The Old City: Leviathan
As the protagonist of The Old City: Leviathan kept addressing his claustrophobic surroundings as if it was a living entity I was convinced that he was mad. Not that I could blame him really. Described as a “sewer dwelling isolationist” who is making his way through the bleak environments of a decaying city, it is hard not to feel sorry for the nameless protagonist. You might view the world through his eyes and direct his movement, but you are certainly not playing “as” him. I was intrigued by his musings, but certain that he was mad, until the city answered.
The Old City: Leviathan is the debut offering from PostMod Softworks and it is a title that isn’t afraid to delve into philosophical themes. Drawing its inspiration from titles such as Gone Home, The Stanley Parable and Dear Esther it should come as no surprise that it eschews puzzles and combat in favour of narrative and visuals. While it is true that you can simply walk from start to finish, doing so will bypass most of what makes this game so intriguing. By exploring, finding the secret areas, unearthing new information and reading the pages of the 30,000 word novella tucked away in its depths you’ll find the true beauty of The Old City. That novella is broken up into chapters by the way and can be read at your own leisure as you discover them, but it is still a hefty amount of reading.
The preview version of the game we checked out only features four chapters, but this was already enough to get us excited about the full release. As it is such a story driven experience we can’t say too much, but this is definitely not a game where you are spoon fed the plot. With its dreamlike atmosphere, dark narrative and rambling protagonist we spent most of the game wandering around in a state of confusion. This wasn’t helped by the fact that the default walking speed of the character is quite slow and holding down the usual “run” button slows him down even more for some reason. Still, the weird childhood flashbacks and increasingly surreal surroundings the game revealed kept us hooked to the end. The way that the world can change and morph around you also makes for some unsettling experiences.
As the game features no combat or puzzles the focus is purely on the visuals and story. Since the visuals are powered by the Unreal Engine it holds up well in this department, but the story is probably going to divide opinions. What we unraveled in the four chapters we played had us intrigued, but it is also clear that this game is not going to be everyone’s cup of tea. Considering that the game made it through Steam Greenlight in only four days there is definitely a market for it and we are looking forward to uncovering more of its mysteries when it is released. According to the developers, The Old City: Leviathan can be completed in about 5 hours, but it is only the first part in a much larger story. The game will be released on the 1st of December 2014, so if you enjoy titles that dare to be different you might want to mark the date on your calendar.