Eliza is a poignant, well-presented tale about how even technology created to help people can be harmful when it replaces human connection. Rather than demonizing technology, though, Eliza is a paean to compassion, communication, and all the varied ways people can lift each other up.
Eliza is my new go-to game if anyone asks if i can recommend a calm visual novel. The game is not short but not too long and you might be able to complete it in less than day. The graphics are perfect and fit wonderfully in combination with the amazing voice acting. Story wise the game contains explanation of the past, current and future of certain Characters and sometimes you really feel empathy with some of them.
In my opinion Eliza is the best Visual Novel of the year and really deserves more attention
It is not unreasonable to assume that the software suggested in Eliza already exists, though it has not yet been exploited and marketed. Our culture certainly believes that technology is the solution to what ails us, even when what ails us is technology, and Eliza the visual novel is an interesting and engaging exploration of that thesis.
Zachtronics make a detour from its puzzle game destiny with the visual novel Eliza. It's slick in its design, though shy on the big choices you might expect from most visual novels. Still, packed with a stellar solitaire minigame, impressive voice acting, and one of the most prescient narratives I've seen in games, if you're a fan at all of interactive stories that'll have you gripped from start to finish, Eliza is it.
I have such mixed feelings about Eliza. With regard to what it does well, it stands head and shoulders above the competition. In terms of the concepts explored, exemplifying how directionless adulthood can be, and its presentation, Eliza is exceptional. Regarding the actual narrative, pace, and flow of the writing, Eliza can be a slog to get through that frequently left me wondering, "Why am I doing this in the game right now?"
I came to this game imagining it would be a clever take on the Turing Test, a scenario designed to see if a machine can pass for a human intelligence. Instead, I explored the possible outcomes of trying to treat mental health problems at scale. Removing the humanity from the act of helping humans cope is a dystopian way of solving the problem; Eliza’s story highlights the potential pitfalls of generalizing a deeply personal process.
Eliza is a powerful Visual Novel (VN) around AI and mental health that maybe nearer a future reality than we think. Excellent voice acting, intriguing characters with a past and nice graphics and sounds make this a really good experience. And with different endings too. One of the best I've had since Highway Blossoms.
Eliza has a lot going for it. It tackles an issue that could very well become something real in the near future and in some ways one that has already started in dealing with the possible benefits and pitfalls of digital therapy options; it has a good cast of characters; it has great voice acting; and good art. I found the story to be a little linear for my tastes. You can make a major choice near the end of the game but aside from that it is mainly just choosing whether to be hostile or not to certain people but end up at the same spot. I chalk this up to Zachtronics not having much experience with the visual novel genre. It does a good job of laying out your potential options for later in the game though by making sure to drop hints of different paths you can take and you spend the bulk of the game considering what kind of career path you want to pursue. That being said the story is top notch regardless. I would have liked a bit more of an epilogue though as the ends I got to lacked detail. I also would have liked to get more background of why Evelyn left her job in the first place and what her friend was going through. I also wish I didn’t have to choose between which friend to hang out with near the end as I really enjoyed both Nora and Rae but such is life. They were both very well done characters that really felt like friends and had great dialogue exchanges with Evelyn. I would have also liked to have a path where Evelyn broke off on her own and started her own software company instead of the choices I did get.
I played Eliza on Linux. It never crashed on me and I didn’t notice any spelling errors. Alt-Tab didn’t work. There is no manual save options. The game auto saves on each page you’re on so whenever you quit it goes back to exactly where you were. I’m not sure which game engine it uses but it uses OpenGL.
Disk Space Used: 1012 MB
GPU Usage: 2-44 %
VRAM Usage: 1055-1133 MB
CPU Usage: 0-3 %
RAM Usage: 2-2.4 GB
Overall the story; voice acting; characters and art made up for the lack of meaningful choices and weak ends. There is a good game here that does a good job of tackling real issues. I finished my first play through in 5 hours 18 minutes. I paid $20.86 CAD for Eliza and feel that is a fair price. If you enjoy privacy issues; tech advances and prefer a more mature visual novel I would give Eliza a go.
