Where the Water Tastes Like Wine is an incredible achievement, and the latest in a growing body of games that really push the bounds of what the medium can do. It is, at its heart, a game about stories, and the incredible power that they have, brought to life in the most beautiful way possible.
There’s a lot to love about Where The Water Tastes Like Wine, from the beautiful and surreal 2D hand-drawn imagery that adds an air of eeriness. In combination with the blues and roots music, it makes for a perfectly atmospheric game with a ton of great catchy tunes.
Where the Water Tastes Like Wine feels like a meditation on travel, story telling, and history. This isn't a game for those who want instant gratification, it's a game for people like myself who want to spend a relaxed night in with a nice glass of wine. I got the urge to sit down and play after watching a couple people streaming it on twitch.
The complete package with the art, music, writing, and premise, all comes together in a way that is very... distinct. It feels consistent. The game is built out of vague great depression & dust bowl Americana of the 1930's — but some stories seem to stretch a little forward or backwards in time. This is interesting to me, because it fills the cliche of "nothing ever really changes" in a way that doesn't feel quite so heavy handed.
The prose is great, and even while the 200+ stories work mechanically like collectables, I loved how random they were. I got to hear about everything from historical figures to legendary American monsters. Even the quieter "slice of life" stories felt like necessary moments—serving to balance out the more fantastic elements. My favorite characters to look out for were Quinn, Bertha, Jimmy, and Althea. I really wished every character asked for a wider range of stories, but I guess, in real life I know plenty of people that can't stand horror stories.
And there's definitely a learning curve to giving the main characters the stories you've collected, but I also wonder if that's intentional—in life we don't know how every single person will react to what we say. One person may think the story about my 90 year old grandmother tripping and falling into her birthday cake is hilarious, and another person will think it's tragic and call me a monster for laughing.
I felt like I learned how to please the different characters as I played, and it felt good when I started to get a knack for it.
When exploring the map, I rarely wished for additional modes of walking—BUT I'm also the person who didn't quick travel very much in 400+ hours of Skyrim and has used a horse, probably twice, in the 120 hours of Breath of the Wild that I've played so far.
So, I don't know how much in the minority I am on this, but I *enjoy* taking the scenic route. I think the two things I wanted more than anything were: separate volume control for music and VO and more places to cross the rivers. The whistling mini-game mechanic was cute, and did make travelling a bit faster when other transportation wasn't an **** I wish even that was just a *smidge* faster.
The soundtrack is gorgeous, the VO work impeccable, and Sting is a very good wolf.
All in all, I really loved playing this game because it satisfies what I personally want from games. I often struggle to finish the main arcs in games because I wander around too much doing fetch quests, but that's... nearly point of this game! So if you love reading, wandering, and folk lore, give this game some of your time. I think you'll find what you're looking for.
The aesthetics, soundtrack, and writing here are wonderful and more than reward the patience required to fully unravel the game’s mysteries. Playing it resulted in an immersion that went beyond my niggles with the gameplay. It is clear from my comments here that the game won’t have the universal appeal to match the political and social importance of its themes and message. It is a game that should be played by many, but that will probably frustrate as many as it ensnares. It more than lived up to my expectations and if you are interested in exploring the ways in which games can go beyond other media in their use of narrative then it is unmissable.
Where the Water Tastes Like Wine is a game that is difficult to recommend for those who prefer their games to unfold at a pace faster than plodding. While much of the game excels in drawing you in, the deliberately slow pace works against it more often than not. But for those who are looking for a truly interesting adventure game that, for better or worse, takes its time to share its stories, Where the Water Tastes Like Wine makes for a captivating experience.
Another example of that latest trend of videogames with "high artistic quality," Where the Water Tastes Like Wine is not something brand new, unique, and meaningful, but something boring, boring, boring that uses big words to say things that aren't that interesting. Oh, and it has Sting in it…
The story starts out with a game of poker where you end up betting away your life to the Wolf. His request of you is to travel the United States and spread stories, which seems easy enough. You’ll traverse the land experiencing all manners of events, such as seeing children abandoned in knapsacks by their parents to winged goats protecting houses. You’ll be told stories by others, some being things that you witnessed firsthand, and you’ll be given the chance to call them out on their embellishments, or you can agree with them stating that’s what happened. In your journey you’ll also come across campfires with characters written by guest authors, such as Leigh Alexander. It’s here that you will tell the stories you come across in the hopes of learning theirs. With each successful story told, you gain their trust and you are able to learn more about them.
