In my last review, I talked about how digital game distribution systems broke down some of the transaction costs for putting out indie games. How does this affect the creativity of these indie games? Smaller game studios are more ableto take risks with creative games. Large studios can't afford to take as much risk with creativity in fear of alienating a niche audience, and sometimes this shows; the critically acclaimed Thief and System Shock series, despite getting rave reviews, did poorly in sales. Indie companies are small, flexible, and thus more willing to take risks. In addition, indie developers are not only competingwith large studios, but also smaller studios, so they have to find some way to distinguish their products.
In addition, game developing for the most part has become more accessible. Programming books are ubiquitous and available digitally, and the boom of the internet has made the exchange of resources much easier. What this means is that producing a game, especially a lower budget indie one, is more common now, and has become a sort of creative means for some developers.
The indie game I'm going to b ereviewing for this entry is called The Path, created by developer Tale of Tales, the maker of The Graveyard. The Path is a sort of interactive story in which you're given the freedom to explore a forest on the way to your grandmother's house. As mentioned in the above paragraph, it shows how gaming can be a new medium for art. In this case, the game is a medium for the developer to prepare an immersive environment for the player to soak up.
The Path is an interactive story, which means that it's less focused on gameplay and more on the atmosphere, story, and feelings it would invoke in the player. You choose from several girls, who are all assigned the grand objectiveof reaching your grandmother's house. However, the real objective is to immerse yourself in the game's dark and immersive forest that surrounds your grandmother's house.
But if your grandmother's house looks like this, maybe you should just send your cookies via UPS
Before we get into the review, I'llgive a brief overview of the objective of the game. You choose from five different girls, who each must go on a path (hence the title) to pay a visit to their grandmother's. If you pay attention to the start of the game, it'll say not to stray off the path and run off in the forest. The path is linear, so you can just run straight and you'll eventually reach the old broad's house, and get the $hitty ending, because you're supposed to stray off the path and explore the surrounding forest. As you can see, this game was obviously made by a hipster, but the general point is to take the time to explore the forest like a sandbox game. I've played with two of the girls(BOOSH!), and although both started on the same path, the events they encountered in the forest differed.
Choose from your choice of five skanks to play Riding Hood
First off, I'll start with what's done right in The Path. The game's horror atmosphere is done exceptionally well, and it's done far better than other horror based games. It abandons the "horror" of Dead Space 2, Doom 3,and Resident Evil games by eliminating the "Boo!" events, so the horror is more subtle and actually scary, in contrast to just startling. Also in contrast to the Thief game series, it's not reliant on making the player feel vulnerable. It's just atmospherically scary, with the game's music and style perfectly complementing the creator's vision; play the first few minutes in to it and the music and sound will send shivers down your spine. The forest is significantly huge, dark, immersive, and filled with the right elements to make the player feel lost in the forest, giving the player a sense of apprehension without really relying on cheap horrortricks. It's fresh, and it works, and I hope that other gamedevelopers kind of take a hint on how The Path does horror. This,however, is offset by the lack of any kind of danger in the game. Horror requires not only a sense of dread of the unknown, but an understanding that what you don't understand can hurt you. That's why I usually don't crap my pants when my girlfriend wants to buy expensive and useless namebrand bags. The lack of any real threat to the player diminished the horror element of the game after several minutes.
A dark and enveloping forest punctured by the sight of your ugly clothes
Now for what's wrong, which is a lot,I'll start with the exploration aspect of the game. There are three objectives in exploring the forest. The first is to explore the world the developer made for you, which in my last paragraph is well done, so kudos.The second is to collect a variety of items with vapid descriptions as if written by a high school goth kid. The items are all random, and there is no clear connection drawn among them, and they're not really essential or usable in any way, so you only collect them for the sake of collecting, which makes it kinda pointless (like achievements).
