Minute North American towns, composed of a closely knitted Society of Friends and family, where everybody knows every single citizen, are famous world over. Popularity of TV shows such as Twin Peaks, and Desperate Housewives has only further cemented the status of a small idyllic town with a deep seeded mystery, knitted within the fabric of its society. And it comes to no surprise that this particular subject matter has also been explored by the videogame industry, within the last decade.

 

Alan Wake, and Deadly Premonition, have both explored this particular theme, however, within minutes both titles have also abandoned the idea of a mystery, and jumped straight into the supernatural. Despite the build up, and the ever growing promise, developers behind both titles have discarded all alternative forms of storytelling, and referred to the tried and tested PVE combat. And the once intriguing and captivating titles have become nothing more than simple survival horrors, ultimately stating that we may never get a true Twin Peaks like a thriller. Until today that is.

 

Virginia, the highly anticipated mystery thriller from the Variable State Studio, is available as of now on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC. And on paper, it looked like Virginia will be the first title to truly channel the soul of the Twin Peaks-like small town thriller. Its setting, plot, and art-style tick all the boxes which such title should posses, but unfortunately, despite developer’s efforts Virginia is not quite the title which most have been waiting for, or the title they’ve been promised.

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Virginia kicks-off with the player character receiving an FBI badge on stage, and as soon as one shakes the hand of an assistant to the commissioner, who is handing you the licence to incriminate, the scene ends and instantly cuts to the next, and then to another. In the early stages, Virginia cuts from scene to scene so quickly, most won’t even have enough time to read everything that’s written on the file which explains your task, and the main purpose of the game. And in any other title that wouldn’t be a problem, as along the line of an NPC, most probably your partner would explain to you the task which you are set to accomplish within the town of Kingdom, Virginia where the title takes place. But unfortunately that is not possible, as all in-game characters are mute, and you only have a split second to absorb all relevant information in majority of ”Chapters”.

 

Virginia features over 30 chapters in total, but where other titles posse’s hours of content within a single chapter, Virginia only holds few minutes at most, as the title comes to its conclusion in just under two hours. And timing is where Virginia‘s most significant issues lie. All the chapters as well as scenes, are much too short. The developers tried to cram as much content as it is humanly possible, within a space of single minute, if not a handful of seconds. Certain scenes end as soon as you make a step, and before you know you’re no longer in a room, but in an open green field. Whereas other segments have you sit in silence for minutes at a time, only to be teleported into yet another scene.

 

Constant use of hard cuts ultimately pulls Virginia apart. Piece by piece, scene by scene, it loses its structure, and is slowly becoming an incoherent monstrosity. And the fact that real life scenes are intertwined with dreams, hallucinations, and acid trips, only further blurs the lines, ultimately erasing the remaining particles of sense and coherence which Virginia had at the beginning.

 

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The beginning of Virginia is surely its strongest feature. Shimmering with brilliance, and the promise of a title which has never been made before, first dozen of chapters deliver the true, down to earth small town thriller. But the never ending desire for grandeur of the silver screen, ultimately dissipates majority of Virginia‘s positive features, but at the same time it also allows it to preserve some of its artistic integrity within the sphere of art design, and sound direction. Once one has discarded the numerous press releases, and articles on Virginia which all emphasised how the story, and the way in which it is told, are its grandest features, one can truly enjoy the title for what it is – and in many ways, it’s a work of art.

 

Virginia’s charming low polygon art style allows it to separate itself from the rest of the indie scene, as it is one of the few truly unique titles which can be found these days within the confines of the numerous digital stores. Every single character, monument, or object is clearly identifiable. And it doesn’t matter if a person is standing right in front of you, or if it’s presented on a small picture, all his/her features are so easy to distinguish, they might as well be presented in a 2cmx2cm format. In fact, it is easier to spot a tiny feather in  a darkened room, which serves as a form of a collectible in Virginia, than it is to find an EVE syringe in Bioshock.

 

Virginia’s art direction, and visual execution are truly astounding. And once both are combined with the exceptional sound design, they collectively create a sense of place like no other. Caves, cafes, and even basements are all convincing despite their low polygon art style, and thorough the entirety of Virginia they allow the player to genuinely experience the feeling of inhabitancy in a place that will be foreign to some. But just like coherence, this also disappears as soon as Virginia enters its final stretch. And unfortunately, Virginia is the only thing which prevents itself from achieving greatness, as it tries to imitate a TV show, while attempting to abandon the fact that it’s a videogame. As previously stated, a combination of videogame mechanics, with a structure and direction of a TV series, is borderline impossible and Virginia is a great example of that.



Author

Kamil

My name is Kamil, and I'm the 'Feature Man'. I write news, and reviews just like everybody else, however, feature articles are my true forte. And this is not because I'm another self-centered, pseudo-intellectual games journalist, but because there are many discussion worthy matters which go unnoticed in the flurry of other video-game related articles. If you want to read more of my #HotTakes and #Opinions, or if you simply want to fight me over the internet, you can follow me on Twitter @Kama_Kamilia.