By Quintin Smith on June 24th, 2011 at 4:19 pm.
Alright, I want you lot to listen up. I’ve just noticed that indie RPG Winter Voices now has a demo available that you can either grab on the official site or using Steam. I don’t want you lot to run off and download it, because I’m positive that most of you would enjoy it about as much as having having smoke rings puffed in your face. Just have a listen of what I have to say and see if the game sounds like it’s for you.
Winter Voices is an episodic RPG about a girl trying to overcome the death of her father. It’s set in a small snowbound village where everybody knows everybody, to the point that it feels deeply claustrophobic. The game’s turn based battles – of which there are many – see your character doing battle with spirits representing everything from guilt to a crushing fear of your own mortality. Instead of dying, your character has a breakdown and flees the scene.
Still with me? Bear in mind that this isn’t some brief indie experiment. Winter Voices is an epic, put together by a sizeable team of gallant Parisiens working with a decent budget. If you buy this game you’ll be steering your young girl through conversations with friends offering solace and making tough decisions regarding the game’s stunning skill tree (see below) for hour upon hour, and the game’s funereal tone is quite an affecting thing to be exposed to long-term.
Here’s what I wrote about that skill tree in my disappointed Winter Voice Wot I Think:
It’s a snowflake. An enormous, emo snowflake. You start at the centre, and each direction represents a different way of dealing with grief. See the yellow-looking skills towards the bottom right? They relate to regressing into your own imagination. The orange skills above those are all to do with being sociable, and the power of friends. An example of a skill that lies between both of those areas is Imaginary Friend, which summons an ally that will hold enemies back.
I chose to go in a different direction, however. I decided my girl was more intelligent and self-aware than she was smart, so the skills I chose could all be found on the upper half of the snowflake- skills relating to strength, anger, denial and building walls around yourself. Two early skills I took were Emptiness, which drastically reduces healing and damage, and Betrayal, which has you “deny your own personality in favour of a better one. Prevents enemies further than 4 tiles away from attacking you.” These choices let me then grab Super Ego, which boosted my Confidence skill and my ability to push enemies back.
A game daring to be different is one thing- a game trying this hard to be different and (for want of a better word) adult is another.
Now, in the above Wot I Think I outlined a lot of terrible things about Winter Voices, but not only am I assured that later episodes fix most of those problems, the prologue – the episode I reviewed – has apparently been patched in light of my comments and those of other reviewers. They can’t change the fact that the game uses Adobe Air, a phenomenally unsuitable platform for what they’re doing here that makes the entire game play like all of the characters are pushing through ankle-deep water all the time, but that was always bearable even in the build I played.
So, if you’re still with me and think this sounds like something you might enjoy, definitely give the demo a shot and, if you like it, encourage like-minded friends to do the same. I’m not sure a commercial game with quite such a suicidally adult premise has been released in years (outside of Dinner Date, anyway), which, as far as I’m conerned, makes Winter Voices worth supporting. If you’re on the fence, you’ll find some videos here that should nudge you off it in one direction or another. As for me, I’m going to find the time to re-review this beauty, I swear it.