A Steam review about this title that came out last year.
If you find this review helpful/not helpful/funny, I’d appreciate it if you marked that on the Steam review itself.
The Novelist Steam Review Link
A Paladin’s Steam Review: The Novelist. Story Cliches and Unlikable Characters Abound.
- Genre: 1st Person Exploration Narrative Game.
- Developed & Published by: Orthogonal Games
- Platform: Windows, Mac, Linux
- Business Model: Base Game.
- Copy Purchased by Myself
While this particular title dodged my radar last year, I gave it a try this year after seeing a review of it and being intrigued by it. Controlling a ghost following around a family and giving them directions on their life seemed like a pretty good idea for a videogame to explore. But was the execution solid? Read on.
Each day is repetitive stream of the same tasks with slightly different flavor text. (Gather clues about what’s bothering each family member, see their memories then choose which solution you think is best all while avoiding being detected). The stealth is basic and is more a chore than fun as you just jump from light fixture to other light fixture, getting out of them only briefly to read some more text. The game even lets you turn the need for stealth off which I would recommend doing, if the story itself was more interesting.
My main problem with the story is that it uses way too many cliches with too many forced emotional scenes. To the point of finding myself detesting the game the longer I played it. There are choices that get way too unrealistic. There’s one part where a grandmother dies and the Novelist has to make the choice to either go to a book signing or go to the funeral to support his wife. The company he works for claims they can’t reschedule the book signing and that it would be very bad for him to miss it. I…I have a really hard time believing that they couldn’t reschedule it due to a family member’s death. Even if I could buy that being a real situation, there’s another example that I found downright silly. It boils down to: Wife wants to camp far away and Son wants to camp close by. And if you don’t choose correctly, someone’s unhappy. What?! That’s like whining about getting two chocolate cookies instead of three. It feels like it was put in just to get an emotional reaction where all I could think is: “these are some real narcissistic people”.
Which is then followed by the worst problem this game has: we don’t have well fleshed out characters here. They are nothing but cliches. Despite spending quite a few intimate hours with them, I didn’t get any real connection with them. There’s a writer who’s suffering from writer’s block. There’s a mother who wants to be an artist again. There’s a son being a generic kid. That’s all I remember about them. I will admit, that having cliche characters for us to project ourselves onto them may have been intentional game design. But I find it to be the experience to be less for it.
Most of the PC settings are there. You’ve got resolution, AA, V-Sync, subtitles, difficulty and voiceover reading if wanted. Graphically, the game isn’t all that impressive. It’s a weird pseudo CGI/Realistic style that is somehow lacking in detail. If it’s intentional, I’m not a fan of it. The soundtrack is a “depressing” solo piano that tries to bring emotional oomph to the game. However, it falls into the cliche area of soundtrack design and comes off as extremely flat when I played it. The game’s coding is solid, there weren’t any bugs, errors or crashes during my playthrough.
I have a hard time recommending this game. I’ve already hammered on the story quite a bit but I didn’t dig the cliche story, the cliche characters and I definitely hated the forced emotional moments caused by no-win choices by overly narcissistic characters. If you’re in a similar situation to the Novelist (struggling artist with a family), the game might speak to you and you might get something out of it. Otherwise, I’d look elsewhere.
Thanks for reading!