Keeping Attention: Beautiful Desolation

Beautiful Desolation

I sometimes wonder if I am part of a small clandestine group that was completely enamoured with The Brotherhood’s excellent sci-fi horror Stasis. I point & click adventure that felt more tense and claustrophobic than anything I’d ever played before. Yet, not many people I mention it to have a single clue about the game. So I am not turning down a chance to play their latest… Beautiful Desolation.

It is a game that is very familiar to Stasis in that you have a 2.5D isometric story-driven sci-fi point & click adventure. This time, rather than being set on board a spaceship, it is set within a post-apocalyptic South Africa. Yet, it retains all the tension and intrigue of Stasis.

When I talk about story-rich games, I will try my hardest to avoid mentioning the story at all because I feel even the tiniest nugget of information can take away something from those who play on the back of this, especially when the narrative is as well constructed and open as it is in Beautiful Desolation. There is an abundance of characters, settings, story beats and intrigue that drive the game forward at a near-perfect pace. I want you, dear reader, to discover this as I did. Going in with barely an idea of what to expect.

The isometric design allows for some glorious settings to be realised on screen and the voice acting adds to the whole experience wonderfully well. In fact, for someone like me with ADHD, the voice acting helps keep me engaged in a way endless text can never do. The fact it is well-acted really helps, too, as it never feels stiff or stilted.

A shout to some of the accessibility options. There isn’t much, and some improvements could be made, but a basic ‘text-size option helps wonders. I still needed to use the Switch’s built-in zoom function at times, but I wasn’t straining to read basic instructions. The green on black is clearly an aesthetic choice, but changing text and background colours in dialogue boxes would be welcome.

That being said, it feels like a minor issue considering how comfortable I felt playing Beautiful Desolation from a gameplay perspective (the story is anything but comfortable). The actions you take in-game are well marked and very forgiven on character placement, which again helps. Also, I never felt I was fighting against the point & click nature, which allowed the puzzle elements to shine through and be tackled naturally.

Again I have played games to see a solution, but the mechanics are so convoluted that I just gave up. Not the case here. I think there were only a couple of occasions I can remember where I got frustrated with the game and had to turn it off for a while before going back. That isn’t a fault of the game, more my own issues.

I have had many games to cover over recent weeks as I play catch up, but Beautiful Desolation drew me in and never let go. I played in daily chunks that were about an hour-long each and reached the end in just over a week. It was like binge-watching a wonderful drama on a nightly basis. I’d say I was looking at around 10 or so hours to finish my play-through.

Now I wouldn’t usually mention playtime as I don’t really care, but I felt it important in this case. I got to the conclusion and wondered if it was just incredibly short. The 10 or so hours didn’t feel anywhere near that, and the week that I was playing just flew by. I honestly had to check to make sure I wasn’t missing something. Not because I felt short-changed by the game or anything, but because it was such a satisfying conclusion, it felt as close to a perfect experience as I can imagine.

One thing I fear and an ADHD gamer is the 40-100 hour epic. I will maybe hammer a game for a week, get distracted by something else and get completely lost when trying to return. So having something like Beautiful Desolation that feel too tightly woven together really helped keep me invested. There is little to no fluff to artificially add game time; everything feels like it has a reason for being.

It is such a wonderful experience and, dare I say it… perfect for Switch. So how would it be wrong to ask for a port of Stasis?

Beatiful Desolation from The Brotherhood is out on on Steam and Switch for £17.99

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