Beautiful Desolation is a story-rich, 3rd person, sci-fi adventure. Developed by THE BROTHERHOOD and published on Switch and PS4 by Untold Tales. The game was also self-published by the developers on Steam in Feb 2020. It features point-and-click mechanics, branching conversations, choices, and lots of exploration. The gameplay has a relaxed, slow pace to it, that allows you to really soak into the atmosphere and story.
Beautiful Desolation – I bless the game down in Africa
When I think of games that focus a lot on the narrative rather than being packed full of action it’s things like Telltale games and Life is Strange. What are some of your favourite story-heavy games? Let us know below in the comments! Also, if you do like games that focus a lot on telling a story, you can check out my Erica review here.
The story begins in Cape Town in 1976. An unidentified object appears in the sky during a storm. A shockwave hits and causes you to crash. Flash forward 10 years and now the main character, Mark, is attempting to get his brother to fly him up to the object to investigate what he believes to be a conspiracy. When onboard, something causes the object to activate and the brothers are flung into the far future.
Here, in post-apocalyptic South Africa, the story really kicks in. Mark Leslie, begins to investigate his new surroundings, finding that humans are no longer around. Instead, they have been replaced with strange mash-ups of organic matter and technology. Mark is joined by his brother and a robotic dog, called Pooch, who was also sent to the future with the brothers. Mark quickly uncovers information about how they might be able to travel back to their time and the quest begins.
As mentioned above, Beautiful Desolation is an adventure game but in an old-school mould. In terms of gameplay, you mainly control the main character, Mark Leslie, as he explores various small settlements. Each location presents you with new characters who all have some part to play in the story, big or small. Conversations with these characters are as much, if not more, important to progression as the puzzles. You’re usually presented with 3 dialogue choices, each with its own emotion. Some are compassionate, others are sassy. You’re free to choose whichever as the game will never block your progress entirely due to how you interact with the NPCs.
As you converse with more groups of beings across the world, you will get pulled into their conflicts and often put into precarious positions where your choice will make or break their civilization. On more than one occasion I thought I had got a good feeling for who to support. Upon collecting more information, the situation began to fall into murky, grey areas and I was forced to reconsider my approach.
I mentioned there are point and click elements. These are usually simple item combination puzzles. The game does a great job of letting you know that an item can be combined in your inventory. If you need to use an item with something in the environment, this is also highlighted to you.
You’ll also find a couple of mini-games as you explore. One is an optional battle-sim which is essentially a turn-based system where you pick a number of champions to fight for you. Each combatant has a couple of attacks to choose from. You fight in rounds until all your opponent’s champions are defeated. The other mini-game is a kind of dice gambling game where you need to roll higher than your opponent and have a handful of power-ups to affect the rolls.
Graphics & Audio
The environments of Beautiful Desolation are the highlight of exploring this world. Each locale has so much detail included beyond just what you can interact with. Certain objects will have an icon above them, meaning you can tap your touchpad whilst in the area and bring up a small piece of text that describes what is it. This enhances the immersion and world-building really well. Wandering around the wilderness and towns, seeing them from the isometric top-down view gave me the same feeling as experiencing FFVII’s world for the first time.
To make a couple of nitpicks, the exploration is that it can be difficult at times to work out where you are able to walk with your character. Sometimes the environment looks like it should be passable, but isn’t. This is something you get used to over time as you play more of the game though. I think the world looks better how it is presented rather than everywhere being filled with obligatory roadblocks that would clog up the beautiful surroundings. Sometimes I also felt a bit strange due to how the world map rotates when flying around. To compensate for this you can use the left arrow key to select a key location and auto-pilot your way there.
The voice acting is another element I must draw attention to. Characters ooze personality and nuance. Some characters have a tragic story to tell, some are flirty while others a confident and bombastic. Each of them is brought to life with voices that express these ranges of emotions brilliantly and make each conversation have an impact on the story and how you feel about it.
I played through the full story once, reloading my save a couple of times to change my mind after some choices. I followed a guide for some parts and feel like I rushed through a couple of parts so I could get to the ending before doing this write-up. Even with that considered, I spent about 12 hours playing. A single playthrough will clock in around 15 hours. There’s definitely room here for more than one playthrough too, given the choices you can make to affect the ending.
Beautiful Desolation is a game designed for you to sip like a fine whiskey. Take your time, explore and experience. With no fail states and no time pressured mechanics you are able to take part in its story at your own pace. Also, there is a dog companion. If anyone hurts POOCH I will never forgive you!
I give Beautiful Desolation a Thumb Culture Gold Award. Lekker!
Disclaimer: A code was received in order to write this review.