05/10/2018

πŸ•΅️‍♀️Review: Lamplight City "Welcome to New Bretagne" πŸ•΅️‍♂️ @GrundislavGames #IndieGame #GameDev @BrittRecluseuk

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Developer: Grundislav Games
System Reviewed: PC (Steam)
Rating: Ice Cool

Following on from my earlier preview of Lamplight City a month ago, whilst I was completely ensconced in its steamy, conversation-driven detective ways, I was concerned if the depth and immersion could be kept up for the full length of the game and it turns out yes, it can. Good.

You are Miles Fordham, a private detective who used to be a maverick cop solving crimes throughout New Bretagne, a fictionalised steampunk Britain full of seedy gin joints, opium dens and of course the super-rich in mansions above it all. At the start of the game, your partner, Bill, dies whist solving a seemingly simple burglary at a flower shop, following this, Miles loses his job on the force and moves into the role of a private detective, getting handed cases by Ms Upton, a friend who still works at the police station.  The twist? He still hears the voice of his dead partner, nattering away incessantly as he tries to circumnavigate his own life, keeping his marriage and mental health together as he solves the various murders and kidnappings that are rife in the city.
The game is beautiful, with smoky, hand-drawn backdrops and three-dimensional (in an emotional sense) characters throughout with a complete focus on detective work,  to the point that there is no inventory in use, items are picked up, noted in the casebook and automatically used when required. I’ve heard rumblings of unease from people who are used to having inventory-based puzzles as the meat and bones of adventure games but I can assure those people that it’s actually quite refreshing to only need to consult a note book and pay attention to conversations as opposed to slowly grinding to a halt and being reduced to try everything in your inventory on everything else in your inventory or, God forbid…everything else in the game.
The real genius in the game comes from the fact that you can solve a case incorrectly and yet the overarching narrative will proceed regardless with as-yet unseen effects taking place in the future. At any point in the game when you think you’ve reached the correct conclusion to the case, you can approach Upton and close the case with what you’ve learned so far. Sometimes, the case doesn’t have an ‘end’ per-se. On two occasions I felt like I’d seen and done everything and was still not 100% convinced which of the suspects it was, it feels quite immersive to question your own dialogue choices, the motivations of those around you and, of course your own judgement and prejudices.
Aside from the sumptuous visuals and mood-setting music, the voice acting is also top-notch. There were a few moments when I recognised the voice actor of one character playing another but only rarely and it’s only a minor gripe. The only other issue that I had was that sometimes I had overlooked a small clue and was unsure how to move forward as I clearly had the evidence and proof I needed, however a piece of scenery needed to be clicked in order to trigger the next sequence but again, this happened on only a couple of occasions during my ten hours with the game.
Lamplight City, along with the recently released Unavowed show that there is a strong pulse in the graphic adventure genre and developers are coming up with ways of refining the gameplay to allow the stories to shine through. I genuinely wanted Miles to work things out with his wife, Addy and the sexual, religious and racial politics of this fictional time resonate in the real world and aren’t shied away from during the course of your investigations. I also felt that the use of the deceased Bill as a not-so silent partner worked not only in an emotional sense as a thrust for Miles but also as a gameplay mechanic.
Summary
As much as I enjoyed the previous Francisco Gonzalez game, Shardlight, Lamplight City feels like the developer has really hit his stride, creating a world in which there is such rich lore to draw from that it almost demands to be revisited and further tales heard from the cobbled streets of New Bretagne. 
If you are a fan of graphic adventure games, this is a no-brainer, you really should play Lamplight City as soon as possible and if you are new to the genre? This is a great place to start.
Right, I’m off to drink some gin.
❄️ RATING: ICE COOL ❄️
Ratings Explained
ICE COOL (Great Game Recommended)
MELTING (Recommended with reservations, one to consider if you are a fan of the genre)
MELTED (Not A Recommended Purchase)