Review | Winter Voice Episode 1
Format: PC | Genre: RPG | Publisher: Beyond the Pillar | Developer: Beyond the Pillars | Release Date: ? | Price: €5 (£4.30)
Greg Giddens experiences a different kind of season spirit in WINTER VOICE EPISODE ONE.
WINTER VOICE is an RPG with some interesting and unique elements setup for episodic release. It’s instantly charming, with its basic visuals, hand drawn character portraits and scenes, and atmospheric score, as well as being poetically written – with some brilliantly narrated sequences – which all pulls you in to this winter wonderland with ease. Unfortunately the grip become looser the longer you stick with it.
Wonderland is indeed appropriate to describing the Winter Voice world. On choosing your characters there are hints of a polytheism system, with multiple gods associated with each profession, and as you progress it becomes clear you’re living in a world different from what you know. However, very little is explained initially. Woven into the narrative is information enough to gain a basic understanding but there’s an omnipresent lack of clarity. This, unfortunately, starts to damage the experience early on and combined with a sense of repetition your progress can feel slow and unrewarding.
Part of the problem is the map screen. Featuring hand scrawled names over some of the houses to represent their owner and no indicator of your current position, the map is tricky to decipher, making the goal of finding a specific person you need to talk with awkward. Of course not all person of interest are found in their residence so finding them at all is another aspect that soon grates. One goal in particular that stands out for its lack of clarity is when you’re told to go out and talk to people, getting some fresh air. This generalised goal can lead to hours of wondering around the village before you find the specific trigger in order to progress.
The clarity in conversations is also lacking in some respects. The poetic verses and elegant dialogue is initially interesting and touches on the beautiful but it soon becomes overused, repetitive, and too abstract to understand fully. As you progress it become more of an effort to read and with no voice work other than a narrator for certain scenes, it damages the information you take in and serves only to further repel your interest.
The best offence…
The combat is also repetitive albeit interesting and unique. You have separate point pools for movement and using abilities which are restored after each turn, and must defeat the negative thoughts that plague your character, represented as shadows. Interestingly, defeating these shadows isn’t through direct combat; instead you’re given a goal to achieve during the encounter. This goal could be to survive for a certain amount of turns, or move to a specific square on the turn based grid that appears. Moreover, if you fail to achieve the goal the game isn’t over, you are granted experience points based on your performance and your journey continues. Unfortunately it’s all too common to come across a battle that feels unwinnable, and whilst the lack of severe consciences makes the combat accessible, it can make the encounters feels unnecessary and more a passing burden.
Winter Voice is full of innovative ideas and creative potential but its great ambition is diluted by repetition. Additionally the build we played still suffers from a few bugs, including a game breaking one that prevents progression beyond a certain point.
In the end, terrific atmosphere conveyed by the visuals and music, and some great ideas create a unique and initially interesting game. The repetition, in both the combat and poetic dialogue, unfortunately damages the experience to a severe enough degree to ruin the fun. However, it’s all amendable within the episodic setup of this series release, so perhaps episode two will fare the winter better.