In a highly connected modern world, the fear of omnipresent surveillance is becoming a bigger and bigger concern. With the capacity to track our browsing histories, track purchases, listen in on communications and keep tabs on our location, a lot of people worry that their government has too much insight into their daily lives. Capitalising on that feling is Osmotic Studios’ new episodic title Orwell.
Episodes One and Two
Drawing its name from the eponymous author of the novel 1984, Orwell casts YOU in the role of ‘Big Brother’ – as a recently initiated Investigator for The Nation’s intelligence agency. After a terrorist bombing in a public square, your handler tasks you with investigating a suspicious person spotted prior to the incident
Gameplay within Orwell follows a fairly simple loop – you’re given an individual to investigate, with limited clues and resources to learn about them via online news, social media presences as well as email/IM communications. By pulling pieces of information, or datachunks, from these resources, you can expand your profile of that person to find further resources or persons of interest linked to them. You’ll even find conflicting pieces of information that force you to make a decision as to what is the REAL truth.
One social media page may say your person of interest is dating a notorious activist, while a blog post indicates they have broken up. One news report may portray someone as pro-government, while their email history shows a true anarchist at work. Your final call on which truth is relevant will have consequences for the story, making it important to truly vet your facts before choosing a datachunk.
While it may seem overly simple on paper, the loop works to keep you involved with some really great writing. Outside of the critical facts there’s plenty of flavour text to help flesh out the people in Orwell’s narrative, as well as showcasing their changing opinions and personalities over the course of time. The interplay between characters in private and public settings also does a great job at helping you separate the personas people present compared to the actual truths you need to locate while playing.
Over the course of the first two episodes, you’ll quickly find yourself building a complicated web of connections between different people involved in the case, with shades of grey as to who is guilty or innocent based on your limited peephole into their lives. While your mission at the outset is certainly honourable – locating and apprehending a terrorist is definitely not a bad thing to do – it slowly becomes obvious that The Nation’s government may not be as altruistic as you thought. With no choice but to move forwards, it really makes you feel like you’re fighting a biased system to do some actual good.
With a total of five episodes releasing over the coming weeks, Orwell’s story has not yet come to a close. Based on the first two instalments however, I can happily recommend this for anyone that loves to dig into a layered story – or just wants to snoop around in somebody else’s emails.
Orwell was reviewed using a promotional code on PC, as provided by the publisher. We have played episodes one and two of a total of five — as such, this is a review in progress. A final score will be issued once we have reviewed the entire package.
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