Alien linguistics thriller Arrival is a beezer movie, according to my internet mates, but I still haven’t been able to see it. Once again videogames come to the rescue. Sethian [official site] is a text adventure where the text is all unrecognisable shapes and symbols – an alien computer that needs to be translated and understood. It came out last month but got buried in the annual November AAAvalanche. But like heroic rescue workers, we have found it again.
As a future archaeologist, you are investigating the remains of an alien race from the planet Sethian. But the natty PC you've uncovered only speaks the old tongue. Luckily you’ve got a handy journal with some notes and reference materials to introduce you to the basics, as well as some of the alien world’s literature. And while it looks from these screens like they all spoke Traditional Wingdings, the language seems to be a bit more complicated than that. Here’s what developer Grant Kuning has to say about it:
"Unlike in other games, Sethianese is a more earnest attempt at creating a fictitious language, using its own unique grammar and vocabulary rather than simply substituting words and letters one-for-one with English. The game's language borrows elements from Chinese, American Sign Language, and other real world languages, in addition to some features which have no real world counterpart.
"Those who comprehend the game's language will find peace, but only those who master its world will truly see the end of Sethian."
Well then. That sounds like a challenge. I’m still learning how to speak Spanish without accidentally insulting everyone I speak to, but I’m sure there’s time to become fluent in an ancient extraterrestrial tongue as well.
You can get Sethian on itch.io for $5 or on Steam for £3.99/$4.99. If you want to know more about how it operates, there's a bunch of the game's intentions on its old Kickstarter, which was successfully funded in June last year.