To be honest, when I first heard the title I thought it could be Les Stroud’s next great television series. Then I realized it had to do with the supernatural and figured that somehow Les Stroud had found a way to fight werewolves in remote areas of the world. Then I read the Kickstarter page and realized it had nothing to do with Les Stroud at all…which, I have to admit, was a bit disappointing at the time.
Regardless, the upcoming visual novel has had a final hour rally and it succeeded in funding the campaign. I had a chance to play it during the campaign but held off this particular feature until now just in case it had to serve as encourage for the team to keep going despite a failed Kickstater. Since that isn’t the case, let’s talk about why Walkerman rocks in less than two thousand words!
Walkerman makes the absolute most of its demo and gets a lot right. This is one of the few features I’ve written where I don’t know where to start, although I suppose the only fair place to start is with the story itself. Our hero is Jorgen, a young man who decides to follow in his Father’s footsteps and become a Walkerman. Also known as ‘pouchers’, Walkermen patrol the city-state of Midgard (really?) at night to protect its people from supernatural threats. The city-state itself has fallen on hard times, but how they got there is a story in and of itself. We get an abridged version as Jorgen narrates how Midgard rose to power by raiding neighboring countries and city-states and demanding tributes or they’ll wipe said neighbor off the map a la Genghis Khan. This gave Midgard great wealth which, in turned, made their city-state the center of commercial and cultural activity in the region until the neighboring countries had enough.
Now the city-state is torn between ruthless gangsters, a weakened aristocracy and the supernatural waiting to devour them all. It’s a fantastic setup that directly feeds into Walkerman’s episodic format (sorry Tenarium!) as it allows Jorgen to explore all castes of Midgard in his duties. Also, by giving this information to the audience up front, it gives us a sense of scope and atmosphere without spending time in the episodes proper explaining how Midgard got into its current state. The story is now free to focus on the monsters it plans to throw at Jorgen: supernatural and human alike. And speaking of our main boy, it’s time we got back to him.
Jorgen and his Father escapes just after Midgard’s fall and he spends most of his childhood in the country. Apparently his relationship with his Father is strained, but it begins to get better when Jorgen announces his intentions to be a Walkerman and Pops takes him under his wing. The scenes with them together are excellently tense and trying, yet at the same time you can see the attempts by both try and be an actual family just as Jorgen prepares to do something that will, in all likelihood, get him killed.
And that, the Walkerman profession, is another positive in and of itself. This isn’t a knighthood were you earn fame and glory. The game treats the post as just a step above a garbage collector. And yet it’s vital to protecting lives so there is value and respect that comes from being a Walkerman: even if it’s something that only people in that profession can share. It’s naturally lonely work with consequences Jorgen couldn’t have possibly fully considered. In fact, it’s hinted that his issues with his Father had a huge role to play it in. Really, Walkermen remind me a lot of the Night’s Watch from Game of Thrones and all that it implies for our protagonist. And since there is apparently no organized guild or anything to govern the Walkermen, with the only female Walkerman (Walkerlady?) frequently undercutting her competition, how they interact with each other and came to this profession could be a pivotal developmental key moving forward if used right.
Unfortunately, this is one of the weaker moments of the Prologue as the game relies too much on ‘tell, not show’. This is something that happens in the early scenes as we get very descriptive monologues on just about everything. I’m willing to concede this is more of a stylistic difference between me and the writers. It doesn’t detract from the overall feel of the story, but there were a few scenes that I feel could have dialed it back a bit and have been done a few minutes earlier rather than spend a few more moments talking about the color of the sky or Jorgen’s sweaty leathers. I’ve been told I can be picky like that thought…
The history of Midgard and the backstory of Jorgen and his Father take up the bulk of the Prologue with the overarching story being Jorgen’s walk from his home to the safety of the city before night fall. Of course, he fails in this and falls asleep near a tree: waking up in a dark forest where he is perfect prey for what goes bump in the night. Particular this happy fellow here!
As much as I enjoyed the history and the early scenes that flesh out Jorgen and his family, what really hooked me on Walkerman was the second half. The already excellent presentation is masterfully directed: relying mostly on sound effects and silence to build tension as that thing gets closer and closer. When the music does kick back in the score is perfect and you are fully invested in one thing: getting Jorgen out in one piece. Our boy has a few tricks up his sleeve to help his survival, which brings us to Walkerman’s game play.
Walkerman employs a click-and-point system for both investigations and fighting. During the Prologue, Jorgen’s Father stress the ‘rules’ of fighting the supernatural. Similar to how vampires used to be taken down with garlic and sunlight, each supernatural creature has a certain weakness that can be exploited in battle. A good Walkerman not only fights the supernatural, but also traps them with items that forces them to behave a certain way. That behavior creates a trap which limits the ability of the creature to fight back; allowing the Walkerman to safely kill it.
This is brilliant. All of this is just brilliant. It immediately makes any investigation you undertake in the coming episodes vital because those will be your opportunities to gather the right kind of items for your eventually hunt AND promises to makes the battles much more tactical and challenging. That is for the future though. For now, Jorgen is woefully unprepared and running is the only option. But, for the record; the game play should be very good here.
The scene wraps up by showing something that could pay off in dividends in the future while creating an interesting moment for Jorgen at the current moment. The creature, whatever he isn’t, isn’t openly hostile to him. In fact, he seems to know him. That, combined with the fact that Jorgen doesn’t know how to trap the creature puts the suspense of the scene at a high point. I won’t get into how it ends, but the ending served as an incredible final hook into my frontal lobe to reel me into the Walkerman ship. Well, that and it’s theme song ROCK THE FUCK ON.
Honestly, this is a first demo feature I’ve done in a while where I have nothing really critical to say. They could tone down some of the descriptive writing, but other than there’s nothing here to trim. In fact, it’s the opposite and that’s the point I want to end on. The Walkerman Prologue is a great example of a demo done absolutely right: a small taste of an intriguing and beautiful world that is just long enough to justify a full purchase to see what come next. I am beyond thrilled to see that the full series was funded on Kickstarter and, if all goes well, I am officially counting down the days until November when Act 1 is supposed to launch. If, for some God-forsaken reason, you haven’t played the Walkerman Prologue yet, do yourself a favor and get it now along with more information about the game.