The problem with Leviathan
The thoughts and opinions expressed are those of the writer and not Gamasutra or its parent company.
Let me preface this by saying I am not a professional reviewer. I have worked in the entertainment industry for over 15 years though. I offer this review as constructive criticism. Often what is "Art" and what is a "commerical product" often clash.
Lex Allen recently posted an interview with Andrey Kniazev producer of Lostwood Games' Leviathan: Last Day of the Decade. I decided to play the game and find out what the issue was.
I just played the first episode of Leviathan and I can see the problem.
First, let me say that the visual artwork is amazing. It is absolutely gorgeous. There you have no problem.
The problem is that their writing conflicts with the game style. The visual novel/hidden object game type is most popular with children. More so, the game's world completely revoles around the lives of children. Yet, they throw a bunch of swears in there that are completely unnecessary. They are all ready in an alternate/fantasy world setting, so there is really no reason for using swears from our world, when one can just make uptheir own slang (which is half the fun of writing BTW).
You don't see Harry Potter running around Hogwart's saying F this and F that or Malfoid calling Ron a queer. It's unnecessary and distracting from the story. Now, there certainly are visual novels that are meant for adults. But these are presented as products for adults. The last thing I expected when playing this game was fowl language.
Their writing has further problems. You throw the player into a world of in progress with all these things going on that are obvious to the characters and are a natural part of the world, but the player is left lost and confused. I'm sure to the developer everything makes perfect sense and is all justified, but to the player, it just seems scattered and confusing.
Last, one has to get the player invested in the characters. I'm playing not really knowing who these people are and they just seem like shallow archetypes of characters. To top it all off, death is apparently completely irrelivant in this word, so why should I care about any concequences to the characters? If the game is supposed to revolve around moral choices, then the choices have to be difficult with a full understanding of the concequences.
Plot driven stories are great for action games, but are terrible for story driven games. As an example, no one cares if a meth dealer gets caught by the cops, but we all care if Walter White gets caught by the cops because we care about Walter White. When creating a story game, the story has to be your best asset, not rails to drive your graphics on.
Again, the graphics are wonderful. They are the best I've ever seen in the genre. But that is not what sells a game. It reminds me of a saying in the movie industry and it goes like this: "The sound track to this film is wonderful, who did it?"