Video games are experimenting more and more with storytelling. Here are the developers that really toyed with the rules of narrative in the last year
BEYOND: TWO SOULS
In 2013, David Cage and his team at Quantic Dream built upon their reputation for delivering emotional character-driven drama with the paranormal action-adventure, Beyond: Two Souls.
The game tells the story of Jodie Holmes (played by Academy Award nominee Ellen Page), a troubled young girl with a mysterious secret. Players follow Jodie’s life as she struggles with her amazing power and the attention it attracts.
Delivered in a non-linear fashion and spanning decades and continents, Jodie’s story struck a chord with players when Beyond: Two Souls launched last year. To date the game has sold over a million copies.
Continuing David Cage’s experiments in interactive fiction, Beyond: Two Souls strengthens the director’s position as one of the industry’s most skilled storytellers.
BROKEN SWORD: THE SERPENT’S CURSE
Since 1996 the Broken Sword games have delivered compelling narratives, weaving complex mysteries for players to unravel as they play.
Resurrecting the series after seven years with the help of a massively successful Kickstarter campaign, Broken Sword: The Serpent’s Curse continues that fine tradition.
Written by series director and industry legend Charles Cecil and split into two episodes, The Serpent’s Curse follows the intrepid American George Stobbart and the sassy French journalist Nico Collard across the globe on the trail of an art thief and a dark conspiracy.
At turns funny, charming and intriguing, the fifth game in the Broken Sword series harkens back to the golden age of point-and-click adventure games, just as the genre enjoys a creative revival.
BROTHERS: A TALE OF TWO SONS
Having spent much of the last decade working on big, brash action games, Starbreeze’s Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons stands in stark contrast to the Swedish developer’s previous work.
The digital-only game may be small but it packs a big emotional punch, delivering a touching coming-of-age story of family, maturity and dependancy. And it did it all without speaking a word.
Following the adventures of its titular siblings, the narrative of Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons dovetails inventively with its gameplay, the two aspects combining to strengthen and reinforce each other. This culminates in the final, heartbreaking scene of the game, an expertly crafted union of story, character and control.
Breaking new ground for Starbreeze, Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons is a towering narrative achievement.
Continuing Swedish developer Simogo’s experiments with touch-based controls and interactive storytelling, Device 6 plays with the conventions of games and literature, combining narrative, geography and puzzles to create an inventive new form.
Players take the role of Anna, who wakes one day in a mysterious castle with no knowledge of her whereabouts. As Anna explores, players scroll through text that climbs staircases, turns around corners and encounters dead ends. Players can only progress by deciphering clues scattered through the proceeding passage. It’s a fantastically innovative approach.
The game’s narrative also impresses in more traditional ways, offering some sharp commentary on modern life and a hugely subversive climax. A novel twist on interactive fiction, Device 6 one of the strongest releases from one of mobile’s most exciting developers.
WHITE PAPER GAMES
White Paper Games’ debut effort received a warm reception from critics and fans when it launched earlier this year, largely thanks to its thought-provoking approach to a difficult subject manner.
In Ether One, players take on the role of a ‘Restorer’, charged with piecing together the confused memories of a 69 year-old dementia sufferer called Jean. Entering Jean’s mind - represented as the haunted seaside town of Pinwheel - players explore, solve puzzles and attempt to help make sense of the patient’s life.
In this way, Ether One acts as an exploration of dementia, deliberately confounding the player right up until the final scene reveal. It’s a narrative delivered with real bravery, helping to build empathy for a terrible disease.
As the curtain literally raises on Foul Play, it’s immediately apparent that the game is a little different. Thoroughly British, it’s a unique spin on the beat 'em up genre that trades gritty streets and muscle-bound thugs for the theatre and well-trained actors.
In front of the gathered audience of theatre-goers, Baron Dashforth recounts his years battling daemons alongside long-suffering apprentice Mr Scampwick. Embellishing upon his heroic deeds, Dashforth makes for a likeable yet self-important figure, while Scampwick takes every opportunity to puncture his master’s pomposity.
It all makes for an enormously entertaining romp that thrives on sharp writing that’s constantly at odds with the theatre’s makeshift presentation and questionably-costumed foes.
For over a year, Wooga’s hidden object game Pearl’s Peril has received weekly story updates, delivering new adventures for its numerous fans across mobile and browser.
Set in the 1930s, Pearl’s Peril follows its eponymous hero, an ace pilot whose glamorous social life is cut short when she learns of her father’s supposed suicide. Setting off around the world with her deliciously sarcastic best friend Iris, Pearl determines to solve the chilling mystery.
Best-selling author and former Acclaim game director Steven-Elliot Altman acts as writer and narrative director on Pearl’s Peril, assisting with the creation the game’s romance and adventure. It’s a narrative that has struck a chord with millions of fans across the globe.
SHERLOCK: THE NETWORK
THE PROJECT FACTORY
Sherlock: The Network sees players join Sherlock Holmes’ infamous Homeless Network, helping him to find clues, navigate London, hear from witnesses, solve cases, and ultimately thwart one overarching plot: the kidnapping of Mrs Hudson.
Written by David Varela and supervised by Sherlock co-creators Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss, Sherlock: The Network tells its story through video messages and voice mails starring the talents of Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman. Moffat himself has acknowledged that the game’s writing is “annoyingly good.”
Matching the phenomenal excitement, intelligence and humour of the hit TV show, Sherlock: The Network has been received with universal acclaim by press and fans alike, helping the game to the number one spot in the Paid App charts for 10 straight days.
About The Develop Awards
The 2014 Develop Awards will take place on Wednesday, July 9th at the Hilton Metropole Hotel in Brighton, and recognises the best innovators and development talent in the UK and Europe.
If you want to attend, you can book single seats and standard or gold tables by contacting Kathryn.Humphrey@intentmedia.co.uk or calling 01992 535646.
There are multiple new awards this year, with a total of 24 prizes up for grabs, while PlayStation 4 lead architect Mark Cerny is 2014's Development Legend.
There is a host of big names backing this year's Develop Awards, including Crytek and Deep Silver as Platinum Partners, a slew of Gold Partners in UKIE, Amiqus, Keywords International, Codemasters, Perforce, Cubic Motion and Unity, Event Partners Wales Interactive, InnoGames and Tandem Events and Table Gift Partner OPM.
For more information on the sponsorship and partnership opportunities still available, contact Alex.Boucher@intentmedia.co.uk or call 01992 535647.
You can find out more about the Develop Awards at the official Develop Awards website.