Oh no. The future of the world is at stake here. Can’t you tell from my incredibly expressive voice? And the one thing that can save is is tedious dialogue… and algae, so much algae.
You don’t often find a game that would make Al Gore sit back and say “Woah there, aren’t you being a bit heavy handed?”. The problems with our environment are an ever-present problem and one that needs addressing. So why can no one in any form of media make any environmentalist film/game/book that isn’t about as subtle as just shouting “YOU WILL ALL DIE!!” 24 hours a day?
Enter Daedalic Entertainment’s A New Beginning, a point and click adventure game set in… actually there’s a fair amount of time travel and flashbacks so it’s hard to say exactly when. The gist of it, without spoiling too much, is this: In the future the climate is so heavily damaged as to wipe out most of the population of Earth. A group of survivors band together in order to create a time machine that will send them back in time to try and prevent climate change from happening. Meanwhile a Norwegian scientist by the name of Bent Svensson has retired after years of work on an alternative energy source powered by blue-green algae, but Bent is forced into a rather bizarre story as the time travelling Fay turns up to tell him he has to save the world.
To start with, this game is pretty beautiful, the graphic novel style art is amazingly well done with some really fantastic sets, the art is probably one of the best things about it. Almost every chapter has a unique look to it that really helps to separate the segments of the game.
At its core A New Beginning is a very typical point-and-click but I must admit the approach they have to gameplay is pretty good. Aside from options menus and saving (which I will come to later) you only use the keyboard if you want to highlight all the areas on screen with which you can interact. The game uses a series of menus rather than the standard left click to move/interact and right click to examine, which works quite well and allows for versatility in the puzzles. The puzzles themselves are, for the most part, quite logical (still uses adventure game logic though) and there aren’t too many points where one can become hopelessly stuck thanks to a very odd solution to a puzzle.
The game also features some actual puzzle puzzles but they aren’t as frequent, or as ridiculous, as The Testament of Sherlock Holmes’ puzzles and so I found myself quite enjoying them. There is also a handy skip button that pops up quite quickly so if the puzzles aren’t your thing it’s not going to cause too many issues.
Unfortunately I didn’t get to enjoy the puzzles very much because the game is riddled with some pretty serious and game-breaking bugs. While playing I lost the ability to save the game at the beginning of Chapter 6 onwards (6 of 8 I should point out) so rather than losing quite a lot of progress I was forced to play the entire rest of the game in one sitting, and this is not a short game believe me. Twice I encountered a bug where my character couldn’t move or interact with anything. The first time was during Chapter 6 so I was forced to reload an old save and lose a fair amount of progress in order to get back to where I was. The second time was slap-bang in the middle of a puzzle that I was quite enjoying. This was in the last chapter and I had a moment of dread thinking that I would have to play the whole thing again. Thankfully the Skip Puzzle button came to my aid but I really did want to complete it. Very disappointing.
I wouldn’t have minded having to complete the game in one go if the game had a good story but unfortunately the narrative in A New Beginning breaks down so quickly that it is a chore to get through. The game’s environmentalist message is distractingly heavy handed, with cars being called contaminants and Fay’s disgust at absolutely everything wasteful or polluting (even when she’s wrong, seriously the game needs a fact checker at some points). The game also suffers from the environmentalist media problem of a hilariously stupid villain. At first the villain raises good points about the lack of alternatives to his nuclear power industry but then quickly slides head first into “MUAHAHAHA! I will pollute the planet because I love pollution and it makes me money!” territory.
Near the end, however, the game does a complete 180 with twists and deceptions and sudden character shifts that could have been really good, in fact the whole plan that’s revealed is pretty ingenious and highlights humanity’s reaction to threats. But it’s executed so poorly and ends up asking more questions than it answers. It also makes quite a lot of the game feel pointless and that’s never good. I can appreciate a good deception of the player but the deception was so fruitless and led only to a really unsatisfying ending.
Also the game then seems to realise a big factual mistake it made about nuclear power, I’d been shouting about it for most of the game but the characters simply refused to listen to me. That they actually knew they were wrong is really, really bizarre because it is quite an important plot point.
But the absolute worst thing about the game is the dialogue. Not only is it poorly translated from German (hilariously so sometimes), not only does it frequently not match up with the subtitles, not only do notes for menus sometimes appear in Russian, but the voice acting is some of the worst I have heard in an adventure game. It is bad, it’s so bad. I may have complained a bit about the voice acting in The Cat Lady but this should take some special award. Many of the actors are mid to low when it comes to ability but the voice of Fay, one of the main characters, is so flat and bored sounding that nothing she says can be taken seriously. Considering the amount of drama this game tries to give us that is pretty bad. It’s not even entertainingly bad, you can’t just laugh at the pronunciation of Ashworth, it’s painful. Game breakingly painful.
It looks pretty. That’s about the best thing that can be said. The worst that can be said is that it is so disappointing. Most of the characters have interesting starts but quickly become two dimensional, the plot meanders around in a rather bizarre way, the important message is so heavy handed as to just be annoying, and the voice acting just. keeps. getting. worse.
Daedalic Entertainment has done good things, I haven’t completed Edna and Harvey yet but I’ve really enjoyed it. But what they’ve produced here is just not worth it, try a different game