A captain makes his own rules out at sea.
Genre: Point and Click Adventure
Type: Single Player
Release date: February 22, 2017
I have to admit that history is not one of my strong subjects. For the most part, I know the series of events and the main people involved, but not the exact dates of everything. And when most of our questions, both multiple choice and essay, have us pinpoint an exact date it does not go well for me. Despite this, I love period pieces, especially with the amount of research that goes into it and how it shows off that period. It is even more interesting to hear about the possible ways the world would have been if certain events did not play out as they did, chiefly since there is a history book that is dedicated to showcasing it. With Herald: An Interactive Period Drama being alternative history, I just had to play through it.
Today, we go back to an alternative 19th century in the shoes of a young man named Devan Rensburg. The story opens with him in the hands of The Rani, a mysterious woman who apparently saved him from drowning. She directs Devan to recount his story from his journal and explain why he is wearing a Protectorate blue captain coat. This not only paves the way for the story intro, but also the structure of the inner narrative coming from Devan. We do spend most of our time in Devan’s retelling. With the help of the second officer, Aaron Ludlow, we find Devan aboard the merchant ship HLV Herald. Ludlow hand selected him to be on the ship, but Devan wants to leave so that he can track down his parents back on land once the voyage is over. We find Devan aboard the merchant ship HLV Herald, a ship for which he was hand selected by the second officer, Aaron Ludlow. Despite this, Devan desires to leave the ship so that he can track down his parents back on land once the voyage is over.
Since most of Devan’s surroundings are either on the boat or by the ocean, it is not surprising the game focuses on the same characters as players are slowly introduced to the different parts of the boat. Luckily, the characters are strong enough to carry this weight. You get a sense of every character and you know they each have their own pasts. With the available choices for dialogue, you can also sculpt how Devan portrays himself. Is he one for change, does he become concerned or will he help others?
Not only do the characters have depth, but they have great art and voice actors behind them. Each character has a wonderful voice actor and I did not leave dissatisfied by any of the performances. When the characters talk, a 2D drawing of them is put on-screen, leaving the 3D model to do the body movement and not worry about facial expression. The artwork they show is well done as well, with a little animation added to show various expressions, and trust me, some are hilarious.
I do like how they decided to have the conversation choices on the boat. We get the usual wording in The Rani scenes, but we get more of a “I decided to…” on the boat. It’s something little, but it goes in line with him recounting it to The Rani. This also goes into his narration of the various objects you can inspect, with Devan’s narrative feeling more like he talking to The Rani rather than thinking about what he saw. There is undoubtedly no way he can remember everything, but they do balance it out somewhat with Devan’s journal. I can only assume our first tab, mostly used to tell you your objectives, would be more towards a diary deal. With the second tab just being quick notes and backstories on various subjects such as items and people, and the last tab being the map of the HLV Herald. Though, the map is a tad confusing.
A huge issue with games giving you choices is how the game handles them, with Telltale games commonly being brought up in this aspect. With Herald: An Interactive Period Drama, most of the decisions made have immediate, or almost immediate, consequences. Only some choices having a more long term consequence that will come into play in the last two books. And, as of now they do seem like these decisions matter, especially with how the characters will probably react later on. Of course, there are plot points it has to hit no matter what, but you still get some choices around those that do hold some significance. Some even are brought up as little jabs showing that characters will remember what you say.
This also focuses more on telling a story rather than the usual point and click aspect, bringing in more of a relaxed experience. It lets us look at the environment and focus on the characters and story. There is really no challenge, other than finding your way around the boat, and most of your interactions, other than with characters, will be walking through the environments and giving items to various people. The 3D world is somewhat lacking in terms of the character models, but they do try, and succeed, at filling the ship realistically. Also, the game compensates with the soundtrack at the right times. If it was not for the 3D world we walk in, I would say this would be a visual novel.
One of the things I do wish is for the autosave to be brought to attention, as I did not know if the game saved or not till I looked it up. I do totally get why, as your choices seem more set in stone, but I wish it told you that it will autosave at every chapter. I do also wish we got more than three save slots. As a player eventually gets to the last half, there are multiple combinations I can see happening and setting one down makes me reluctant to restart if I have all three slots filled. The replayability is there, but there are only a few save slots to use.
Even though the whole story has not been revealed to us yet, I do think the plot twist we were given at the end of book two happened too early. You can kind of tell by the hints that supported it after you find out, but I think players will want to know more about why Devan is wearing the captain’s coat, how he ended up floating in the ocean, and the other things that happened at the end of book two. With book three and four still to be announced, time will only tell how the reveal is handled and if it still seems too early.
+ Voice acting
+ Well written plot and characters
+/- 3d models can be better
+/- Inspecting using a controller can be annoying as some items are so small one flick can go past the hit box
Herald: An Interactive Period Drama only contains the first two books out of the planned four, but even without this the experience seems like a full one. Everything is smoothly handled and nothing seems like they were trying to pad out the game with meaningless objectives or conversations. I do hope for the rest of the story to be released soon and highly recommend this.