More Cyberpunk Bartending In New Valhalla Demo

I quite enjoyed being a cyberpunk bartender mixing exotic and dangerous cocktails for talking corgis and androids in the free prologue to VA-11 HALL-A [official site] last year. It has a horrible name, but the visual novel-ish mix ’em up was fun and interesting.

A new demo serves up a look at how it’s come since then, switching to a new engine and showing off a different slice of story. No dogs this time. Nab it from Itch.

This demo’s what developers Sukeban Games took to PAX East in March. The new engine and setup is a lot more pleasant, offering a nice big view of the bar and – glory be! – a guide to making drinks. It still takes a little trial and error at first, but I found it far more pleasant than the old version, which seemed to assume the player had the same knowledge of mixology as the character. When your only way to change the dialogue is mixing drinks differently (or poorly), clunky mixing is/was a real problem.

As for the different slice of story, I dig it. The drunk dogs were fun, but I suspect this shows a lot more of where the game’s headed. If you miss the dogs, Sukeban say, “We plan to remake the Prologue episode with the new engine (the one we use with the demo) as a free DLC after the full game is out.”

And look, here’s a new trailer:

[Disclosure: RPS Bargain Bucketeer and occasional newsie Cassandra Khaw has worked on this game.]

4 Comments

  1. Kollega says:

    The idea is original, the graphics are pretty… but oh me oh my, the opening exposition is like every B-list cyberpunk cliche rolled into one questionably appealing package.

    Let me explain something here: I’m not against cyberpunk as dystopian social commentary, or cyberpunk as an exploration of what it means to be human. In fact, I am very much for that. But how and why some people treat cyberpunk as escapist fiction, I will never understand.

  2. Alamech says:

    Well, for me, the sweetspot with cyperpunk was always somewhere between the thought-provoking and the thought-escaping; it explores the question of what would humanity, what would I be in such a dystopian future? And for that I need immersable Characters and a good imagination about future technology and its interactions with societies.
    And whereas fantasy is a impossible past, cyberpunk is a possible (near) future, making it that much more viable for escapism, since we could actually wake up in it one day. But since cyberpunk-conditions become more and more a reality and its questions are being asked by mainstream media, cyberpunk fiction as social commentary gains relevance, but looses integrity as being a thing of its own. Since that counteracts fiction and escapism, and people like having a thing of their own, it needs to be reestablished, strengthened in turn, which often enough happens by harping on the original clichees and recognisable tropes of the genre.

    Now, judging from the trailer I don’t see why this game shouldn’t have the thought-provoking social commentary part, but you’re right, it does not seem to be in the foreground, it speaks of violence and injustice but does not show it and the name of the website is either pure irony or a hint at an escapist priority.

    • Kollega says:

      I don’t think you got the entirety of the point I wanted to make. The crux of my dissatisfaction is something like “why in the nine circles of Hell would anyone treat a world as horrible and hopeless as your typical B-list cyberpunk future as an escapist fantasy?” I do not understand how a story where the world is extremely hostile to the “little man” and just surviving, never mind living comfortably, is a huge issue… I just don’t get how it can be an escapist fantasy. I live in a vaguely dystopian country, with police corruption rampant and the rich and powerful routinely flaunting the law, and let me tell you, it’s no fun at all. And the “run-and-gun with your fingerbeam augmentation” kind of cyberpunk I can understand to a degree, but it has a whole other host of issues.

      Generally speaking, I’m fine with cyberpunk as a warning to the readership, or as an exploration of philosophical topics, which the good cyberpunk works are – but when it comes to video game cyberpunk, the message an average story of that type sends is either “welp, the world sucks, and there’s nothing we can do about it”, or “it’s so cool to live in a world without laws and morals where the only thing that matters is how much money and firepower you have!” And the latter especially comes off to me as an equivalent of making a story about Nineteen Eighty-Four’s Thought Police and casting them as the “heroes” because they have unlimited power to do whatever they want.

      Bottom line: escaping from the horrible real world into an even more horrible imaginary world that constantly makes a point of how horrible it is, and going through all that horror and misery only to fail at changing anything, strikes me as a rather strange decision. And yet, for some reason it’s pretty popular.

      • Kaeoschassis says:

        Frequently the “escapism” in gaming cyberpunk, such as it is, comes not from the horrible dystopic setting, but from being allowed to violently and creatively conclude the mortality of half the population of said setting with stylish cyberguns and cybermagic or whatever. It’s the same “escapism” as in any other gaming. Yes, the world sucks, but you get to be cool and fight stuff and (very occasionaly) even do something ABOUT said world sucking. Escapism in gaming only really has one flavour when you get right down to it.

        VA-11 HALL-A (it’s really not that horrible a name, Alice, sheesh), from what I’ve seen/played of it, doesn’t really seem to fall that much into that category, though. It’s not really about escapism and it’s not really about a thought-provoking analysis of its setting. It’s just about people. The cyberpunk is all background, hinted at, overheard, glimpsed. I like that.