dares to venture into the unknown...
This is interesting.
A far cry from the high-budget thrills that dominate
the videogames market these days, The
Path is being created almost entirely by two people:
Belgium-based developer Tale of Tales, aka Auriea
Harvey and Michaël Samyn.
They’ve been working on The
Path since 2006, following some time experimenting with
unusual storytelling techniques.
They described their previous 'game', The
Graveyard, as 'an explorable painting', and their
other release of note is an oddball MMO title where everyone
is a deer. Now,
Tale of Tales are putting the finishing touches on The
Path, which is... well.
That's rather difficult to establish.
of Tales are keeping many of The
Path's secrets under wraps.
What we do know is that it's a non-linear horror
game, loosely based on traditional versions of Little Red
Riding Hood, and featuring a group of Tim Burton-esque sisters known as
the Red Girls. The
young ladies, whose family has recently moved from the
city, have only one task: take some food and drink to their
sick grandmother - and be sure, above all else, to stay on
there on out, progress is up to you.
Do you choose to be obedient, stick to the long,
winding path through the foreboding forest, and deliver the
hamper to your grandmother?
Or do you begin to question what you're told?
Why is grandma always sick? Why is it so
imperative that you stay on the path?
There appears to be something sinister at the end of either
option: as the
marketing blurb puts it, ‘will you take the path of
needles, or the path of pins?’
might be best described as a sandbox adventure game, with
heavy thematic elements of survival horror.
The intentionally ambiguous narrative, Tale of Tales have told us, is
expressed through the actions of the players, and unravelled
as the girls explore. But
exploration is forbidden by the very premise of the story.
It's a heavily metaphorical tale set in an unashamedly
fictional world: more about what you're supposed to take
from it, than how much you believe in it.
And, just to confuse the hell out of us even more,
apparently the only way to complete the game is for the
main characters to die.
Path looks to play like a reasonably traditional
adventure title. But
there’s a peculiar difference in the way players interact
with in-game objects. That
is to say, they don’t.
is Grandma always sick...?"
of having to click on an item of interest, simply letting go
of the controls causes your particular Red Girl to interact
with an object of her choice in the vicinity, in a way that
she sees fit on that occasion.
This, according to Michaël Samyn, results in a degree of
variety and unpredictability in the game, triggering new
events and unfolding new surprises each time the game is
A combination of this and the completely freeform world
means that no two play-throughs will be identical.
sounds somewhat counter-intuitive, and it probably is –
but I wouldn’t be surprised if that’s the whole point.
The Path is
a game about challenging the notions of rules and
conventions – both in terms of narrative and gameplay.
Even with all this to prick our ears up, it’s the heavily
stylised visuals that really stand out.
While the Quest3D engine (last seen in Audiosurf)
isn’t exactly cutting-edge, The
Path remains utterly remarkable to look at: more like an
abstract piece of art in motion than a videogame.
Subtle overlays drift in and out of the picture, the
tones over-saturated and unusual.
Occasionally, it switches to greyscale.
Occasionally, a seemingly unrelated image replaces
the game world onscreen, only to snap back again a second
The recent trailer, featuring a hefty amount of in-game
footage, manages to be truly chilling without ever doing
anything overtly frightening.
seems to build its fear on the premise that cheap jump
moments don’t create true horror.
Instead, it’s the little, unusual touches that
unnerve: slight deviations away from normality.
Remember the way the patients ambled in Thief:
Deadly Shadows’ ‘Robbing the Cradle’ mission?
That odd, otherworldly feel, so close to reality yet
so slightly removed. The
same technique seems to feature in abundance in The
Path, which is a very exciting prospect indeed.
Samyn has stated in The
Path’s development blog that the game will essentially
be as scary as you make it, with players having to
specifically search for the big thrills.
As he puts it, “Interactive
horror is interesting because - at least in the way that we
design games - it gives you the freedom to tune the degree
of the scariness to some extent, in a way that is fully
compatible with the narrative - unlike turning the sound off
on a horror movie, for example. There
are certain things in The
Path that you can do for that extra thrill, or avoid to
soothe your nerves.” How
successful this will be remains to be seen, but it’s
thoroughly refreshing to see developers thinking so far
outside the box.
unusual touches that unnerve..."
there’s one thing that’s particularly encouraging,
it’s reading through the fantastic Livejournal pages set
up for The Path’s
individual characters. Charismatic,
interesting, fleshy and wonderfully written, these character
blogs show great promise for the quality of storytelling in
the final product. The
Red Girls appear as honest, credible and genuinely real
characters, and it's difficult not to fall in love with them
as you read about their lives.
Remember: in The Path, these adorable adolescents
will meet their demise. It's the only way to complete
the game. This is heavy stuff.
The Path is
currently in its beta stage, being play-tested and tweaked
in preparation for a Spring release.
Tale of Tales have made it clear that The
Path will not be a particularly lengthy game - around
six hours to exhaust everything, at last estimation.
it’s an exercise in poetic storytelling and innovative
result may be wild and unpredictable, but it promises to be
thoroughly intriguing either way.
DEVELOPER: Tale of
PUBLISHER: Tale of Tales
RELEASED: Spring 2009