Virginia is a sharp thinking, plot driven single-player adventure like few out there. It borrows heavily from other games of its ilk, yet twists it into its own strange beast. Unlike plenty of others, such as Firewatch, Virginia also manages to actually live up to its premise and deliver a satisfying, thought provoking conclusion. I'd love to go deeper on this because Virginia is a game all about its story and it's delivered, but a mystery such as this best served piping hot with a cup of joe on the side.
Wow, what an experience! I played it at a friends house, have no plans on replaying it, yet went ahead and paid for it to support what the devs have done here.
If you're a fan of Blendo games (Gravity Bone, Thirty Flights of Loving, Quadrilateral Cowboy), but also like the thoughtfulness and drama of The Chinese Room (Dear Esther, Everybodys Gone to The Rapture) than you will love this game.
Don't listen to people complaining about the game length, they really need to understand game development more. No good film or piece of music begins by setting out how long it will be. Gamers need to start thinking quality, not quantity. The two hours it takes to complete is paced perfectly, had it lasted much longer than attention would start to fade.
Since there's a demo available, I'll just end off with a comment on the music. The score is fantastic, unbelievably high levels of production value, and is a step in the right direction for the industry. Play with headphones! The sountrack adds a lot of emotion, and I don't see that as a bad thing at all. You must experience it.
So I just played Virginia. I owe the experience to the great gaming website ****/articles/virginia-vague-jumble-ideas/) ... which wrote a rather scathing review of it. Something about this review gave me pause though. The author traces the game's cinematic heritage, from X-Files to Twin Peaks and then going as far back as the silent films of the 1920’s. In the end it concludes that the game fails to live up to it’s heritage, saying “the game dives into an irreparable gulf between the way a film camera unrelentingly directs your gaze and the way a first-person videogame camera yields to player control, and all its mistakes begin to snowball from there.”
The critique picks up steam from there and while it admits "There are admirable attempts here at dealing with sexism, racial prejudice, and even gaslighting" it is essentially hostile. It’s primary complaint is that the narrative fails to give the player sufficient autonomy going so far as to say “But there is no reason, not one, that the player needs to be afforded control in any of Virginia’s scenes—except as a sop to interactivity in a game that otherwise evinces no interest in player control whatsoever.” At the same time it complains that the interactivity the game does provide, which is to say the ability to navigate the space of the scenes and interact with them in minimal ways is ruins its the cinematic aspirations saying “The clarity of meaning that can arise from a well-timed cut is almost entirely lost on the roving camera of a first-person videogame”.
All these contradictions and strong emotional responses from a source that is usually thoughtful and collected intrigued me... Behind the protests of the author I heard the all too familiar ‘But it’s not even a game’ that I have heard from more traditional game media outlets when they were faced with games like Dear Esther or Gone Home. Normally Killscreen is more self aware and interested in that kind of storytelling in games, so why had Virginia offended it’s sensibilities so much? It all gave me the sense that if I should investigate I might well find a game worth playing, and so I did.
The short of it is that I think in this case Killscreen missed the point almost entirely. They are right about many of the game's merits and some of it’s flaws, I won’t argue that it’s a perfect work of art. But it is a work of art and the reviewer’s assertion that there is not even one reason that the player needs to be given control gets directly to the heart of it, because there is indeed one very important reason. The thing that sets Virginia apart from other games or from movies is that you are not either passively watching the experience of characters as in cinema or playing through a game yourself. You are moving through the story AS the character.
On the title screen of the game the text below the title reads “Press x to take a trip”, not press x to play the game, this is the first clue as to what is about to happen here.
The limitations on your actions in Virginia are not the result of lazy developers, they are the expression of the choices of the character. Choices that are sometimes limited by the personality of the character, sometimes limited by their race or gender. When you have no choice but to open your purse and open a tube of lipstick and put it on before you can leave the room it is because that is the experience of the character. Welcome to her world.
The constant cinematic cuts mean that you are not walking down a corridor because it is between you and the next cut scene you are walking down it because the developers wanted you to have that experience. Rather than just venting the frustration and discomfort that it causes ask why the developers included it and what your response says about the character and about you as a player.
The first person perspective is critical to this attempt to embody the player in the body of the main character. It is subtly and well done and I believe has powerful impact in many scenes. From the first time you look down and see the color of your skin and shape of your body to the juxtaposition of perspective between the scene where you receive your badge to the later scene of an imagined future where you are giving a badge to a new female agent on that same stage.
The narrative itself is very challenging. It is filled with both flashbacks, imagined futures, dreams and in the case of the last minutes of the game an intense acid trip, yes we see what you did with the wording of the instructions on the title screen, how very clever of you.
Does the game make sense and present a tidy comprehensible story? Not so much. Is it something new and important, something that we will look back on as foundational to our art form in 50 years... probably.
Unusual, experimental, atmospheric, engaging. Such is the surreal detective story of Virginia. Boasting with freshness, style and fantastic music. However, the game rather satisfies an audience hungry for artistic experience, people asking purely for gaming experience will be bored.
Calling it a waste is too rude, but I cannot imagine why would someone pay for such a puffy nonsense. Several clever moments cannot save the game, which only tries to look like a piece of art. [Issue #268]
Phenomenal, interactive narrative experience.
There's no high scores but the act of interactivity in the thing made it more compelling for me. I'm not going to write a long review explaining whether or not this is a game (it could only be experienced on a machine that allows the user to control parts, interact with areas and feel like they're a part of it) but I will say you should play it. Play it and then talk about your interpretation with anyone that will listen. The thing is pretty oblique, but oh man have I enjoyed dwelling on the thing since I first saw the credits roll.
Walking simulators have certainly come along way since the likes of Dear Esther was released 6 years ago and I'm starting to genuinely enjoy some of them. Virginia definitely has its moments thanks to its 1990s setting, a beautiful orchestral score and so many underlying themes and imagery, you'll be going around in circles for days figuring out what actually happened during the two hours you played the game. However, the fact the game is so perplexing and open to interpretation, along with the fact it's quite short, will no doubt infuriate others.
Story was very interesting and mysterious and had interesting characters even though the characters didn't speak shows how good they got the characters across. But the game is very short as i finished it in about 2 hours and has no replay ability as you know the story.
I have nothing against mostly narrative walkie experiences, indeed I love them.
But I think you have to know how to do them, otherwise... trying to be brilliant and get boring .. it's really a snap.
Too short, gameplay absent and a sense of nervousness at the conclusion of the game.
I don't recommend it. To avoid.
I thought I would like this game a lot as I've liked a lot of similar games. But I just really did not like the way that the story was presented in this game. The lack of any dialogue whatsoever seems cool at first, but it ends up becoming a major hindrance because in order to compensate, the game goes really overboard in trying to get you to understand what's going on. This makes a lot of the game feel really cheesy, which really cheapened the experience for me. Also, I thought the art looked great, but I was underwhelmed by it while actually playing.