Starting with the usual. I received a review code for Welcome to Elk with no expectations for this review. I played the Xbox version for about 4 hours, which was enough to beat the game. Due to my low vision, some things I have trouble with may not affect your experience. The game released September 17th on various platforms.
Editor’s Note – Welcome to Elk deals with some very tough subject matter
I’m really at a loss for how to go about this. Welcome to Elk is a walking Sim where you play as Frigg, a new carpenter apprentice working on the snowy island, to collect stories. Some of these stories are played out in-game for an interactive experience, others are just written notes, and some are even FMV interviews with real people who experienced them.
The game begins like a very quirky indie game, but as you play the stories and themes get deeper and more mature. Though the beginning may feel like a kids game, it is very adult-oriented by the end. Themes include death, afterlife, murder, alcoholism, illegal drugs, child cruelty, and rape. The game does not take any of these things lightly, so be prepared to face them head-on, sometimes unexpectedly, as you play. In the end, it is up to you to decide whether the stories are true or not and what that means at an existential level.
The art style is unique in that everything is hand-drawn, including the characters and animations. Backgrounds are uncoloured while characters and interactive objects are fully coloured. This creates a great contrast of the visuals and text, especially since there is very little voice over. It also gives hints without being obvious since only coloured objects can interacted with.
The gameplay is very simple, even by walking Sim standards. Through most of the game, you only have three controls to worry about: movement, interaction button, and map button. Fairly quickly, you won’t even need the last one. The few mini-games have equally simple controls and the inability to lose. Most of the story development is done by talking to other characters.
Speaking of the characters, they are all unique with interesting lives and backstories. You can’t influence much of the story of the main character, but it still feels like a personal experience nonetheless. The characters are also fairly easy to recognize from each other due to the hand-drawn art. There are meta characters too, but they aren’t as fleshed out, unfortunately.
I really did enjoy the game, setting, and characters. I would recommend to anyone of adequate age and ability to handle the themes. I know it won’t be for everyone, but I do believe anyone that plays it will get a benefit from it in some way. I wish I could say more, but with it being a game about stories, anything I say about them would be a spoiler. Most of them wouldn’t be appropriate to talk about in a public forum anyway. After that emotional roller-coaster and introspection, it may be a while before my next review.