The Old City Is Mysterious, Narrated With Shatnerian Flair

By Nathan Grayson on April 29th, 2014 at 4:00 pm.

Not a screenshot from Dishonored, surprisingly enough!

As I watched early but surprisingly polished footage of The Old City, I was stricken by a few standout qualities: 1) it’s a very handsomely atmospheric game, wreathed in glittering flecks of Dishonored and Half-Life, 2) there are dying whales and I feel very bad for them, and 3) the narrator delivers his lines with the stop-go car crash thunderstorm cadence of William Shatner. The narrator in question is very clearly not good ol’ Captain Kirk, but still. Phrasing much of what you say such! That it reads like this! Evokes the famed starship captain/lawyer/Priceline mascot! Whether you intend it to or not! The whole package really does seem quite lavishly produced, though. It’s a story-focused exploration game about… well, an old city, presumably. Also philosophy. Developer PostMod Softworks is being pretty vague beyond that, but there’s plenty to watch, if nothing else.

At this point it feels kind of like an indoor Dear Esther, with the dancing lights and lilting waves of natural splendor replaced by manmade structures of a very different sort of beauty. The developers are keeping story details to a minimum, but here are the basics:

“The Old City is a first-person adventure game (PC) that focuses entirely on story. This story puts the player in the shoes of a sewer dwelling isolationist who is on a journey to the surface and to the Old City. On this journey, you will encounter the shattered remnants of a civilization long past and the echoes of the few who remain.”

“This game is not about fighting bad guys, commanding armies, boosting stats, or even solving puzzles. The Old City is about discovery. You learn more about the world by exploring it, and you understand more about what you find by making the conscious effort to connect the dots. We won’t be there to hold your hand, but we are giving you everything you need. In our game, you have all of the pieces right in front of you, and all you need to do is put them together.”

Philosophy – more specifically epistemology, or the nature of knowledge – will apparently be a major theme throughout, while explicit objectives, combat, and enemies will not be present at all. Your character, deemed a Minotaur by those in-the-know about local Minotaur goings-on, wants to escape from a dank sewer system. To “ascend.” That’s the only concrete story info the developers will share.

The Old City is currently on Kickstarter, where it’s seeking a somewhat hefty sum of $40,000. Not an impossible goal by any means, but this one’s gonna need to rally after a rather un-Minotaur-like start (well, the angrily charging part, anyway; I suppose if you go with the “wandering a maze for all eternity” definition, it might be rather Minotaur-like after all).

I’m interested to see and play more, though obviously this is the sort of game that will live and die on the strengths of its story and environments. If it makes it that far, anyway. Any interest in backing it, or do you think this place’s bones are better left undisturbed?

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46 Comments »

  1. dskzero says:

    “This game is not about fighting bad guys, commanding armies, boosting stats, or even solving puzzles. The Old City is about discovery.”

    *yawn*

    • Kein says:

      Fear not, next CoD is in works.

      • Shooop says:

        Spotted the hipster.

        • Zyrxil says:

          Which one? Is it being a hipster for pretending you’re too damn cool for the glut of Indies coming out with exploration games after the success of Dear Esther, or are you a hipster for being too cool for all the GoonShooters that still make up the majority of major studio releases?

      • XhomeB says:

        You’re being unfair, here. While playing (?) Dear Esther, I kept asking myself the questions: “where do I, as a player, come in? What’s my purpose here?”. Sure, the visuals were simply breathtaking and the premise intriguining, but I got bored of the “gameplay” revolving around pressing the “W” key half an hour through the game. There’s no challenge, no intrigue, no obstacles to overcome. I wanted to explore this beautiful island and find interesting things to do, manipulate the objects around me, solve clever puzzles, do SOMETHING that would shoo away the thought I’m in a Source Engine Editor, checking a map created by someone else in their spare time.

      • dskzero says:

        Is it really all that hard to add a game to your gorgeous world? At least The Stanley Parable added some choices to be made. A Machine for Pigs added some silly puzzles and enemies to avoid to give you something else to do.

        Unless you were satisfied and impressed by Gone Home and Dear Esther, in which case you and I will disagree.

    • FrumiousBandersnatch says:

      Okay…

  2. GallonOfAlan says:

    Go home whale, you’re drunk.

    • Tinotoin says:

      I actually sprayed soup…

    • Emeraude says:

      What will we do with that drunken whale here
      What will we do with that drunken whale here
      What will we do with that drunken whale here

      Early in the Morning

      Way hey and up she rises
      Way hey and up she rises
      Way hey and up she rises

      Early in the morning

      Search inside her stomach for grayish amber
      Search inside her stomach for grayish amber
      Search inside her stomach for grayish amber

      Early in the morning

      Cook her in a metal pot for dinner
      Cook her in a metal pot for dinner
      Cook her in a metal pot for dinner

      Early in the morning

      Way hey and up she rises
      Way hey and up she rises
      Way hey and up she rises

      Early in the morning

      Make silly jokes till the thread is over
      Make silly jokes till the thread is over
      Make silly jokes till the thread is over

      Early in the morning

      Way hey and up she rises
      Way hey and up she rises
      Way hey and up she rises

      Early in the morning

    • Darth Gangrel says:

      Yeah, it’s all like “Hey, whale is everyone? Water’s going on?”

  3. Premium User Badge

    thesundaybest says:

    More Christopher Walken than Shatner I’d say…

  4. Smion says:

    Looks nice. I could do well with a longer, less-linear walking simulator.

  5. adeptacheese says:

    oh come on its not wreathed in flecks of half life 2 thats an environment from that game with a dead whale stuck in it

  6. Penguin_Factory says:

    If this doesn’t get funded I will be very aggrieved.

