We recently spent some hands-on time with developer Variable State's upcoming game, Virginia. A first-person mystery title, Virginia sees players assume the role of FBI Agent Anne Tarver. As Tarver, the goal is to discover the whereabouts of a missing person: Lucas Fairfax. We had the chance to play through the demo – which is now available to everyone through Steam – to get a little taste of what to expect when the game hits the PlayStation 4 on 22nd September.
Pretty much immediately, the game is visually striking. Everything is stylised interestingly, up to and including the people that appear in the game. Now, while the scenery is striking in a good way, the same cannot be said of the character models. All of the people in-game look like a really bizarre mix between Miis and Xbox avatars. It's actually rather jarring, and we're a little worried that the appearance of the characters has the chance to hurt some of the more emotional parts of the game. We don't know this for sure yet, as the demo is really only a brief teaser.
Apart from the character models, though, this game looks like it may essentially be an honest-to-goodness video game version of Twin Peaks. One of the things talked about in many of Virginia's trailers and promotional material is the fact that it tells an original story while being heavily inspired by shows like Twin Peaks and True Detective. The Twin Peaks influence in particular is apparent even just in the demo. Between some of the music, the small town vibe, and even some surrealism, the game feels downright Lynchian. We could even swear we saw Dr. Jacoby's glasses at one point in the demo. Suffice it to say, the 90's cult classics' DNA can be felt all over this game. And with such a great show – it just so happens to one of our favorites – as influence, this bodes well for the final product.
Other areas of the game, on the other hand, show a few problems. We're not sure how true a representation of the final product the demo is, but the editing is really strange. We saw a bunch of different scenes that felt very hastily cobbled together. The most likely reason is that the demo tries to dance around anything really important to the main game, which would excuse how choppy it feels. But if the final game is like that, it very well may feel like an incomplete, scattershot experience.
The gameplay itself seems to be a little more standard, though. Everything encountered in the demo is point-and-clicky in nature, having the player simply go to certain rooms and pick up certain objects. The game does a good job of making the environments feel more open-ended, though. However, even across the barely 20 minutes of the demo, it's clear that the title is very linear. We never encountered a scenario where there was more than one singular thing we could do at any moment, and for the final product, we hope it's opened up a little more, allowing a bit more breathing room for the player.
Granted, with that being the biggest issue we encountered, we're still incredibly excited. Publisher 505 Games has been pushing a whole lot of games out the door the past few months, and we have a feeling it's backed another winner here. It feels like there's going to be a really great mystery game headed our way come the end of September.
Are you eager to solve the mysteries of Virginia? Are you finding the visual style employed here a little off-putting? Solve the case in the comments section below.
I'll be honest, I had to read that headline three times before my brain saw it correctly.
The art style is a bit off-putting, isn't it?
@Neolit Ask @ShogunRok.
`Visually striking` except for the cast and characters that look good for a ps1 game maybe?yes I can see this putting people off that care about graphics but this sounds like it could be one to watch..
@Neolit Next week for sure, just been a bit too busy to get it sorted!
Wow, did we even play the same demo?
There's nothing visually striking about this. It's lazy-looking, with a lack of environmental detail and weird little Mii people.
The "gameplay" is incredibly basic, and comes down to just picking up and examining objects, except the number of things you can examine is incredibly limited, so the first area in the demo especially is spent running around trying to click on everything you see in a desperate attempt to move the action forward.
And, frankly, I didn't get a TP vibe at all. The similarities end at them both having weird things happen to apparent FBI agents. This game is completely lacking the atmosphere something would need to be like TP. It comes off, not so much as Lynchian, but as someone trying to be Lynchian by just randomly throwing in weird stuff.
Only thing I didn't mind was the music. It wasn't bad.
I guess there's always that saying: there's no accounting for taste. For any of us.
@Wazeddie22 Exactly! I really liked the environmental stuff, but the people looked realllllllly out of place alongside it.
@Ralizah I definitely wouldn't say it's lazy. But I also found the environments really nice haha. Kinda similar to Firewatch's aesthetic, except with a very different color palette.
I definitely had an issue with the gameplay as well though. The whole "there is only 1 thing you can click, so you better find it" was one of my biggest issues with the demo actually.
I definitely got the Twin Peaks vibe though. From lots of little things though. Individual scenes reminded me of the show, oftentimes through its shot selection and staging (which would get ruined immediately upon the player getting control of the character back haha).I definitely feel the game could have that atmosphere to evoke a Twin Peaks-y kinda thing though. The demo was cut too awkwardly to feel that way on its own, but I felt like bits and pieces of the final products tone were able to shine through.
I also liked the music though haha.
@AhabSpampurse haha same
Look's crap, another walking sim laaaaaame ass game that's going to get hyped up so people can get excited for another piece of poop. The more people pretend these game's are game's and good the more similar game's these useless twonk's will make. Tell em the truth, your game's crap!
@gbanas92 I don't know, that's kind of selling Firewatch short, imo. From what little I've seen of it, it had a lot more environmental detail to it. But, whatever, I'm glad you liked it on a visual level. I will admit the part of the demo where you're walking down that long hallway was nicely framed. Decent shadow work.
It's weird: I still consider something like P.T. a masterpiece, even though that had very little interaction with the environment as well, but it was so atmospheric that I honestly didn't mind the lack of interactivity. This, on the other hand, felt very limiting, even though, in terms of the way you progress through the demo, it wasn't so different.
I hope the full release of Virginia has a bit more... to it than this. I mean, I know it'll be longer, but I'd like to see some way for the player to engage with the world other than engaging with objects in a very limited, scripted way. Walking simulators can work if they're designed with the intention of organically telling a story (Gone Home) or are supremely detailed/and or atmospheric (Everybody's Gone to the Rapture, P.T.), but this didn't really cut it for me on either front.
@Ralizah I definitely agree that Firewatch has a bit more detail to it, but more just the type of style that the 2 games are going for was similar to me.
I definitely agree that P.T. was great despite not as much environment interaction. I'm still thinking the final game is going to be a little more interactive (well, at least I hope so haha), otherwise there could be some issues.
And sure Gone Home is a walking simulator, but there's also quite a bit of environmental interaction in that game. But yeah, I'm still hoping Virginia's gonna deliver more gameplay than the demo had.
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