Winter Is Coming: Winter Voices Get A Demo

By Quintin Smith on June 24th, 2011 at 4:19 pm.

She probably just needs a nice cup of tea

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.

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39 Comments »

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  1. Hrump says:

    It’s not cool to say “Winter is Coming” if you aren’t referring to something from GRRM’s fantasy universe.

    :(

  2. McDan says:

    I remember this game, well the coverage on RPS anyway, was going to get it but somehow never did. Now there’s a demo to test out, which I’ll sure be downloading. Also reminded me of dinner date again! Which I really need to try out or get.

  3. psyk says:

    Unrelated but XD

    @Quinns108
    (The game is UnReal World RPG. The RPS community asked for a diary, and they’ll get one.)

  4. vodka and cookies says:

    Sounds cool but deeply depressing too, probably why such games aren’t done.

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    Chaz says:

    And after all that the game just ends with you saying “Fuck it!” and going down the pub to get blind drunk and dump on your mates with all your problems.

    I bet there’s no beer icon on that bloody snowflake.

    • JFS says:

      That’s because she’s a girl. The same thing with a male protagonist would get banned in everywhere except Germany and England because we like beer binging.

    • ribidons says:

      Well, and the male coping-ability snowflake would need to include a branch that involves beating people up and killing wildlife. Oh, and drug seeking/medication abuse, but the game’s off the beam if that isn’t already on the female snowflake. Those couldn’t be too much more unhealthy than self-betrayal or an imaginary friend…but what do you think, Zach?

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      KGB says:

      I’m not so sure about the “liking” part. I spent a year at a US highschool and being german myself I thought they were quite into the binging part of drinking. Much more than I was used to seeing in Germany… But alcohol in games is a problem in the US, that is true.

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    Morph says:

    Played the first episode but got stuck at the same point Quintin did. And up to that point the game was certainly off-beat but I’m not sure if I actually had any fun.

  7. Velvetmeds says:

    I liked it. Want to get it on Steam’s hypothetical summer sale

  8. Coins says:

    Yes! I was hoping for this a great deal. *click*

  9. Tei says:

    I have read horrible things about this game. It was in my “Looking forward” list, but after reading some people terrireviews, I removed it. And now, … I don’t have to trust the Others!.. I can have my own opinion!. Is really that bad?

  10. Velvetmeds says:

    No, it’s that good.

  11. Icarus says:

    Glad this is getting a demo. It’s a very neat premise but Quinns’ original WIT and the many problems he outlined was the deal breaker. I’ll grab the demo tonight and see if it’s something I enjoy.

  12. Wulf says:

    This is sadly another game I couldn’t get into because of the tiny font size.

    It’s interesting, on a lot of older AAA PC game releases, you had things like a controllable font size. Morrowind unofficially supported ridiculously massive fonts, and with mods (that it also allows) it allows that to be taken even further. This is one of the things I enjoyed about it. It wasn’t because it was a console port (it started on the PC and was then ported to the XBox), but rather simply because Bethesda value a huge amount of … uh … ‘modability’?

    That’s the one thing that’s probably going to save Skyrim for me, but I digress.

    With indie games though that are designed for the PC, it’s odd that very often I see them designed in such a locked down way that I can’t get at the guts of them and alter the font size to fit what I need. This was true of Project Zomboid, and it’s also true of Winter Voices. Whilst I am willing to use Windows Magnifier to some degree, largely it just puts me off.

    It’s also interesting because this is something that even PC MMOs get right, too, by either allowing the user to scale the UI (Guild Wars, Champions Online), or by making the guts of the UI open (Everquest, Everquest II, and as much as I hate to say it, even WoW).

    It just surprises me really that developers never think to leave a little XML file somewhere with a clearly marked way to change the font size in the game. That’s all I’d need. Doesn’t have to be some glorified in-game GUI. I rummaged around in the guts of Neverwinter Nights II to completely rewrite that UI for a larger font, and ended up with a perfect large fonts UI. The only reason I didn’t publish it was because it was a jury-rigged frankenstein’s monster of my work and the work of three other modders, creating a gestalt super UI.

    But this is the nice thing. I mean, as much as I bellyache about Skyrim and its dragons annoying me, so long as it can be modded, people will fix it. Want to side with the dragons (Great House Dagoth)? Mod. Want to play as a khajiit (considering the possibility of not having this option)? Mod. Want to play as a Khajiit with digitigrade legs (razorpony is doing this for Oblivion, bless ‘im)? Mod. Want to have more talky quests or quests which involve using your noggin for puzzles and/or detective work (yay Seekers faction!)? Mod. Want to step away from the dragons for a bit to change social structures on an International scale (Brother Juniper’s Twin Lamps)? Mod. Want to alter the UI (sooo many Morrowind font builders)? Mod.

    This is why I kind of wish more indie games were released with the possibility to mod them in place. I’m looking at you, Terraria. I mean, Blue and Redigit are working with a modding group (I forget their name, but they were responsible for the Zombie Invasion mod for Minecraft) to open up modding in Terraria as we speak, but it would’ve been nice to have it there from the get go.

    Same of all indie games, really. Allowing for mods would open them up so much more. So… if the authors of Project Zomboid and Winter Voices are listening… mods. UI, game, everything. It’ll change your game forever, and give it a large fanbase of people who like to make neat stuff (me!) and use neat stuff made by others (me!).

    • malkav11 says:

      A -lot- of the problems Winter Voices has comes from their mystifying (but not fixable) choice to build the whole thing in Adobe Air, which is a) unsuited to what they are doing, and b) generally terrible. I suspect it would also preclude mod support.

  13. Veracity says:

    How finished is this? Right, 4/7, looks like. I love the idea, but can’t overcome the “episodic” hurdle.

  14. Malawi Frontier Guard says:

    This is the worst game I ever played, and I played too much of it.
    In a weakened state I bought episode 4 thinking “Oh, I’m sure they improved it by now”. No, they made it worse.

    Edit: To enjoy the most of this game, download the demo and only listen to the music in one of the directories while imagining playing a good game.

  15. Kadayi says:

    In the middle of a recession is probably about the worst time to market a game that’s basically downright miserable (people are looking for an escape from reality with games). Nice graphical stylings though.

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    jaheira says:

    I loved the prologue. Buy it if you like stuff with a weird and mysterious atmosphere. Fully intend to get every episode.

  17. jeremypeel says:

    I think Winter Voices must have the best design doc in the world. It’s conceptually perfect, dialogue supports themes, combat system supports and embellishes dialogue…

    I gave up on the prologue, after several hours. I will go back.

    • Malawi Frontier Guard says:

      Yes, they built an offensively bad game around offensively good ideas. Just look at that fucking skill tree.

  18. Tom4J says:

    This is a Game i have and really want to play through, but its crushingly depressing.