How much do you share online? What opinions, links, hashtags do you share on facebook or twitter? Do you ever wonder if a case could be built against you using what you share? A profile curated based off of comments on message boards, dating websites, or personal blogs. Orwell : Ignorance is Strength asks the players to do just that in the name of a dystopian government called “The Nation.” Plagued with conspiracy, terrorist bombings, and insurrection, The Nation is attempting to use this new security monitoring technology called “Orwell.” In Orwell agents can monitor social media traffic, personal correspondence, and even access personal devices to curate profiles and gather information on specific targets. Picking and choosing what information to add to the database, determines how a target is either prosecuted or pardoned by the government/narrative. Today I’m going to be doing a brief review of Orwell : Ignorance is Strength, a game that’s releasing episodically over the next couple weeks… so these impressions will only be based off of the first few episodes of the game.
Once you’re in, it’s pretty easy to pick up the mechanics of this game. As you explore different fake websites and profiles, information snippets are highlighted for you and you can choose to drag and drop them into the profile as you see fit. I’m not sure if this was in the first Orwell game, but there’s an added sense of hesitation with each snippet as it “takes time to load” into the Orwell servers. SO anytime you bring new information in, you can see the ingame clock go ahead an additional 10 minutes. Doing so adds a real sense of urgency and hesitation with each bit of information… for me it had me often wondering if I needed to add a new photo for a profile, or search more deeply for meaty information to upload. Often there is conflicting opinions and you need to pick and choose which you chose to believe is the correct one, OR pull out a snippet that could be out of context. Something someone might say on twitter might be much more inflammatory than what they confide in with a friend. This game does shine with the amount of depth into fake profiles, web pages, etc to explore and choose from…. YET it does expect a ton of reading on the player, and with the snippets becoming highlighted as you go through a web page… it’s very easy to get into the habit of just skimming and looking for the highlights. There are new types of areas that allows the user to “search” but only searching by dragging and dropping info segments, which again could be more interesting if the player was allowed to type into those fields. Sometimes it’s also pretty difficult to know what might prompt the next narrative piece, I’ve often found myself a bit stuck where I’ve reviewed every document I have open to me and yet each of the segments I could “collect” feel unimportant… and in an game where every collection is meant to feel like a decision, it feels sloppy to have moments where I’m just guessing.
At the end of the day Orwell : Ignorance is Strength is more of an interesting puzzle game than a commentary on current events. That being said I still think there’s so much that Orwell is doing right, that I’d love to see translated into other games in the future. I felt so engaged in the investigative aspects of the game, the mechanics of searching social media, etc but I still found myself pretty disconnected from the story overall and the over dramatized acting really took me out of the experience. From a plot perspective I was much more drawn in by games like Mr. Robot, which actually featured much less from a narrative point of than Orwell… yet each piece was so incredibly well written and executed. While this might sound like a pretty negative review for Orwell, it’s more that I just wanted more from the game and had higher expectations of it being the second installment… YET I think it’s something really worth playing and experiencing on your own, as it’s definitely doing things differently than a lot of other stuff out there. Orwell: Ignorance is Strength is out on steam, be sure to check it out as they release their final episodes!
I make games, I play games... and sometimes I have some thoughts about that.