A change of pace; this one is an isometric, story-driven, point-n-click, adventure game set in a post-apocalyptic, alien, Geiger-esque world. I wouldn’t call it horror, but the world-building has some bleak and terrible themes covered. The story leads with two brothers interested in an alien beacon/communication spire, as they were sent supposedly to end a grand war. Your main character isn’t very trusting of this, and moves in to investigate. You are then sent spiraling into the world of multiple dimensions, portals, and a lot of alien species and technologies.
The game is fully voice acted, but some may possibly be turned off by the more eccentric UK or South African accents. Once you get a little way in, the game does open up, and while it allows for different sequencing, the game can get really dubious in terms of what you need to actually be doing. There’s a to-do list but most of the time they’re too broad and there’s nothing that guides you towards what is currently accessible in any tangible way. In this way, it can be frustrating when you have to just go trial and error and return back to locations just to realize you triggered a new event. Sometimes it’s very gratifying and satisfying, but as you start to go deeper, it feels obtuse and clunky. This is especially true when you never know what content is optional and what is progressing towards the main story. Still, the beat by beat character moments, the excellent world-building, and some of the puzzle-solving can really sing at times.
Starting off, you are a bit sluggish and directionless, but fortunately the game does a good job guiding you towards what to start looking for. Once you get access to the Buffalo, your adventure really begins, and you can start interacting with the world. There are some real emotional moments that are interspersed throughout your travels, and they really hit you out of nowhere. The writing is cohesive, but it takes a while for your actions to directly hit and make contact with what’s going on in the main narrative. The primary motivator in the beginning is exploring your surroundings, surviving, and figuring out how to get the materials you need to leave.
Environmental interactions are illustrated with eyeballs, but hidden items can be very frustrating to find, and quite often they’re MANDATORY to your progression. Oftentimes, I would just walk against every nook and cranny blindly looking for an indicator that showed I found something. There’s really nothing to look out for that would tell you “Hey! There’s something neat here”, but you kind of get used to it after a while. Fortunately, the indicator isn’t super finicky about how close you have to be to trigger it. It can be a little annoying at times moving back and forth once you get access to more than one area, as there’s a decent amount of backtracking in this game. Characters range from stoic to bumbling, drunkenly stupid, and it’s really fun to see how the different locales track in different personalities. It’s especially entertaining seeing just how much of an asshole you can be with some of the dialogue options, thankfully most of these won’t affect the narrative, but there are some pivotal scenes.
All in all, I think this barely squeaks by for me. There’s a decent chance you’ll feel the need to open a walkthrough to get through this one. There’s a lot of meandering and even tracks that you’ll think will lead somewhere, but just dead end. You will eventually, maybe, realize what’s for now and what’s for later. It can be a little frustrating when you feel like you’re running in circles, but stick with it, and I think there’s a lot to discover and enjoy.
A reviewer copy was provided by devs.
Hellfirebam has given Beautiful Desolation the Indie Gamer Seal of Approval.