Game: A New Beginning: Final Cut
Developer: Daedalic Entertainment
Publisher: Daedalic Entertainment / Lace Mamba Global
Available on: Windows PC and Mac OSX
Reviewed on: Windows PC
It isn’t very often that we see a game that is focused on a strong social or ethical issue. Games are so often seen as throwaway and juvenile, but we have seen, over the last few years, that there has been at least somewhat of a shift, with video gaming being taken more seriously as a story-telling medium. Story has always been important, and often very successful, in the adventure game genre. Thought of as the thinking gamers genre, the games have long been able to tackle more serious and adult themes, A New Beginning is no different and that is what really makes it stand out above its contemporaries.
STORY: The plot of the title is rooted strongly in some of the biggest fears of society today: Climate change and global environmental collapse. The games focuses on a scientist named Bent Svennson, who has been working for years with algae and has become a clinical depressive through the perceived uselessness of his work. However, this is shown parallel to Fay, who lives in the distant future, where Earth has suffered a huge environmental shift and lies in ruins. The science fiction aspect to the story kicks in when Fay heads back in time to convince the only person capable of avoiding the disaster to help. Two guesses who that is!?
The research of Bent could help to provide the world with an eco-friendly power source, and aid in avoiding the disaster which is currently on the cards. The story is actually not as outrageous as it sounds, with the events and things that occur in the game being largely believable and based on fact; aside from the time-travel obviously. The dialogue in the game somehow avoids becoming damning and preaching to players to change their ways, and the two main characters are really developed well and both have been given a good background as well as strong emotional development. Some of the impact of the story or delivery is unfortunately let down by some hit and miss translation from the games original German, and this is a huge shame considering how well the story is woven otherwise.
GRAPHICS: The visual style for the game is pretty stunning, with a graphic novel style having been adopted and hand-drawn sprites and backgrounds filling the scenes. Whilst cutscenes opt for a literal comic-book style, with action split up into panels as you would find in a comic, and text sometimes appearing in boxes, it is the general in-game art that is really striking, with bright, bold characters and deep, detailed locations. These make scenes easy to navigate and it is clear to see what is going on or what items there are for you to interact with within the area. Characters are also animated in an incredibly smooth manner, making it all look like a cartoon; albeit a realistic and sometimes gritty one.
SOUND: Sound design suffers a unfortunate unbalance, as it goes from the great to the poor. The orchestral-style soundtrack provides a sweeping background to the action in the game, helping to set the somber mood as well as provide a sense of hope to proceedings as we go through the title and try to change the future. But then you must weigh it against the decidedly unsteady voice acting. Whilst some of the voices are fine, the translation issues mentioned earlier have perhaps impacted the delivery of the voice actors, as quite a few characters sound rather boring and flat, with lines simply lacking the urgency or impact that they obviously require.
GAMEPLAY: In gameplay terms, the title doesn’t do anything unusual or revolutionary, this is a standard adventure setup. The game features a very minimal user interface, with simply one button on the mouse controlling movement and interaction, the other opening your inventory screen. When holding down the interaction button over objects or people, for example, a small selection of available uses will appear – such as examine, speak or pick up – these being context-sensitive depending on the situation. This is a good thing as it keeps the game simple to pick up and play, and also doesn’t block or compromise the impressive visuals.
LONGEVITY: The game isn’t particularly short, weighing in at around eight hours in length. This probably won’t take quite as long for seasoned adventurers. This is a fair length of time, but sadly there are absolutely no plot points at which multiple choices are offered, and there is no real scope for multiple playthroughs as the title is more or less as linear as they come. Those who are less accustomed to these type of games of course may struggle at points and take longer, but the game does provide a hotspot locator – activated when you hold down the space bar – which will avoid the pixel-hunting problems that have plagued so many games in the genre, and will immediately show players the areas and objects on-screen that you can interact with.
VERDICT: A New Beginning is a solid adventure game, and one that takes the brave step to tackle a real-life dilemma. That certainly gives the title a great hook, and gives it a slightly different edge than other point and click titles. It is ably helped by its impressive comic book visuals and a really strong soundtrack, that help complement the great puzzle design that lies at the heart of the title. Unfortunately the game was screaming out for a capable translation effort, that could deal with the complex and serious subject matter, and Daedalic have fallen somewhat short here. Vocals, dialogue and descriptions all suffer, and take the edge off what is otherwise a fine adventure. A real pity, but still more than worth persevering with.