My Score: 7.5/10
AMD Ryzen 5 2600X | 16GB DDR4-3000 CL15 | MSI RX 5700 XT 8GB Gaming X | Mesa 20.0.4 | Samsung 970 Evo Plus 500GB | Manjaro 19.0.2 | Mate 1.24 | Kernel 5.6.5-1-MANJARO
Eliza is a visual novel from Zachtronics, the gaming company that has produced a huge number of puzzle games. Their games often have a certain atmosphere to them, along with some sort of brief stories, and this visual novel feels very much in the same tonal vein as their other works.
The story focuses on Evelyn, someone who goes to work at a big company called Skandha. The company’s primary product is Eliza, an AI counselling program, and rather than have people talk to a virtual avatar, instead the company has hired a bunch of outside contractors as “proxies”, whose job it is to read the lines Eliza fed to them and to look empathetic.
It quickly becomes clear that more is going on than it seems – Evelyn is not some random 30-something who is coming back to work after spending years in depression, she was actually the original designer of the Eliza system. Moreover, the system itself is clearly being overhyped – the program is very much like the original Eliza program from the 1960s. It’s frequently pointed out by characters working at the company that they don’t understand Eliza, and as Evelyn points out, it’s because they’re wrong about what the program is on a fundamental level – it isn’t a counseling program at all, it isn’t really even about language recognition.
It’s a mirror.
The story is low-key and subdued, but it is quite interesting topically. It is about someone in a midlife crisis, it addresses a bunch of adult issues like feeling like a failure or not being ready to start a family or whatever else, and it also is looking at the interface between humans and machines, and whether or not machines can help people in ways that go beyond what they have done. Is machine learning and datamining to try and give people better mental health treatment ethical? Can these companies truly be trusted with the data? Are the ambitious people at the head of the company visionaries, or ruthless sociopaths?
I was enjoying it… but then, the story got to its end, and it rather flubbed the landing.
The story as a whole examines the flaws in the Eliza system, as well as Evelyn’s own relationship with it and the other people who worked on the project, as well as people who are still working on it. At the end, the player is finally presented with choices that determine the ending of the work.
And yet… I found it to be quite unsatisfying in the end.
The game felt pretty solid leading up to the last couple chapters, but while finally being able to go off Eliza’s script in chapter 6 felt like it was going to be a cathartic moment, it didn’t really end up feeling as climactic as the story felt like it was going to be. There were things I wanted to say to the patients, but those weren’t actual options I was presented with in a lot of cases; Evelyn was still limited, and while having two choices instead of one was something, it didn’t end up giving the sense of freedom that I think it was intending for. To be fair, some of it was also, I think, deliberate; some of Eliza’s suggestions actually were helpful to people, and it was clear that Eliza was ultimately helpful in some ways. The story isn’t supposed to be “Eliza bad”, it’s that the whole thing was complicated, and people had unrealistic expectations for what it could do but it could help some people sometimes.
And the endings were a very mixed bag. Three of the endings felt like they completely discarded the grayness and moral ambiguity of the story, instead feeling very “all or nothing, black or white”, instead of embracing the many shades of gray that the story had deliberately been painting with up to that point. Of the five endings, only one felt like it was really a “proper” way to end the story, and a second feeling at least "reasonable" in a sense, but really turning the whole thing into something of a shaggy dog story.
The result is that the story didn’t ultimately stick the landing, and if you don’t stick the landing, your story doesn’t really work. The story had interesting ideas, but it ultimately fails to go to interesting places with them.
And that’s a pity.
I’m glad Zachtronics tried something different, and many of the things in the story were things that I myself had thought about, and thus, I found it interesting to see others thinking along the same lines, but it ultimately didn’t feel like it delivered.
If you are seeking a story about AI & mental health issues, then it might be an interesting game for you. But it was really boring for me because you don't have much influence on the story itself. 3hrs on record.
SummaryEliza is a visual novel about an AI counseling program, the people who develop it, and the people who use it. Follow Evelyn Ishino-Aubrey as she reconnects with people from her past, gets to know the people of Seattle who use Eliza for counseling, and decides the course of her future.