Described as a combination of gameplay and narrative elements of Dear Esther, Gone Home, and The Stanley Parable, The Old City: Leviathan is PostMod Softworks' debut game release that is focused entirely on the story. Often described by gamers that don't understand the genre as a walking simulator, it offers a great deal more to those that can appreciate its often subtle wonders. As having reviewed similar games like Dear Esther and Bientôt l'été in the past, I was excited to return to the genre with a game that asks players to focus on the narrative and more importantly, try to understand its premise and world.
The Old City: Leviathan is the first part in a larger story that has the player exploring an abandoned metropolis with scattered clues about its missing civilization. The Old City isn't a game in which everything is explained to the player. Quite the opposite in that players must explore and study the game world to determine its fate and forgotten history. A 30,000-word novella has been recorded to narrate the player's journey as they walk through various city areas and corridors. The narration is nearly always mysterious in its messages forcing the player to determine their relation to the game world. The developer describes The Old City as containing philosophical themes, which aren't seen in many other games.
Players could simply walk through the game without exploring any additional paths or stopping to read diary notes on walls, but they would miss much of the details surrounding what happened to the Old City. Most fascinating was how the game blurred lines between reality and the dream world. The game begins with the message, "You are about to inhabit a broken mind. Not everything you see or hear is trustworthy," which is a perfect summary of the gameplay experience. It's beneficial to explore hidden nooks and crannies of levels to discover Solomon's Notes, which reveal further background on the game's world.
Built on the Unreal engine, the game's visuals produce an atmospheric world that is a joy to explore and gaze upon its amalgamation of classical and modern architecture. The Old City's masterful use of visual elements succeed in making the player guess if what they're seeing is reality or ultimately a dream. The game's sound is also an important part of the equation with haunting musical tracks that perfectly pair with the game's various environments. The narration is also an important aspect of the game's auditory component in that the spoken dialogue often provides subtle hints on where the player walks in the environment. It's up to players to decipher the cryptic messages and what they reveal about the Old City's mysterious past.
The only issue with the game is the primary focus on the narrative ignores some elements of what makes a great story. Much of the gameplay experience requires guessing what the player is supposed to take from a diary page on a wall or spoken line of narration, which results in a game that becomes far too obscure for its own good. While mystery is a great element of narratives, The Old City: Leviathan overuses the element often resulting in confusion over a feeling of satisfaction for trying to discover all the answers. Hopefully the developers will use future installments in the game series to provide more clarification than confusion on the narrative.
While The Old City: Leviathan is not for every gamer, those that appreciate the niche genre are highly recommended to venture forth through the mysterious and enthralling world crafted by developer PostMod Softworks. The Old City: Leviathan is bold for focusing primarily on the narrative, but ultimately benefits greatly when all of the elements come together to produce an adventure that often isn't seem in other games. Adventurers take note, The Old City: Leviathan is a narrative experience that shouldn't be missed.
The Old City: Leviathan is available now for Windows PC on Steam.
* The product in this article was sent to us by the developer/company.
I've been writing for Gaming Nexus since 2011 and focus primarily on PC games and hardware. I'm a strong advocate of independent developers and am always seeking the next genre-breaking and unique game releases. My favorite game genres are strategy, role-playing, and simulation, or any games that feature open worlds and survival elements.View Profile