The Novelist: Stealth & Emotion- Review

I’M NOT VERY FOND of stealth games. Metal Gear. Assassin’s Creed. Anything that has to do with sneaking, blending into the shadows, and being unseen in order to kill/assassinate/knockout, just isn’t my thing. Most of the time (I do love me some Dishonored, though). Well, that’s only because I’m terrible at being stealthy, and I’m really impatient. The Novelist is the first game I’ve played that has an element of stealth, but you’re not trying to kill the people you’re observing.

STORY

The Novelist asks one central question: can you achieve your dreams without pushing away the people you love? The game focuses on Dan Kaplan, a novelist struggling to write the most important book of his career while trying to be the best husband and father he can be. The Kaplans have come to a remote coastal home for the summer, unaware that they’re sharing the house with a mysterious ghostly presence: you.

Read the family’s thoughts. Explore their memories. Uncover their desires and intervene in their lives. But stay out of sight; you can’t help the Kaplans if they know there’s a ghost in the house. It’s up to you to decide how Dan’s career and family life will evolve, but choose carefully; there are no easy answers, and every choice has a cost.

Dan’s relationships – to his work, his wife, and his son – react and shift in response to your choices. With a different sequence of events in every playthrough, The Novelist gives life to a unique experience each time you play.

The decisions you make will define the Kaplans’ lives, but they may also tell you something about yourself. –thenovelistgame.com

GAMEPLAY

AS THE SPECTATING SPECTER your goal is to watch and learn about the life of a family, without being seen. Your primary goal is to find clues scattered about, to learn about their inner turmoil. Stealth is the key. As a ghostly entity you have the ability to poses lights, allowing you to zip through the house, unseen. The family can never see you, as long as you stay hidden within the fluorescent bulbs. You can also cause the lights to flicker, in order to distract people, or lead them away from a room that you need to explore.

WHILE HIDDEN you can read their thoughts as they walk by. These thoughts give you clues into their secret dilemma. When reading thoughts, hiding, and stealth no longer yield any more useful clues, it’s time to become visible.

YOU CAN STEP OUT of lights, and allowing you to peruse the house at your leisure. However, the family can see you. If they they happen to glance your way, but you escape into a light, they will become suspicious. But if they happen to see you in all of your corporeal glory, they’ll scream, make a commotion, and will be freaked out. Spooked. I’ll get to that in a bit.

ANYWAYS, WHILE YOU’RE WANDERING the house, you can walk behind any of the family members, and enter their thoughts. You can only delve into their minds when their back is turned. Once inside, you can freely wander the house, without fear of being caught. You can witness memories that ultimately unlock more of their personal thoughts and feelings.

ONCE ENOUGH CLUES to their personal dilemma’s are unlocked, a blue item appears in the house. Each of the three family members has a blue item, which ends the chapter, and allows them to have a happy ending. But you can only have one happy ending, so you need to choose your family member wisely. Will you allow the husband to get over his writer’s block? Or give the mother the night she sorely needs? Or, will you give the son his wish of attention?

GIVING ONE FAMILY MEMBER their choice-ending leaves the other two disappointed. This is where Spooking the family comes into play. If you manage to go through the game unseen, you will have the option of offering the other family members a compromise. While not their ideal ending, this allows them to have a satisfying ending, without being disappointed. However, if you’ve been seen, and a specific family member is Spooked? You won’t be able to offer them a compromise. It’s really sad.

GRAPHICS

THE 3D, cel-shaded, models, are decent. They’re simple, without a lot of detail. Textures are clear from afar, but the closer you get, they become a bit muddy. You can see jagged lines in models, even on the highest setting, and a lot of the finer details on objects are just smears and smudges.

ANIMATIONS ARE VERY minimal, to simple walk cycles, or arm waves, and head turns. During memories, while entering thoughts, or endings, there’s no animation at all. Just posed models and text explaining what is happening. It’s all minimalistic.

THE GOOD

THE STEALTH IS actually really well done. The lamps are placed strategically around the house, allowing you to zip from the first floor, to the second, and into any of the rooms, with hardly a pause in between. The ability to shift in and out of household objects, possess family members, flicker lights, and peruse the house, all while trying not to be seen, is one of the best stealth experiences I’ve had in awhile! It’s really engaging.

IS HAS A GREAT STORY. I felt myself getting emotional as the story unfolds. Especially during the chapter endings, and you decide whether the family members get what they want, or not. It’s often times heartbreaking, and I couldn’t help but project myself into the story, and this little family. I’m a writer, my wife is an artist that loves to paint, and we have a baby girl. This could easily be us.

THE INTERACTIONS WERE one of the greatest parts of the game. Learning about each character, slowly delving into their minds, and getting to know them is an unforgettable experience. You grow, and become very fond of them, and can’t help but wish the best for them. I was upset a lot of the time, especially when my poor sneaking skills caused me to Spook some of them, thus disallowing any closure at the end of the chapter. Once again, utterly heartbreaking.

STORY AND STEALTH ARE a wonderful addition! Especially for me. In Story mode, you can freely search the house without fear of getting caught. It takes the fun away from sneaking but for those that aren’t really into the stealth genre, and just want to experience the amazing story? This is a great feature. Stealth mode is just that. The game as it is meant to be played!

THE BAD

LOADING TIMES are a bit long. I found myself staring at the typewriter loading screen, at the beginning, longer than I thought I’d need to. It isn’t too bad, but I thought it was worth noting, seeing as how I couldn’t find very much wrong with the overall game.

I WISH THERE WAS a run button. While I enjoyed shifting from lamp to lamp, free roaming is always better. You kind of just leisurely wander about, and I kept feeling like I wanted to dash into a room, since jumping through lamps is a bit limiting.

I ALSO WISH there was a bit more animation. I feel like the memories and the chapter endings could have had a bit more visual impact if they had some animation to them. Even just some simple movements, like the family has while they are just wandering or going about their daily activities, could have added a lot.

FINAL THOUGHTS

THE NOVELIST IS A wonderful game. It takes stealth, and allows you to help and nourish, instead of assassinating and killing. The story is heartwarming, and you can’t help but get caught up with the family and their dilemma. It can get very emotional. You’ll find yourself getting drawn into their lives, and wanting to help solve their individual sorrows.

THANKS SO MUCH FOR READING! Please like, subscribe, and all that good social media jazz, and do share this blog post with your friends! As always, I’m J.J. and I will be back next time with another post. You rock! Please take care, God bless. Bye~!

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