There's a point to all this, but only the developer knows what it is
The third objective is to trigger events with objects in the game. See a girl running around in a white dress, and maybe you'll go up and play slap-hands with her. See a swing, and maybe you'll produce some inane comments. Maybe you'll drink a beer or two, but in the end it's not really made clear what you're supposed to do or what's important. You don't actually find out what your real objective is until you beat the game and it tells you that you failed to meet a wolf (that was an objective?). In the end, the game feels like it's reaching for something, but it forces the player to kind of guess or strain to piece two things together (like goth poetry).
High School all over again
This turns into-
this. Ah! Queen Elizabeth!
The exploration is also further hampered by two really bad gameplay decisions. The first is the lackof a compass or clear map to guide you back to the path when you're in the forest. The map the game gives you is pitifully useless, andreally just shows your tracks, which doesn't help when you've been wandering aimlessly like an idiot for half an hour while trying to find your way back. The second is the unusually awkward camera angle that the game gives you when you're running, and I can guarantee it is the worse camera angle I have ever seen in a videogame. The camera shifts ahead and behind the character, so you can't see for $hit in front of you, and can only see behind you,which is pointless in a game where nothing chases you.
Behold! The worse camera angle in gaming history
Gameplay wise, the game's pretty much a failure. In the end, because there's no guidance, you're really incredibly lost without any real anchor to ground you. There's not enough to do to be a sandbox, and it feels really restricted. I spent the majority of the game getting lost, and not really enjoying getting lost. The crappy map and camera angles really made sure I stayed frustrated and pissed. And worse, some of the events won't trigger correctly unless you're in a correct position. I was playing the little red riding hood girl and I saw a wolf, so I tried to trigger an event with it. Nothing happened, so I got lost and fifteen minutes later came back. This time, the event triggered, and she ran behind the wolf, hugged in from behind, and then apparently she started to choke it. The wolf dragged her around until the screen turned black, and the little idiot woke up in front of the Grandma's house with her clothes torn. I'll leave it to you perverts to put two and two together, but her movement speed was cut to half, and I was about 20 meters or so from the door. I put a weight on the w key so that she'd drag herself there, then I left to take a dump, and came back to find out that she still didn't reach the door yet. What the fu-k is this $hit? I can't believethe creator expected the player to sit there for 5 minutes holding down one button for this little $hit to crawl to a door. I got the good ending though, but in the end I still felt like I lost for playing this game.
Bathe...in your DEATH! Or just watch it until nothing happens.
Operating System: Microsoft® Windows® XP/Vista
Processor: 2 Ghz
Memory: 1 GB RAM
Hard Disk Space: 500 MB
Video Card: Recent Geforce® or Radeon® x6xxx 256 MB (no integrated graphics)
Sound Card: Any Sound Card
DirectX® Version: DirectX® 9.0c
I played the game with my dedicated graphics card, and the game ran smoothly on maxed settings. I didn't bother playing the game with my integrated graphics (and I doubt it'drun well on IGP anyways). There's a demo to the game available onsteam, which includes a campaign and a taste of what the game's about.
I doubt the game has any mods, and if there were any bugs, I didn't really experience any noticeable ones. I got the game bundled with a number of horror themed indie games including Burn Zombie Burn, so the price of the game would be about $1, and it retails for $10 on steam. To be honest though, I wouldn't buy the game if I knew it would have annoyed me that much.
I surprised myself for giving this game such a low score, especially when I was very optimistic going into the game. The game's very stylish, fresh, creative and has an excellent grasp on horror and atmosphere. Unfortunately, it sacrifices far too many gameplay elements in order to remain artsyand mysterious that it ruins the gameplay. The awkward camera angles, the difficultly in connecting the items to the story, and the lack of an intuitive map system really hinders the game. I know this game has gotten better reviews elsewhere, and I can see the value of the game as an interactive story (though getting lost in the woods running in circles for half an hour isn't much of a story). Be that as it may, as it stands as a game, The Path just isn't done well. I can see other people enjoying it more for its excellent style and horror, but as a game, it has room to improve.
- Implement a better map/compass system. It doesn't matter if it breaks immersion because getting lost completely sucks @$.
- The game really needs better camera angles. I don't need to see the ground behind me. I need to see what's in front of me.
- The players need more guidance than obscure goth poetry to connect the plot together
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