investigating the same mystery for separate reasons, Emily and Adelade must pool their resources to get to the bottom of it. However, Adelade's friend and companion through part of the game, an inspector, can never know that she's working with a wanted criminal. Similarly, Emily's organisation can never know she's working with someone so closely collaborating with the authorities. You as the player will alternate between their stories, guiding them as they both attempt to solve the puzzle separately, at least to begin with. All puzzles have multiple solutions, and the actions of one will affect the other. This will force you as the player to balance the efforts of both plotlines. Furthermore, the game features a dialogue system which allows you to choose the character's responses, which will alter the interpersonal relationship between the characters, affecting your options and the story arc as the game progresses. There are even some locations and puzzles within the game that you'll never see, unless you play the game a certain way.
This mix will undoubtedly add replay value, diversity, and make you feel in control of the progression of the story, which is an element that has always been missing in this traditionally linear medium. Although you'll spend most of the game balancing the two plotlines, ultimately, a favourite has to be chosen. This will undoubtedly be very difficult to do as you get more and more attached to the characters.
The game will have a lock pick system which will act as a form of “auto solve” feature. Throughout the game, a very limited number of lock picks can be found. These can be used to open doors or unlock mechanisms that allow the player to instantly solve a puzzle that always has a more complex solution. As the lock picks are limited, the choice of whether or not to use them will not only affect your ability to use them later during a more complicated puzzle, but may also influence the options of the other heroine, should she venture into the same location after you. If you haven't played the game for a while, an in-game hint mechanic can be used to remind you of the current goal of the characters. The system can also be used to remind you of relevant personal information about characters in the game, which might come in handy in dialogue or during puzzle solving.
Daedalic Entertainment has carved a solid reputation producing high quality point-and-click adventure experiences, and it looks like The Devil's Men is going to honour that reputation. The branching plotlines and dynamic character relationships make me very curious as to just how far I can go before having to stab Adeline in the back, or how much I can accomplish before having to turn Emily in to the authorities. I look forward to getting the game in my hands and finding out for myself.