The narrative of the year. Judgment, Telling Lies, Disco Elysium – review

The stories that hooked us to the living.

About nomination

In this nomination we mark games in which the plot and / or the way it is presented is much higher priority than the gameplay itself. In such projects, a strong story can outweigh any flaws.

Fifth Place – A Plague Tale: Innocence

Narrative of the year
A plague tale the gameplay turned out to be quite average: in places the action sags, in some places, on the contrary, it rushes gallop. But the incredible atmosphere of a dying Europe with a touch of mysticism does its job. And most importantly – we see all this with a clean and unbiased look of two children who are growing up before our eyes. Sometimes the “director” tries to catch the player’s horror with banal and hackneyed methods like mountains of corpses or whirlwinds from rats (sic!). But the game catches on anyway, sorry for the pun, it’s absolutely not childish with the amazing and creepy story about children who are forced to be cruel in response to the cruelty of adults. If it were not a game, but a book, it would have been a mix from Lord of the Flies and Victor Hugo’s novels with a touch of Lovecraft. And yes, it’s hard to remember at least one other game in which the children were so convincing and lively (including the vulnerable), and did not look like a “younger version of adults” who can do everything and look at the nightmare reigning around them with cold calm.

Fourth Place – Afterparty

Narrative of the year
The ability to build a story that surprises and touches, and submit it so that the player does not get bored for a minute, studio Night school demonstrated back in Oxenfree. And in Afterparty the developers were able to repeat the merits of the predecessor, without repeating in general. It was easy to turn the story of students who died prematurely and went to hell into a horror movie or tearful melodrama. However, Night School told her with irony and subtle black humor, without canceling the ambiguity, depth, and wise thoughts.

Characters, like local hell, are revealed gradually. It turned out to be interesting and ambiguous that young sinners, that demons living in a bright neon underworld, where the noise of discos and drunk parties does not subside until the morning. Shy Milo and stubborn Lola have more than once to make a difficult moral choice; and although the general storyline in any case comes to a happy ending, only the player decides what conclusions the heroes will draw from what happened and which cockroaches they will throw out of their heads. When re-passing, there is every chance to get a new storyline by choosing a different wagering and a way to achieve goals: what are the hellish cocktails that open up new conversations in the dialogues for Milo and Lola, making them bolder, rougher or smarter! Looking at the local swill, I want to try everything – the benefit of Afterparty is a little longer than Oxenfree and runs in 7-8 hours.

Third Place – Judgment

Narrative of the year
When developing Judgment screenwriters Ryu ga Gotoku Studio faced a difficult task: fit into a crazy world Yakuza deliberately serious heroes and tell a gloomy, believable story. And they did a great job with her! Pushing jokes, absurd situations and romance into the background, they managed to create a tense detective story with original twists and unobtrusive morality.

Judgment keeps the intrigue to the very end, at an ideal pace, opening up new circumstances of the investigation and at the same time revealing the characters’ characters. Police officers and yakuza, detectives and lawyers, informants and noble street hooligans are full of actors here, and the story of each of them is neatly woven into the general plot outline. No unnecessary details and shotguns that didn’t shoot: towards the finale, the connections between events that at first seemed unimportant or introduced purely for drama became apparent. And the heroes during the passage become almost family. This is greatly helped by the cinematography of the narration and the talented acting that rare television procedures can boast of.

Second Place – Telling Lies

Narrative of the year
In 2014, Sam Barlow, author Silent hill: shattered memoriesreleased Her story – A unique game consisting of hundreds of videos and a search bar. The rules are simple: you can search by any word spoken in the video, but the system will produce only four chronologically first results. This means that the player needs to delve into the essence of the story and try more accurate, specific requests. Remember the names and topics of conversations, compose a chronology of what is happening in your head, and, in fact, conduct the work of a detective. Unique experience.
In the five years since the release of Her Story, no one else began to develop her ideas, so Barlow himself took up Telling lies. In mechanics – in fact the same thing, but in the formulation – heaven and earth. Her Story was about a single woman being interrogated; Telling Lies, on the other hand, consists of video recordings of four people over the course of a year of their life. In other words, in this game we have to compare the dialogues, the communication of two characters – to keep track of who, with whom, what they are talking about; who is sincere and who is lying; what it will lead to in the future. We see heroes in a variety of situations, often very everyday and even intimate – and their conversations are so vibrantly written and brilliantly played that it is impossible not to believe. Telling Lies not only gives us another rare opportunity to reveal ourselves as a detective through a search engine, but also shows that the video with live actors still has a huge untapped potential in games.

First Place – Disco Elysium

Narrative of the year
Disco elysium devilishly smart. The script simply screams that it was written by aesthetes who thought about each situation and each line of dialogue for more than one year. The concept is already ambitious in itself: what if each emotion of a drunk detective loser has its own voice? What if the protagonist’s nervous system, languishing from a terrible hangover, may interfere with the witness’s interrogation? Or, for example, his lurid tie with no less noisy character?

In words, this idea sounds too grandiose, but by some miracle it works. For all his literary talent and ornate play with words and themes, the studio ZA / UM never for a moment forgets what story he wants to tell. Disco Elysium is a story about a sick, broken man who lives in a world as sick and broken as he is. Inside, he is torn apart by a burden of his own mistakes and a forgotten past, and outside – by a squabble for power, where each faction does not mind having its own cop at the beck and call.

In this case, the developers do not even expect that you will come out of the water dry. They know that you will be mistaken more than once, but do not punish these errors, but beat them – like a master leading a game in D&D. When a hero proves that he is truly a brilliant detective, you support him; when he does absurd things and trips over all the rakes in his path – you laugh at him. It’s physically impossible to play “wrong” in Disco Elysium: in any case, you will find the most thoughtful, inventive and memorable story from the time Planescape: torment.

The main thing – do not listen to a tie. He doesn’t understand a damn thing about women.

And what narrative games did you remember this year? What stories sunk into the soul? Write in the comments!