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."