Publisher: Christopher Bischoff
Developer: Christopher Bischoff
Release Date: 02/26/2020
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I love post-apocalyptic anything. Just the curiosity of wondering what would happen when a man is on the brink of extinction is morbid yet fascinating. Beautiful Desolation takes the isometric point and click of yore and brings it to life with over 40 fully voiced and wonderfully designed characters and a time-warping story. The game starts out with you, Mark Leslie, arguing with his wife about someone whose emotional mess you have to clean up. Suddenly a giant object slams into the ground from the sky and brings about the apocalypse with machines. You are now trying to find a way to figure out what the Penrose, the giant object, is and how to stop it from changing the world. The only issue is that doesn’t go as planned and you are warped an unknown amount of years into the future and must stop factions from fighting and choose between groups of characters.
Choices mostly matter before the ending of the game. There are several groups of characters, some warring with each other, and some just single characters that don’t offer any rewards, and you must decide what happens to them all. You fly around an overhead map in your Buffalo transport and objectives are obtained by talking to characters. Each area is small and linear and there’s usually only one person to talk to in each area. The characters are really well done and the style of the game feels like a mid-90s Fallout with pre-rendered animations in a box and the text appearing below it. The characters look amazing from robots to weird fleshy things to plants and various lifeforms. There’s tons of imagination in this game and even the environments look amazing. However, there’s not much else when it comes to exploring.
When you land in an area you will most likely find things that need to be used or find things that need something to be used with. Sometimes a character might need an item, or they might need you to solve a large issue that decides the fate of their race or faction. The issue here is that objectives are so obtuse and cryptic and you can easily miss an option to solve a large problem. For example, you need to ultimately find three items to restart the array to let you back on the Penrose to go home. One item needed is Red Mercury. There are two ways to obtain this and depending on your choices once will always be cut off. There is also one route that lets you fight a few bosses via a weird arcade game. You need tokens to put combatants in this machine. You need at least three tokens to even bother and that’s never explained. To get these tokens you must choose one of three outcomes for a few factions, or the fourth outcome gives you Red Mercury for the array. I wound up missing two of these and only got two tokens in the game so the item I needed from the final boss for the arcade game to get Red Mercury was cut off.
This long string of outcomes that are hidden is a little unfair. I also accidentally decided a fate without even knowing that option would do that and I wasn’t given a second chance. I decided the fate of two factions early on and wound up doing the opposite because I didn’t realize clicking a certain option would launch that decision and it was too late. There are also some items that need to be bought to progress and you need credits that are exchanged for gold. To acquire gold you need to find them hidden in certain areas by just wandering around. This was also something never explained and for a while, I couldn’t figure out how to get credits. There are also some bogus items that you can waste credits on, so I’m not sure if you can end up not finishing the game because you have found all the gold and don’t have enough credits. There’s only so much gold in the game and there’s not much.
One of my biggest gripes is needing to talk to certain characters before something would advance. Icons on the map flash if there is a new dialog for a character, but that’s if you have already done something to trigger that. It won’t flash for items not discovered or anything like that. I had to use a walkthrough through most of the game because there were times I felt l made progress and the next character would give me zero hints on where to go next. Some objectives I could figure out alone, but 90% needed a walkthrough. Just because the game looks mid-90s doesn’t mean it needs to play like it. It still didn’t stop me from looking forward to the next area and character to talk to as they are so unique and interesting.
Overall, Beautiful Desolation is a well-written and very stylized post-apocalyptic adventure game with lots of nostalgic feelings of the mid-’90s. However, the insane amount of cryptic and obtuse objectives makes the game very frustrating without a guide. I also didn’t like how often you would start feeling like you’re making progress and then get stopped dead at every turn with the only option to wander around every area until you notice something you missed, and as the game progresses that can take forever. You end up unlocking over 50 areas towards the end and going back to them all is insane. I love the voice acting, the art style, and the story itself, but it’s so unfair and stops you dead in your tracks at every turn. Progress is incredibly grindy here and not to mention the major decisions in the game can easily be missed or skipped over.