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The Old City Is Mysterious, Narrated With Shatnerian Flair

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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Nathan Grayson

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