Developer: Dejobaan Games
Publisher: Dejobaan Games
# of Players: 1
ESRB Rating: N/A
Score: A- (90%)
Whether or not you like to write, there’s an excellent chance that you love storytelling in one way or another. Dejobaan Games’ excellent Elegy for a Dead World is a game about writing that’s not just for writers and to some “gamers” out there, isn’t really a videogame in the traditional sense. There are no scores tallied, no bad guys to dispatch, and only three relatively small and short themed planets to explore. But it’s neither the journey nor the destination that’s the selling point here.
The game encourages you to sit down, unhook your brain from its box and let your fingers do the talking as you write anything you wish. Yes, there are numerous writing prompts you can use and there’s great fun in pretending to speak in another voice as some of the prompts suggest. But for some players, the experience of free-styling their way through each world and sharing their stories with others will be the big draw…
The simplicity of presentation hear means those looking for depth outside of what they create may be disappointed. You’re a nameless space traveler and surveyor who’s the sole survivor of a calamity that wiped out your crew. You’re compelled to complete your mission and that’s pretty much it. In fact, the opening moments of the game are abstract enough that some may wonder if that traveler floating in space is actually the wandering ghost of someone who doesn’t know he or she died in the incident. But that’s one possible story you can spin on your own.
Once you choose a world, a series of writing prompts appear that range from grammar exercises to poetry to free-form and more. You’re not graded on your grammar or judged by the game itself, but upon completing a world you’re given a tough choice. Save your writing and upload it so it can join the thousands of other stories sent around to other people playing the game, or dump what you created and try again. You can go back and redo anything before you choose, but the game not so subtly encourages sharing as soon as you’re done by letting you know you have someone’s story ready to read waiting for you. You can read and rate at your leisure and the range of stories, poems and other verse out there written about the same three worlds is staggering. Some stories are poignant, some are laugh out loud funny (intentionally). There are fan fiction pieces, serious meditations on life and love and even a few really well done pieces by some who might be current or future scribes just putting the game through its paces.
The beautiful blend of sprite and painted backdrop art and smooth parallax scrolling may remind some of PC adventure games of old. But in this choose and write your own adventure, what you see isn’t going to be what someone else sees and what each person gets will be dependent on what’s inside their head. There’s a lovely minimalist score and haunting sound effects, both of which inspire more words to drip forth. If you’re really feeling proud of your work, you can even pay to have a hard copy printed out professionally using one of a few self-publishing sites.
Still to some, the game may not feel “complete” or as “big” as it needs to be. Yes, you can write your way through all three worlds in a few hours and yes, there’s a sense of fragmentation here from an overall narrative some expect from what’s essentially a story-driven experience. but that detachment (at least for me) is a necessary one and those three worlds offer up endless opportunities for all sorts of original tales. Had Dejobaan saddled things with a heavy opening sequence and added their own story points to the experience, it may have been a bit of overkill. Having players free up that space to create their own reasons for everything makes the end result even more impressive.
While I’m not sure what plans the developer has for the future, there’s more than enough here for anyone who loves writing, or isn’t a writer but wants to be to give this a try. Even if sci-fi’s not your thing, Elegy for a Dead World manages to get the grey matter percolating on more than what’s seen on screen as it gets you thinking and writing about whatever it is you feel like in the moment. Consider it a handy tool in your growing writing arsenal if you need to – just get this, get writing and start sharing your creativity with the world.