5/28/2021 0 Comments
BEAUTIFUL DESOLATION Review
First of all, let me start by saying that BEAUTIFUL DESOLATION is an impressive game considering that its developer The Brotherhood is only made up of two people. It is an isometric narrative-driven sci-fi point-and-click adventure that has garnered a few awards and nominations on its PC version released last year, and also currently enjoys a mostly positive rating on Steam.
Now let me tell you why I hate it.
...Okay, hate may be a strong word but there are just as many reasons to avoid this title as there are to play it, and I’m going to explain them all so buckle up: it may get rough.
I really enjoyed the story, or the concept of it, at least. Mark (our bland protagonist) is found on a dark and stormy night driving with his wife Charlize when a massive object appears in the sky and changes the course of his life forever. Known as the Penrose, the appearance of the alien object creates a boom that throws his car, leaving his wife dead and Mark with a permanent leg brace. Skip 10 years into the future and you find Mark searching for his brother Don to help him uncover the mysteries of the Penrose. Thanks to a bit of exposition (in the form of a handy little infomercial) we find out that a group called the Penrose Alliance has used the technology found on the Penrose to make massive leaps and bounds in advancing society, such as; eradicating disease; war; human mortality; and creating robotic soldiers called Agnates. We also hear that some “heretics” believe that this technology should be left alone. After rummaging around the garage poking at everything, Don pops up and we head to the Penrose. After doing a little more nosing around and solving a small puzzle, you are caught by a talking robot guard dog. That doesn’t matter though because the Penrose suddenly activates and blasts you all into the distant future. Turns out an apocalypse happened: whoopsie, I guess the Penrose Alliance didn’t manage to solve every problem.
This next bit is where the seams started to show. By this point, I was already annoyed with the extremely awkward menu. Even after 15 hours of play, it feels uncomfortable and unintuitive to use. So shortly after arriving, you and your brother get hauled off into a transport ship by robot guards for trespassing on the sacred Penrose, until you get shot down. Now that you are free to fully move around and explore, I noticed the slightly stuttering framerates, as if the camera has trouble keeping up with your character. This game does not hold your hand. It explains nothing and gives you no prompts as to where to go next, aside from a vague reminder in your log of what you should be doing. It’s useless in regards to actually telling you where to go next. That means you’ll be spending a lot of time going back and forth checking the environment and seeing if NPCS have anything new to say. Traversing the environment can be a real pain in the ass, though. I spent too much time stumbling into the environment, hoping to find a path obfuscated by the artwork. This game was clearly meant to support point and click mouse movement and it shows, though I find it to be less of a problem later on but that may be because I got used to it. At the end of this area, you gain a ship called The Buffalo and the game moves into more of a non-linear structure from here on out.
Now that you have the Buffalo, you can fly around an overworld map, or you can just use a shortcut menu to autopilot you to whatever place you have discovered. Each place features a giant portal called the Warden, which allows you to fly to other systems once you have unlocked them. You can’t stumble across new places by flying near them: someone has to tell you where to find them first. While the idea of exploring had me excited at first, my enthusiasm quickly dwindled when I realized that the entirety of the game boiled down to one long-ass fetch quest. Since there is no combat and barely any puzzles, you will be forever flying back and forth talking to people and searching for the one item you missed somewhere that you need drastically. A guide was provided with the review but I refused to use it because I wanted to authentically experience the game the way a normal user would. I got stuck quite often, but the most annoying example is when the solution was to return to a character I met all the way back at the beginning of the game because in one piece of dialogue he mentioned he was a traveler so obviously he had what I needed to deal with this current problem almost 10 hours into the game.
What exacerbates the boredom of constantly traveling back and forth between areas and cities is the frequent loading. The loading! It loads when you leave the city. You can’t quick-travel between places so you need to go to the Warden. Loads up the next planet. Now you fly over to your destination. Loading. You go over to the NPC you need to talk to: even the conversations need loading. WHY! Kills the flow, in my opinion. The cast of NPCS can be pretty diverse, but mostly all of them are crazy. The world is full of decaying robots, Agnate Soldiers, tribals, even sentient worm-parasites embroiled in a battle with a clan of inbred hunters. Talking to these fine folks makes up a good chunk of the narrative, but unfortunately, you’ll have to sit through lines and lines of goofy voice dialogue while they say a whole lot of nothing. The world of BEAUTIFUL DESOLATION boasts about how many lines of dialogue it contains but it still doesn’t do much of a job fleshing out the world and it’s a shame because the idea of a post-apocalyptic Africa makes for an interesting story setting.
The only true bright spot is the fantastic art and visual design. Coupled with an isometric field of view you’ll feel like you’re playing classic CRPGS like Baldur’s Gate. I really enjoyed checking out the backgrounds whenever entering a new area, but that can only satisfy you for so long. Normally, I would fully play through a title before I review it but I ended up cutting my losses when I was near the end of the game but the controller interface was messing up so bad during a puzzle that I couldn’t take it anymore. The overall experience I had with this game was just ok. I really wouldn’t recommend the Switch port to anyone in its current state, so if you still want to play the game, you’re probably better off with the original PC version.
*Note: A copy of the game was provided for the purpose of the review.
Final Score: 5/10
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