Where We Remain

I don’t think that the roguelike genre is particularly renowned for its storytelling. This isn’t to say that roguelikes are particularly crappy at this sort of thing, it’s just that designers tend to focus on other things which players usually appreciate more — providing games which are praised for their elegance, balance and depth in terms of rulesets rather than narrative.

Where We Remain has the trappings of a roguelike, but removes emphasis on combat and instead puts almost all of its focus on story. You’re still placed inside a procedurally-generated world full of danger and obstacles and whatnot, but you’ll generally need to avoid (or simply run away from) most problem situations. This is a particularly harrowing concept considering that the game runs in realtime and — in true roguelike fashion — delivers death rather swiftly to clumsy or cocky players.

This general “avoidance” system can be satisfying enough on its own, but it really only serves as a foundation for the game’s more important dynamics: story development. Fresh players are presented with a top-down view of the mysterious island upon which they’re trapped, and they’re given a single goal: find the protagonist’s lover and escape the island. Like any good roguelike, it gets deeper over multiple play sessions: not only do veterans begin to learn more about raw survival and the like, but they also learn far more about the world that these characters populate and gradually understand how it comes to be the way it is.

The game is not without its flaws, and more critical players will be able to point out the perpetuation of some classic gender stereotypes within the arguably all-important narrative, but anybody who gets totally hung up on these issues at the cost of appreciating the game’s more powerful moments will basically be robbing themselves and their audience of a completely enthralling game experience.

Approach this one with a semblance of maturity, an open mind and an enthusiasm for the marriage of story and roguelikes, and you’ll end up striking some gaming gold.