As regular readers may know, I’m a big fan of narrative-focused games, sometimes pejoratively referred to as “walking simulators”. Examples of this genre would include games like “Firewatch” and “The Beginner’s Guide”, where the focus is more on being led through the story and less on challenging game mechanics. In fact, many of the games don’t even have traditional game elements like puzzles or over-the-top action. In many of them you just… walk, hence the name. I seem to have found a title that takes this concept and elevate it to a new level: “Where the Water Tastes Like Wine”.
More than anything I find this game intriguing simply because of how different it is. Set in the United States during the depression era, you play as a person who lost a card game with the devil and is now cursed to walk the country listening to people’s stories and spreading them across the land. As the stories spread they slowly get embellished and changed (just as folk lore tends to do in real life) – you could find yourself hearing a story you told someone ages ago only to discover that it’s been completely warped into something new.
The game’s art direction further strengthens this theme of American folk-lore. The visuals are a stunning blend of traditional “hand painted” 2D images bolstered by cel-shaded 3D graphics, which create the feeling that you’re walking through a painting from the 1930’s. The music, as you might imagine, is mostly in the style of that era – lots of blues and and folk singing. Perhaps most striking is the voice talent the studio has managed to snag: names like Melissa Hutchison (Clementine, “The Walking Dead”), Cissy Jones (Delilah, “Firewatch”), and Sting (Do you really need me to explain Sting?) all play characters in the game.
It’s not clear what the end goal of the game is, or if there even is an end goal. What’s more, unlike traditional walking sims “Where the Water Tastes Like Wine” doesn’t focus on a single overarching narrative; instead it invites you to explore the multiple branching stories that each individual character possesses. Also unlike most walking simulators, this game invites you to be an active participant instead of a casual observer – by choosing which stories to share and who to share them to, you’re able to shape how they grow and how they ultimately end up.
Ultimately, this is definitely a game to watch and I plan on trying it myself soon after it releases. I’m not quite sure how it will turn out, but either way I know I’ll have a new story to tell 🙂