Today we return to our occasional "Backlogging" series this week with the interesting, and rather confounding first-person adventure game Virginia, a title that is heavily (heavily) influenced by series like Twin Peaks or The X-Files, and was released just this past year on PS4, Steam, and XB1.
I have to say that I had been intrigued by Virginia from the moment I first heard about it, being the big ol' fan of Twin Peaks (and X-Files) that I am, when this launch trailer launched in September:
I really do enjoy first-person adventure/mystery games (as I essentially have a category for them in our GOTY articles so I can talk about stuff like this), so the question is: how did Virginia stack up?
Virginia is essentially a playable, surreal, animated, mystery film wherein you take the role of new F.B.I. recruit Anne Tarver, who is partnered up with experienced agent Maria Halperin, and sent to the small town of Kingdom, Virginia to investigate the disappearance of a young boy. Over the course of the investigation (the game taking under 2 hours to complete--it's movie length), Tarver and Halperin's relationship is strained, ulterior motives (and investigations) appear, and lines between reality, the supernatural, and ghost bison standing in your bedroom become blurred.
The game is experienced through a series of scenes with absolutely no dialogue, and I don't mean it has "written dialogue" like those old RPG's I love, I mean it's essentially a silent movie set in 1992. What this means is that you, as the player/Tarver are forced to piece the story together yourself through the imagery of the game, and that was refreshing and entertaining to say the least. I loved that I would be walking down a hallway, and see a sheet of paper, and get just enough time to read a part of it when bam, you were suddenly in a car and needing to take in new, visual information. This use of cinematic editing (even to the point of juxtaposing imagery) was excellently used, and made the experience that much more engaging--this was a story that flowed together, and felt less "Game-y" for it). In the end, I feel like Virginia gave me a story to experience, and after I was finished, I was thinking about it, and what it meant (and meant to me) for the rest of my night.
The graphics are cool--I came to really like the style of Virginia as it really helped some of the ambiguity, yet the details allowed you to get the information you "needed", and to focus on the parts of the world that the developers wanted you to. The sound/music is also quite good, and never felt intrusive (which is key, considering the game is silent), which is always a plus in interactive drama games like this--while it does not achieve the same level of feels as say Everybody's Gone to the Rapture, it is beautiful in it's own right.
Now if you're reading about what I enjoyed above and thinking that some of those things sound like negatives, or have never enjoyed a "walking simulator", then I can promise you Virginia is not for you; the game is probably the least "game-y" of the interactive drama games I have played, as you are very much in the hands of the developers thanks to the editing, plus, there was often only one or two things to interact with within a certain scene, so it became very clear what you were to be doing at any given moment.
I think that your best bet, to know whether you are going to like Virginia or not, is to consider whether or not you have enjoyed other interactive drama/walking simulator games, and if the premise sounds cool to you; Virginia is not quite a "must play" for Twin Peaks/X-Files fans (it would not have pushed it's way into my GOTY conversations), but it is such a solid story-driven game that I feel like you do need to consider checking it out.
Virginia is typically around 10$, so you have to consider if you're willing to drop that much on a game that shouldn't take you more than two hours (unless you're achievement/trophy hunting, which would make you replay the game for sure); I picked it up on a holiday sale for 6$, and feel very good about that purchase, with a plan to keep an eye on Variable State to see what they release in future.
Oh! If you have played it/do play it and want to talk about the story, hit me up on twitter: