An exciting tale filled with diverse characters and political connotations, it would seem that Herald: An Interactive Period Drama has it all. Developed by Wispfire, Herald is an episodic point-and-click adventure game currently featuring two instalments of books I and II with more episodes to follow. The game incorporates an alternate historical timeline set in the 19th century where the all of the West has united as a superpower labelled ‘The Protectorate’. You follow the story of Devon Rensburg as he embarks aboard The Herald, a merchant ship heading for the eastern colonies, with some unexpected twists and turns along the way.
Rensburg is portrayed as a curious and adventurous traveller, seeking answers surrounding his heritage and birth that he believes will be found in the colonies. Aboard the illustrious vessel, The Herald, Rensburg becomes appointed as a steward for the ship. You’ll be introduced to an assortment of colourful characters, all with their own varied opinions and personal implications. Player choice and consequence feature heavily throughout Herald. You’ll often find yourself fumbling through different dialogue options for Rensburg, hoping that each choice brings about your desired outcome. Herald also tackles some very deep and troubling injustices that knowingly reflects the history of the time. You’ll unveil certain details surrounding characters’ own experiences with racism, slavery and violence.
The game’s characters feel surprisingly genuine and totally unique from one another. Some characters come across as either pleasant and helpful or treacherous and stand-offish. You’ll constantly be second guessing a character’s motives by questioning who to trust and do favours for. This can also affect your decisions, making them all the more dire, especially when you’ve empathised with a specific character. Herald has some very impressive voice acting and written dialogue. Even though the crux of the game introduces some heavy social and cultural conflicts, it’s not all a serious affair. There are a lot of humorous and light-hearted moments, so you never really feel as though the game is bombarding you with its agenda. Instead, Herald explores these ideas subtly, with different situations and characters aboard the ship.
The game utilises standard point-and-click mechanics as Rensburg explores the ship and converses with other crew members. You’ll be given many menial tasks to complete such as fetching items or finding other passengers to speak to. These tasks always seem to branch out into more complex narratives, as hidden motives and suspicious behaviours become revealed. Rensburg will document and collate any new information surrounding characters, new areas of the ship or found objects within his journal. This journal is accessible to you at any time, and will primarily serve as your guide aboard The Herald. Clicking on various highlighted objects aboard the ship will also give you a much-welcomed history lesson about the object and its functions. The ship itself can be hard to navigate when you’re tasked with going to a new area. You can often wind up wandering around aimlessly with no clues as to where you’re going. There are some relatively simple puzzles within Herald as well that do require some thought. You’ll have to recall previous conversations with characters or past areas you’ve visited in order to piece certain clues together.
Admittedly, the three-dimensional graphics within Herald can look a little dated, however, this is easily forgotten about when you’re constantly looking at each character’s elegantly drawn animated portraits. The music of the game can be quite stirring and appropriately complements its theme and time period.
As it stands, with two self-contained stories within Book I and II, Herald feels a little too short lived. Despite this, it still manages to deliver an overly gripping experience within its limited time frame. Herald’s dynamic characters and pivotal plot lines cleverly weave together a dark, confronting yet also amusing narrative that will engross you throughout its entirety.
REVIEW CODE: A complimentary PC code was provided to Brash Games for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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