Published on October 3rd, 2016 | by Ahmad Gameel0
Virginia is a first person thriller set in a small town called Kingdom where you uncover the mystery and the secrets hidden there.
You control the newly graduate FBI agent Anne Tarver You are given the assignment to investigate the disappearance of a young boy from Kingdom. The protagonist Anne is accompanied by her partner Maria Halperin who Anne is also assigned to investigate or keep an eye on her. At the beginning of the game, there is a bit of a tension between Anne and Maria but the more you progress, the more they get to know each other and become more friendly which leads Anne to question whether she should be loyal to the agency and keep watching Halperin or risk her job for the sake of their friendship.
There is no dialogue in the game and it relies on the character’s facial expressions /body movements and surrealism to tell its story. The surrealism often created a problem as you don’t know whether what’s happening in front of you is a dream or a reality because the game mixes both aspects a lot. When you reach the end of the game, you will wonder if anything that happened really happened. I felt like the developer wanted us to care about Anne and Maria like Mulder/Scully, Cooper/Sherriff Truman or Bones/Booth but the problem is without dialogue, very little character development and the extremely short length of the game, you will hardly care about them.
The other issue with the story is that you get no closure to anything. It doesn’t tell you what happens to the missing boy or whether Anne and Maria stayed partners, it simply ends. The story felt like a pilot for a tv show and more is coming but I doubt that is the case here since it took them two years to make this game and waiting 2 more years for such a short experience can be a pain especially when it was an unfulfilling one.
The art style in the game looked very similar to Firewatch. The character design looks a bit cartoonish but their facial expression is pretty convincing. The environment, however, is oozing with atmosphere. It looked gorgeous which saddens me because you never got to explore any of it. It is such a wasted opportunity because I felt like they created something special here but didn’t see its full potential.
I want to say it’s an interactive walking simulator but there is barely any walking or interactivity in this game. You only interact mostly with one item in every location you go to except later on where Anne can interact and pick up flowers from the ground. And in most of the locations you just walk forwards. It has this weird Movie like Jump-Cuts that happens often throughout the whole game. For instance, you are descending stairs to go to your partner’s office, so instead of making you descend the whole thing, it jump cuts and suddenly you see yourself standing in front of her office door. Also, your partner’s office looks so damn similar to X file’s Scully basement office. I thought that was a cool reference.
The whole game felt like I was watching a movie or a pilot of a show instead of it because 90% of the time, you just watch what’s unfolding in front of you.
The best aspect of the game by far is its stellar sound design and its atmospheric soundtrack. It sets the tone perfectly in each location and since the game has no dialogue, it relies heavily on the visual and sound aspects of the game. The composer Lyndon Holland did a marvelous job here. It’s definitely one of the best game OST in 2016. My favorite track was the end credits ost. It has a bit of Interstellar’s Main theme and Twin Peaks Main theme combined together and it sounds brilliant. Although, there was one part where I felt the music was too epic compared to what’s happening on screen. What happens in that part is the protagonist walking a long hallway and suddenly an epic soundtrack just starts but I felt like there was no reason for it to start because nothing happened at the end of that long hallway that warrants it because the game jump cuts to a different location entirely and leaves you wondering why did they use that epic track for absolutely nothing.
Length and Replay Value:
The game took me 1 hour and 35 minutes to finish. There is no investigation even though the developers in the main description say “Experience a missing person investigation through the eyes of graduate FBI agent Anne Tarver. “
There is hardly any replay value in the game as there are no choices, no branching paths, no multiple endings, no collectibles and no secrets to discover. The only reason you might play it for the second time is if you didn’t understand the story or get confused (which I guarantee will happen) on what is unfolding in front of you because of the frequent jump cuts and you not noticing some important details.
When I first opened the game, I was greeted with a map of Kingdom in the main menu and got very excited because I thought I was going to explore the town. I was very disappointed that never happened and was saddened by the fact ‘Investigate the disappearance of the young boy’ didn’t occur either.
If you were hoping that this would be similar to Twin Peaks or David Lynch’s work then you will be disappointed because it’s nothing like them. My advice, if you want something similar to Twin Peaks weirdness /awesomeness, then go play Deadly Premonition or just wait for Twin Peaks Season 3.
I love Walking Simulators and played many of them recently like Soma, The Stanley Parable, Firewatch, Layers of Fear and most of them were very enjoyable but I wish I could say the same about Virginia.
I give Virginia 2.5/5 because the story felt incomplete, confusing and very short. The two redeeming aspects in the game were its beautiful visuals and a brilliant soundtrack. Hopefully, the developers learn from their mistakes and make their next project better.