Road 96 is a procedurally generated adventure game, developed by DigixArt, focused on a thick narrative set in the fictional country of Petria. The game tells a beautiful and captivating story over the course of multiple episodes where you play a different missing teenager trying to cross the border each time.
The country of Petria is being ruled by a tyrannical government led by their president Tyrak who is responsible for the imprisonment of teenagers who would otherwise be able to vote against him or flee the country before it continues to spiral into anarchy.
Your story takes place as you approach the 10-year anniversary of a tragic incident that happened around the previous election day. You get shown some news footage of the event at the beginning of the game and as you play through the story and interact with the key characters you learn more and more information about what actually took place back in 1986.
Every playthrough of Road 96 is completely unique revolving heavily around the different encounters you could be dealt. Paired with the multiple-choice options you are given at the end of each encounter, this really helps to make the game feel immersive and more genuine. I think this is done well because it means that whenever you decide to hitchhike to try and close that gap to the border, whatever you come across next will be completely random and there is no way of knowing who is going to pick you up. This makes the game feel real and, although you have control over your choices and the direction of the story, the elements that are out of your control ground you as the player and put you in the thick of it with the characters you start to form an attachment to.
The characters you meet along the way are all full of personality and every single one of them is unique, there are even smaller characters that maybe only appear once or twice that still start to build interest into their lives. Over the course of the different episodes, where you play as a new teenager a couple of days later than the last, you meet the characters again. After a couple of these runs, you start to build a bigger picture of the people that you are talking to and you are shown more and more about their lives, their past, and their passions. These characters are shown in a new scenario every time and they are all so different from the other times that you meet them making it impossible to get bored of them.
The interactions with these characters really hit you with emotions from such a small amount of story, the atmosphere around each one is incredible, and the soundtrack completes each encounter perfectly. Although I love what the developers have made here and each scene is packed full of heart and soul, I found myself often craving more from each of the characters during that interaction. It would build up a very emotional moment from nothing very quickly and sit in that moment for another short amount of time before giving you the chance to move on to the next encounter.
This often meant for me that as beautiful as the moment was, it could have been improved by extending the time for each one to make you even more invested in the stories you get from these characters. I understand why this is built this way, the developers wanted to have the experience of each teenager you play as to feel like episodes from a TV show, so it wants to stick to a short runtime of 30 to 50 minutes, and I do still enjoy that theme, each character being a new chapter, a new run, while still contributing to the overall story of this world that DigixArt has made. Sometimes knowing when to move on from a piece of the story to the next isn’t easy to do and because of this, I might be wrong in thinking that some of the interactions could’ve been longer. In fact, it could make it worse to pad out some of the story sections because it could make players lose interest, and the only way to really capture the emotions they want from its audience is to leave you with just enough to want more and make you appreciate each of the moments more.
There are a variety of choices you can make along the way in your journey through Road 96 and key moments in the conversations with other characters allow you to shape how you want your story to go. Some of these decisions impact the story a lot more than others and these choices are outlined in their own way to separate them from the smaller choices that you would make in the conversations, in order to highlight their impact. Moving from each area in the game to the next can be done in a number of different ways such as taking a bus, hitchhiking, or stealing a car.
Overall, Road 96 is an incredible experience I would massively recommend to anyone. The original idea of a procedurally generated narrative is used very well by DigixArt, and the writing of the story makes for an incredibly emotional journey. I hope that my recommendation helps, and you enjoy Road 96 as much as I did.
Road 96 tells a beautiful and captivating story over a series of episodes. Full of emotions and a cast of unique and well written characters, these intertwined stories form an incredible narrative.
- Unique and interesting characters
- Original gameplay loop
- Beautiful artstyle
- Great story writing
- Some small animation glitches
- A few small conversation responses that don't line up
- Forced into seeing each encounter through instead of being able to move on whenever you like
- Too few minigames
Nonlinear gameplay/Quality of choices