Ride The Rails: Where The Water Tastes Like Wine

Is Bioshock 2 still the secret best Bioshock game or has the entire world come round to that way of thinking*? Either way, Johnnemann Nordhagen [as designers will, he goes by ‘J. No’ -ed.], one of the folks who worked on the game and went on to co-found Gone Home developer Fullbright, has released a trailer for his new venture. Where The Water Tastes Like Wine [official site] is “a bleak American folk tale about traveling, sharing stories, and surviving manifest destiny”. It looks strange and gorgeous, like a collision between 80 Days, Van Gogh, and Kentucky Route Zero.

When I first saw the trailer, I assumed WTWTLW was a point and click adventure of some sort. Not so. At least not in the traditional sense.

“Where the Water Tastes Like Wine is a game about traveling, exploration, and telling stories, set in a dreamlike and fantastical American landscape. In the game, you’ll have the chance to freely explore the world, seek out landmarks and cities, meet other travelers and hear their stories, and maybe even tell stories of your own.”

The idea of a game in which stories are currency is attractive. I’m instantly thinking about Failbetter’s word palaces and anything that reminds me of Fallen London and Sunless Sea is off to a good start. That the whole thing appears to place its focus on the places in between places makes it all the more appealing. I once told an American friend that I recognised four great American art forms: jazz, baseball, breakfast and roads. WTWTLW might neglect the baseball but I expect the other three might well make up part of the experience. Roads certainly will.

“The American road story is a genre in itself, ranging from stories like the Mark Twain classic The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, or John Steinbeck’s Grapes of Wrath to Jack Kerouac’s On the Road, and there are many stories of other American wanderers that rarely get told – the spread of African Americans from the south, the movement of migratory farm workers, or the forced marches of native people. Where the Water Tastes Like Wine wants to capture the feeling of those songs, poems, stories, and wanderings in a game.”

I want to know more. Release is set for some time next year.

* the long-ignored superiority of the second game in a series that has at least three parts is officially known as Far Cry Syndrome. Example of usage: “Some bloke down the pub tried to tell me that the Deus Ex games are a prime candidate for reappraisal under the Far Cry Syndrome clause so I glassed him.”


  1. Stellar Duck says:

    A couple things I have to say:

    Yes, Bioshock 2 is the best of the bunch by far. Same with Far Cry 2 obviously.

    Secondly, I like that they call themselves Dim Bulb Games. As opposed to Fullbrights bulb logo thingy, I imagine. I like it.

    Thirdly, and most importantly, I want this game. Now.

    I’ve never been to the US but the folklore, the wide expanses and the rail roads over there have always fascinated me. I love it all and if someone makes a game that touches a bit on that, I’m in! Which was the case with Kentucky Route Zero. I love that game and I love that some of the stuff in it, I don’t know if it’s true or not. I don’t know if Lula Chamberlain is real and I don’t care. I never want to know.

    I’ve been listening to Jason Webley a lot recently and his song Pyramid about Margaret Rucker and his story about how that song got written. I don’t know if it’s true. I don’t know if there is a pyramid in Everett, Washington and I don’t care.

    Anyhow, ahem, I’ll buy this game.

    • Lord Byte says:

      Agree, Bioshock 2 was by far the best, and least talked about. The ending actually made me tear-up. The entire game felt very emotional, and the last quarter of it was totally brilliant!

      (Fun-fact: I actually played that one on console, the only shooter I finished on console, mostly so I could get used to playing shooters. I think the only reason I persevered is that it was such a brilliant game, haven’t finished (or played all that much for that matter) any shooters on console since. (Not even “The last of us”).

  2. Troubletcat says:

    BioShock 1 is the best by such a wide margin it’s not even funny. The more action-oriented focus of BioShock 2 makes it a better shooter, but not a better game as a whole. Admittedly the perspective you were given was more unique, playing as a Big Daddy vs. Straight Man Outsider Guy, but was it really more effective as a view of the game’s and setting’s themes? I don’t think so.

    More concretely, I felt like BioShock 2’s pacing was off compared to the first game, which expertly combined exploration sections and action sections, wheras Bioshock 2 (Although still having some variety) felt like it was all kind of at the same level.

