Cinematic games have always been a tough sell for me. On one hand, the game may have an interesting and compelling story to tell. On the other hand, I may end up spending money on an experience more akin to a movie than an actual game. It is this risk that keeps me from playing many games that others claim I can’t miss out on. Personally, I don’t like watching movies nearly as much as playing games so I tend to become impatient when a game has lengthy cutscenes or minimal input between cutscenes that don’t feel particularly important. For me, Virginia falls into the category of cinematic games I’m not excited about sharing with others.
This new indie title puts players in the shoes of a brand new F.B.I. agent named Anne Tarver. The amount of control players have in those shoes is minimal and solely consists of walking, interacting with objects, and grabbing collectibles. Walking around (rather slowly I might add) Anne’s day to day life, seeing it through her eyes feels very interesting at first. The first problem is when a player gets into the groove and begins to find how many useless items there are in each area. After trying to interact with everything in the first 10 or so areas, I realized there was no point and started just worrying about the story. There are a few optional interactions to be found, but between how slowly Anne walks and how few these interactions are, I imagine many players will miss them. It’s a shame there isn’t more to do in each scene as the game benefits from a wonderful soundtrack.
Personally, I found the beautful score (courtesy of the Prague Philharmonic Ochestra) easily made up for the lack of dialogue from any character throughout the game. Besides this, the songs that played during each part of the game perfectly matched the theme and feel of the events going on at the time. For example, when Anne and her partner Maria go out and have a good time, the music becomes upbeat and energetic until the nights end when it becomes calming and peaceful. I’m not versed enough in music to tell much more, but I can say that the soundtrack is phenomnal and is only matched by the tremendously detailed art style.
I would be lying if I said that the main thing that drew me to Virginia was anything but the art style. Every aspect of the game is done in this painterly style that manages to allow every character to emote how they’re feeling without ever saying a word. This is often done by having characters turn their heads in certain ways or stare at the player for just the right amount of time. Even though this is all very impressive and interesting to examine, it does not make up for how little the player actually does in the game or how short the experience actually is.
With a normal playthrough of Virginia clocking in right around 2 hours, it is kind of hard for me to say it’s completely worth it. I understand the intent of the developers and everyone else that worked on the game, but it seems like an awful lot to ask for $10 for an experience that boils down to walking from one end of room to another, watching characters do normal, human facial expressions while listening to an orchestra. That’s not to say I didn’t enjoy my time with the game, but I feel like that would change had I personally bought the title.
I believe that if even some tiny gameplay elements had made their way into some of the chapters in the game, Virginia could have been a phenomenal indie title. With just a little bit of gameplay, the time to do an initial playthrough could be a bit longer and wouldn’t feel like players are simply walking from scene to scene. To put it bluntly, if you’re looking for a very pretty animated movie with a pleasant soundtrack, Virginia is for you. For me there is simply not enough ‘game’ here for me to give it much praise, but it is visually and audibly pleasing enough to warrant a playthrough if bought on sale.
REVIEW CODE: A complimentary Microsoft Xbox One code was provided to Brash Games for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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