Osmotic Studios, the developers behind Orwell, took the concept of “less is more” and rolled with it. It’s a bold strategy, but it paid off.
You are an Investigator, and your job is to protect the citizens of The Nation by invading the privacy of its citizens. Orwell toys with Big Brother, amplifying it to a disturbing, yet believable level. As an Investigator, you are thrown into the mix after a terrorist attack takes place within The Nation. From this point on, you must use the information at your disposal to find clues and to unlock new information, referred to as “data chunks.” To find information, you will be reading emails, investigating computers and reading text messages; You are Big Brother.
The story is directly impacted by your choices and what information you choose to submit/withhold from the Government. These twists and turns make for an elaborate story with multiple ways to play.
What makes Orwell so great is it’s simplicity. All you really need to do is point, click and drag. There is nothing complex about it.
You can literally play this game how you want. Data chunks are highlighted for you so there is no need to read through lengthy documents. This is great for people who just want to casually play the game without getting too involved with the lore. However, for those of us who are lore junkies, there is nothing restricting you from reading full emails, text conversations and website articles. By doing this, Orwell opens itself up to casual and in-depth players alike.
My biggest issue with the gameplay is the “conflicting data chunks” feature. Conflicting data chunks are when two pieces of data contradict each other, and only one of them can be uploaded. The conflicting data chunks act as the main source of Orwell’s “choice matters” system. However, in more than one instance, a pair of conflicting data chunks can both be valid pieces of information. I’ll provide an example, but it will contain spoilers, so a spoiler alert is in effect for the next paragraph.
At the end of the second act, you must give your advisor a piece of information that he will use to interrogate a suspect. The purpose of the interrogation is to find the next bombing target. Based on the data chunks you have, you can either have the advisor ask about a specific government building or a shopping mall as the next potential target. However, you cannot have him ask about both because they conflict with one another. Wouldn’t an interrogator want all possible leads even if they conflict? This, however, is just one tiny bump in an otherwise smooth road.
There’s not much to talk about when it comes to the graphics because, like with gameplay, they are simple. While playing, it will feel like you are on an actual database. As shown off to the side, what you see on screen is basically a dashboard specific to the Orwell system. It looks, feels and operates just like a web browser with the exception that you cannot input specific URLs.
This web browser display makes Orwell extremely immersive. While you play, it feels like you are actually investigating and combing through personal files and documents. The developers went with using geometric shapes as the art style to create faces, logos and photos. Whether it was done as part of the art style or to save money on using models, I’m not really sure. Nonetheless, it’s an interesting concept and it looks extremely well done.
Replay Value & Final Thoughts
With its multitude of twists and turns in the story, Orwell’s replay value is high. However, I can see how the simplicity of this point and click style game can be repetitive. Personally, I want to give this game another playthrough to switch things up a bit.
There were many moments where I felt so immersed that I actually felt like I was working with a legitimate scenario. Specific parts (that will not be named because of spoilers) had my heart rate jump up while other times I found myself fully engaged in the “research.”
Orwell is a fun and short title. You can play it and complete it within an afternoon and still have free time after it is done. That is unless you really want to get in depth, then it could easily consume a weekend.
Surprise Attack Games
Windows, Mac OS X, SteamOS + Linux
Orwell is a simple yet engaging game with a rich story.