    I also think people forget enormous swathes of the first BioShock – there was actually a great amount of level variety.

    BioShock 2’s set up battles were more strategically complex than the first game, sure, but I felt like there was overall much less tension than in the first game – you were often more explicitly told by the game you had plenty of time to set up (something that only happened a couple times in the first game) and also you felt much more powerful as a Big Daddy than as Some Dude, diffusing yet more of the tension.

    BioShock 2 is an excellent, interesting shooter and belongs in the cannon of great 1st person games. It is certainly underated and too easily forgotten when it should be mentioned.

    But BioShock 1 is better.

    If you liked Infinite most fuck right off.

    • Zekiel says:

      Game mechanics-wise I can’t see any way that Bioshock or Infinite could possibly challenge Bioshock 2. It’s a great iteration of Bioshock’s “lots of options” approach, with hacking in particularly being massively improved. It can be a little complicated at times, but you can generally just choose to ignore options (like alternate ammo) in order to simplify things.

      Narratively I felt like Bioshock 1 and Infinite had some great “woah” moments, and Infinite succeeded (for me at least) in creating an emotional connection with Elizabeth, but I was really impressed with how moving Bioshock 2’s story was. It did something more impressive with the “moral choice” aspect which Bioshock fumbled and I found the ending (the “good” ending, that is) genuninely rather moving.

      TL;DR – yes, Bioshock 2 is definitely the best.

    • Zekiel says:

      Oh and I meant to say – Bioshock’s pacing up to Ryan was pretty excellent. After that is took a massive nose-dive, along with the story, culminating in a pretty dreadful ending. Yeesh. Bioshock 2’s pacing remained pretty consistently good from what I can remember.

  3. The Dark One says:

    The wonderful Gita Jackson is writing for this game. link to wherethewatertasteslikewine.com

  4. OmNomNom says:

    Bioshock 1, Far Cry 1. Best

  5. Shiloh says:

    Oh I’m definitely interested in this.

    Love that song as well – up there with Chuck Hagan’s work on the Flame in the Flood.

  6. Geebs says:

    America really does love to romanticise its terrible, terrible approach to social security.

  7. Premium User Badge

    phuzz says:

    I can understand why people don’t like Far Cry 2, but they’re just wrong :p

  8. shinygerbil says:

    Weirdly, I just this weekend finished playing Deus Ex for the first time ever. I played it in a mixture of long weekend sessions and fairly short bursts (partially to alleviate non-modern-game frustrations) and it took me several weeks.

    On Saturday, I started Invisible War; after having a quick scout on the internet it would appear I’m nearly halfway through, having stopped playing early Sunday afternoon.

    I’ve played through Human Revolution twice as well.

    I can definitely confirm that the bloke-down-the-pub in question is deserving of being glassed.

    (not that DXIW is bad, mind, it’s just…not so good)

  9. DelrueOfDetroit says:

    I liked everything about this except for the music. Sounds far too modern and generic. A game like this needs to take a cue from O Brother Where Art Thou and drive home that old timey sound to its tracks. Especially given that the title is taken from Big Rock Candy Mountain, people are going to expect authentic sounding folk and bluegrass.

    • DelrueOfDetroit says:

      Instead we have dime-a-dozen CBC radio folk duet.

      (Hit that button too soon.)

    • Oozo says:

      It might also take a clue from Over The Garden Wall. Now that’s a work that understood how to take all those aspects of nostalgic Americana (even though it might be of a somewhat different nature) and turn it into something of its own indeed. Including a faux-vintage soundtrack that is fantastic, era-appropriate and still its own thing.

  10. Byrnghaer says:

    Yes please! We need more games about travelers and wanderers. I’m not from the states myself but I love the ‘road culture’ there. I myself have hitchhiked from the Canadian border down to New Mexico, passing through beautiful Utah. It was a fantastic time, filled with amazing people and incredible landscapes, as well as empty boomtowns that felt like a third world country at times. Sleeping under the stars in the parks of half-deserted towns and watching the sun rise in the morning was absolutely glorious. I saw a hobo trainhopping in the trailer, which is something I’ve always wanted to do myself but was afraid of getting deported for it if I got caught. One day though, one day…