Sometimes art, can show us that possible paths we, as a society, may take. These paths are usually either Utopian or Dystopian and often have little ambiguity. Of course, these viewpoints aren’t universal, but they often have a clearly defined right and wrong side to them. The great thing is that since it’s art, it isn’t real, and we can about our regular lives after we take every detail of the story in. In Liberated, by Atomic Wolf games, there is some ambiguity in the direction the society took. However, it is overall dystopian and makes you hope we aren’t going down this path.
What Price are You Willing to Pay for Safety?
I don’t want to give away too many of the plot points, but basically Liberated takes place in America after a terrorist attack on a primary school. As a result, the government begins monitoring the citizens of America. America is a surveillance state. Paper currency is removed so that all purchases can be tracked digitally. Spending habits are used to determine if someone is living a healthy lifestyle and their insurance premiums adjusted accordingly. People that make purchases that can be used to harm others are watched like hawks. People that do not post enough happy and friendly pictures on social media platforms are looked down upon. All these things are compiled by a computer algorithm that determines and individual’s CCS (Citizen Credit System). By participating in certain public events, one can increase their CCS. Every aspect of your life is watched in order to ensure safety for everyone else. The CCS is used to determine who may be harmful to society. These individuals are then dealt with. Think of it is a combination of 1984, Minority Report, and the episode of Black Mirror called Nosedive. Throw in some V for Vendetta represented by the group the game is named from and you have the mixture complete. Does it sound like the kind of place you want to live? No? Well, it is a safe society, so does that change your mind?
Artistically, Liberated is one of the most unique games I have played in a long time. It’s a black and white world, set in a series of comic books. The comic book feel is what initially had me interested. It looked cool right away, and I was not disappointed with it’s style. Some of the comic panes contains stories just as if you are reading a comic. Other panes, however, contain action. The combination of the two works so well together. You feel like you are in the comic book and therefore part of the story. The gameplay is simple with some basic platforming, some shooting and some puzzles. The gameplay itself isn’t what sells Liberated though. Rather it is how the pairing of gameplay and story is done flawlessly.
An Interactive Comic Book
Liberated is hand drawn in black and white. The artists and developers didn’t try to get too realistic with it. Instead, they went for a comic book level of realism. Which makes sense, since Liberated is broken down into a few issues of a comic book series. Atomic Wolf games did a fantastic job of making Liberated feel like you are reading and playing a comic book. I played in both handheld mode and on a TV. I recommend playing in handheld mode because it looks better in my opinion. This method isn’t new on telling a narrative, but few prior examples have done it as well as it is done in Liberated.
Everyone Has a Story to Tell
The story that Liberated tells is quite good. There are some tropes that are common in the dystopian big brother genre, but this is a fresh take. For example, the story is told from the point of view of several characters on both sides of the conflict. Generally, stories like these follow the hero that is attempting to bring freedom to everyone. Seeing the narrative from opposing angles is something I really liked about Liberated. In addition, you can make different choices in the chapters which change the story up slightly. This makes for some good replay which is good as the story is somewhat short. That being said, the length of the story isn’t so short that it’s a flash in the pan, but it also doesn’t overstay it’s welcome.
I did encounter some bugs where the game wouldn’t load as I walked from one area to the next. There is a handy ‘Restart Scene’ function though. This feature will return you to the last checkpoint. Checkpoints are frequent so it’s not a major issue. There was also one part where I was shooting two enemies and the shots on the second one sounded as though they didn’t come from the gun I was using but from a sniper instead. The report sounded distant rather than up close while the two shots prior to that sounded normal. I notified Atomic Wolf games of these issues and as of time of publication, they are working to resolve them.
A Difference in Terms
There were some localization issues as well, but they weren’t major. There is a mention of Parliament and government Ministers. These are common terms in Europe where Liberated was developed but the setting is in America though. Again, they weren’t a big deal and didn’t detract from the story. Nonetheless, they are worth noting.
Liberated combines an amazing art style and direction combined with a great story and simple gameplay. If you want a unique experience, you will not want to miss Liberated. The story may not be for everyone though as parts of it may seem to hit close to home with how you may perceive our world is going. For me, Liberated is a great game and I cannot recommend it enough!