Every now and then, I like to throw a curveball and provide an unorthodox experience to my readers. It’s mostly for those who view visual novels in a very strict light: textboxes, distinct choices, a particular art style, etc. After all, when you boil down the concept of a visual novel, you’re looking at a game where the main draw is the story and the main gameplay feature is based on the player’s choices. In that case, few other titles I’ve played recently is as dependent on player choice or its own story as the first season of Osmotic Studios’ Orwell.
The game features easily one of the most intriguing premises in gaming to date. You play as an investigator for an increasingly authoritarian government in Europe as they test Orwell: a surveillance program that gives the player access to personal and private data of every citizen in the nation to help quickly investigate, and potentially stop, crimes against the government. The test run you sign up for is turned on its head immediately as a terrorist attack puts The Nation on edge. You have to pick through the data of targeted persons, look for connections to the terrorist attack and stop other attacks from other people with a similar philosophy. Many other games would have tilted hard against program and use it as a critique against such tactics (like….Orwell Season 2). But here it’s played straight. You are the thin wall between innocent lives being destroyed, but at what cost? And who, exactly, is innocent here?
I cannot recommend Orwell Season 1 enough. It had me on the edge of my seat and sent more than a few chills through me in some scenes: especially a moment in Episode 3 that has to be experienced to be appreciated. It’s one of the best mystery/thriller games I’ve ever played.