Have you ever wanted to experience the harrowing act of sitting in a car teetering on the edge of a cliff? And while hanging from that cliff, have you ever wanted to breathe deeply, calmly look at nature, and befriend a deer? These are all things that form the backdrop for George Batchelor’s visual novel, Far From Noise.
You play as a woman trapped in a car that is tipping precariously on the edge of a sheer cliff on the coast of an unspecified ocean. While sitting in this car, she ruminates on decisions and feelings she has had during her life. After a little while, a calming presence shows itself in the form of a deer, and you spend much of the remainder of the game talking to this buck. If that sounds like a bizarre setup for a game, that’s because it is. But when it comes to Far From Noise, weird for weirdness’ sake is not the name of the game. It all has a purpose, and it works spectacularly. It’s up to you to pick the dialogue options. Much of the time, you’re only given one choice, but there are many opportunities with branching dialogue, and this shapes the sights and sounds you will experience in your run of the game.
Across the just about two hours of playtime, there are a variety of animals and types of weather you will encounter alongside your deer friend, and your dialogue choices influence this. It’s especially great because the variation in events is subtle. There are never really dialogue choice that equate to “choose seeing a rabbit” or “choose seeing a squirrel”. You just maintain the natural flow of conversation and the game changes things behind the scenes for you without having you realise you actually changed things. This system works marvellously here, as the conversations are engrossing and intimate, so there's no need for the title to be explicit about what's happening behind-the-scenes.
With just a single scene in the game, it's down to the dialogue to carry the experience. And given the circumstances, you won't be surprised to learn that the title tackles topics like mortality and many other philosophical questions. The title manages to wring out a helluva lot of emotions in a short span of time, ranging from warm smiles and audible chuckles into less happy things like bleak sadness. One particular standout sequence involves the woman in the car sharing fables tied to constellations she created herself to her deer friend. It’s a little lighter in tone, but it packs a punch, and is delightfully sweet. All of these things build into an ending that left us feeling rather sad, but also hopeful.
Not only is the writing great, but the game manages to both convey the personality of the woman in the car, and allow her to be a projection of yourself at the same time. This impressive array of emotions paired with the title's relatively light price really allow it to shine as something worth playing, more than simply being a curiosity because of how strange an idea it is. And the cherry on top of this is the beautiful, understated score courtesy of Geoff Lentin, which allows some of the more emotional moments to punch that much harder.
Far From Noise is not a game for everyone. If you go in expecting traditional gameplay, you will be highly disappointed, but if you approach it with the understanding of it being almost like a picture book, then you will be in for a magnificently written reflection of yourself as well as musings on some of the heaviest topics about life. We went into this expecting a short title with a bizarre premise, and walked away having consumed a beautiful, occasionally melancholic story that helped us understand ourselves a little better along the way.