The game unfolds like a “choose your own adventure” story, as you progress through the lands experiencing different events and decide what happens with them. Almost every encounter outside of the campfire characters is narrated by Sting, who changes his very soothing yet gruff voice for the dialogue you may encounter. The writing is phenomenal, and while I will often times skip through spoken dialogue as I’ve already read it in games, I listened to everything offered in this as if I was a child being read to again. With still images of the events being told in the game, you’re able to visualize both in your head how you want to see it based on the descriptions, but also in the direction that Jett has created.
Starting out you’ll find yourself walking about the map of the United States rather slowly, but you’re soon told how to hitchhike which will help you cover a bit more ground, and eventually you’ll be able to ride on trains as well. The latter you can do illegally or by paying to do so from a major city. Just know that every choice you make has a consequence, and more often than not, every action means a story. And in this, stories are powerful – they are almost a sort of currency in the progression of the game. While you will need to obtain actual money by doing work or through other means to shop or take the train across the country, it’s hardly as important as the weight of the stories that you carry.
The emotional impact of this game will certainly depend on if you let it hit you. Johnnemann Nordhage, the founder of Dim Bulb Games, is the co-founder of Fullbright and was the programmer on Gone Home. Admittedly, my experience with that game was less than amazing, as none of the lighting worked for me on my PC and the story was so built up by everyone it ended up a disappointment for me. So if you go into this expecting something along the lines of an action packed romp across the United States in the fashion of Red Dead Redemption, your expectations will never be met. However, if you go into it thinking you’ll be hearing stories that rival those of the stranger in black and other side quest characters you meet in Red Dead Redemption, which were arguably the best parts of the game, you’ll understand better just why this is so special. Even the soundtrack perfectly accompanies the experience.
While I adore the art direction for the game, I can see why some would not fancy it so much. The game is comprised of a lot of still frames, or a few different frames to simulate movement. This game makes use of your imagination much more than showing you what it’s talking about, utilizing the powerful writing to create the world you see. That can certainly be frustrating for some, especially with how beautiful the art is in this. The only thing that sort of irked me while playing was encountering sections of the game that weren’t voiced. Yes, the guy that normally skips through spoken dialogue is complaining that not everything was voiced. It’s not so much that I needed it, but it really added to the game, and it was strange that a few events were missing it.
Narrative heavy games have become exceedingly popular over the past decade, though it’s not often that they are executed with such pinpoint precision as this. Truly, the story tel
I was really looking forward to Where Water Tastes Like Wine upon its release. What can be better for a cozy winter afternoon than a good story driven adventure game? And the first hours are really satisfying thanks to the great stories and the marvellous atmosphere! But the problem with this game is, that it´s barely a game. The beauty of the words is incredible, but I´m rather into books or audio books if I want an experience like this. A matter of taste.
I wanted to like this game, but it's a little too rough around the edges and repetitive. Wandering the depression-era US experiencing and swapping stories sounds thrilling, but it feels more like a board game than anything. One where the rules aren't clear or consistent.
The idea is you're a skeleton...kind of... who is searching for a specific story and swapping tales along the way with anyone you meet. You experience your own tales first hand, usually 2-3 sentence summaries given by the main narrator. Then you meet someone at a campfire, tell them a bunch of your stories, and later on end up hearing them on the road, but embellished, again and again and again. So much for the truth being stranger than fiction...
One minigame type scenario that comes up is that the folks you sit at campfires with will need to be won over, and you do that by telling them stories they want to hear. "Tell me a creepy story" they'll ask, so you click on one of your creepiest, and there's a fair chance they won't like it for reasons that aren't clear. Makes it difficult, especially when you can only tell these folks each story you have once.
The stories themselves are all right. Some are great, but too many edge toward being ghost stories. I love a good ghost story, but when 50% of the tales are ghostly, and another 20% end up being embellished to be ghostly, it's a bit out of balance.
The voice acting isn't bad, but the sound mixing makes them feel amateurish. Some of the actors seem as though they were being recorded on very cheap devices.
You start in Maine, and by the time I'd reached St Louis (going up and down the coast and Mississippi River) I'd grown tired of the mechanics and the one song that plays over and over and over, just a little too loud. That song was like the game. Flashy at first, but overall repetitive and not-quite-right.
My actual review is, again, bigger than 5000 characters. Long story short, it has tons of little annoyances and some great stuff that is clearly made with love and care. All things measured I'll give it a thumbs up.
If you already like walking simulators, you will like this one, if you do not like, maybe this one is not the best for you to star with.
I'd rather read a good book. In contrast to one of the points made by a critic, this is absolutely not stretching the limits of this medium to achieve good stuff - it is a misuse of the medium. Made with care and love, but as boring as all hell.