  7. BLACKOUT-MK2 says:

    I’m all for a fantastic setting, but that alone doesn’t make a good ‘game’ for me. It’s like trying to make a good piece of music with just the drumkit. Sure a good drum beat is great, but on its own it isn’t good enough.

    • Geebs says:

      What about Moby Dick?

    • Jeroen D Stout says:

      Interesting you should phrase it like that; many games I feel the tacked-on ‘action’ bits are like an artificial drum-beat intruding on what could be a simple symphony. I feel there is a place in the world for those of us who would prefer just to play different variations of Dear Esther and not have that experience ruined with the old unk-unk-unk beats.

      • BLACKOUT-MK2 says:

        I guess, but I just like some form of challenge or thing I have to do as opposed to just exploring. Again, that’s just my opinion, but given this game seems like it going to be similar to Dear Esther in terms of gameplay, and that I don’t really consider Dear Esther a game as much as I do a virtual museum, I’ll probably give it a miss.

        • The Random One says:

          If you don’t like it you don’t like it; different strokes for different folks. I’m firmly on Jeroen’s side on this one. If I may hijack your metaphor: if explorations is the drums, I feel combat is the vocals. I like vocals; there are many songs I like primarialy, if not solely, because of the vocals; I even like acapella songs that are pretty much nothing but vocals. But lately I’ve realized no one will make a song without lyrics, that songs with easygoing pop lyrics have been had lyrics-heavy rap interludes, and that in a rerelease of the funeral dirge there’s a voice that sings “He is dead, he is dead, we’re so sad he is dead”. So whenever I spot some modern instrumental jazz or dig up some little known classical piece or get pointed to a bizarre piece of noisecore I rejoice at the instruments doing their thing on their own, not because I think that’s better, but because I think that doesn’t get made as much as it should.

    • iseemonkeys says:

      Check out this project on kickstarters. https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1012709089/death-in-candlewood?ref=discovery Open world first person horror game with combat and cars. I think this will actual be the first kickstarter project I will fund.

      • Zyrxil says:

        You’re gonna fund one with less than 20% of funding achieved with 2.5 days to go? The same project that was rounded mocked all around the internet for its piss poor presentation video and greatly embellished team credentials, featuring “veterans” who had minor roles in the development of some big name games?

        • iseemonkeys says:

          Interesting clear to link these because I cant find anything negative by searching I also saw nothing wrong with the gameplay video. Because so far I only found one small reddit post with 30 comments and maybe 5-7 negative. That is far from considered mocked around a internet. But thank you for bringing this to my attention. I still hope the game is successful as I like the feel of it.

    • CookPassBabtridge says:

      “Sure a good drum beat is great, but on its own it isn’t good enough.”

      Three men beg to differ

      • BLACKOUT-MK2 says:

        All right, I’ll give you that, that was pretty good, but if I had to personally choose listening to a drum solo, or the full package with a guitar, vocalist and a bassist, I’d choose them all working together as opposed to one instrument going solo.

  8. The Random One says:

    The player is secretly a minotaur? Maybe the game is a retelling of The House of Asterion?

  9. CookPassBabtridge says:

    So, flicking through this gameplay video, I am getting:
    1. The general whiff of Ether One but with better graphics
    2. A fruity hint of Bioshock and Ryan, albeit more whiny
    3. The toffee-like bouquet of Black Mesa’s rendition of Half Life
    4. A sprinkling of Dishono(u)red’s tarte chocolate nibs
    5. Dear Esther, playing a trumpet whilst wearing overalls
    6. A haddock, that has just finished watching Twelve Monkeys, called Gerald.

    There are no flecks however, as that is a word I associate with drunkard vomit and explosive diarrhoea

  10. ruaidhri.k says:

    Not counting the splash screen the “Time to Crate” in the first video could be measured in Picoseconds.
    Basically I’m sold on this.

  11. biggergun says:

    Finally someone went and made Dishonored without the bothersome combat. Backed.

    • Runs With Foxes says:

      And removed all world reactivity and systemic interaction and player choice. SOUNDS GREAT

    • dskzero says:

      You are the first person I’ve read who says the combat in Dishonored detracts from the entire experience. If anything I’d complain about how little of that awesome world I was allowed to visit while blinking around.

  12. Shooop says:

    So Dear Esther but with a dead whale and a crappier narrator.

    Hipsters everywhere rejoice, everyone else move along.

    • Phasma Felis says:

      I hate to have to be the one to inform you, but genuine hipsters don’t actually exist. The only real hipsters are recursive hipsters, who are defined by their obsession with not being perceived as hipsters.

      • SkittleDiddler says:

        All the real hipsters died in the Vietnam war.

      • Haplo says:

        But… But that means…

        any one of us could be a hipster at any time

  13. LeanRight says:

    I think games like this are more important because of how they make us think about what makes a good game or just what is a game? Something like Duchamp’s Fountain.

  14. buxcador says:

    I believe that games should not try to be movies. This game is ultra boring. Movies have a lot of edition and cuts. You never see the hero walking, for a minute, the entire corridor. That would be dreadful. You see him entering the corridor, and getting out in two seconds.

    Gamers asking for a “story” don’t really know what they want. They do not want a “story”, but an immersive experience, because shooting a dude again, starts feeling repetitive after the shoot number 1000. It starts feeling like boring office work.

    What gamers want is to have his mind occupied with the task. To have a profit by thinking or finding a different solution. To have a reward for playing instead of just ticking boxes.

    I do not find this game entertaining. If it were a movie, it would be a complete fail.
    I no more find better graphics compelling. They are good enough to me.