Developed by Dejobaan Games and Popcannibal Games
Published by Dejobaan Games
Available on Steam & The Humble Store
Released on December 10th 2014
When I came to start this ramble on Elegy For A Dead World, I felt unsure how to approach it. Whilst many games have been difficult and, in some occasions, downright impossible to ramble on in the same vein as other titles, Elegy is the only game for which there isn’t really either a story, a difficulty, or a gameplay mechanic upon which I can ramble.
Firstly, the premise; you are an astronaut, trapped in something of a portal hub after a catastrophic space ship accident; each portal leading to an abandoned alien planet. These three worlds are supposedly inspired by Keats, Shelley and Byron, three of the most commonly read poets of the British Romantic movement. Once on these worlds, you are able to make your own notes in your own electronic journal about what you see and hear and, depending on the setting you choose can change which, or if any, writing prompts appear.
Of course, it is no small leap to dive straight into full-blown fiction but, with only a thousand characters per journal page, you are encouraged to keep your notations short.
This is, probably, because few people intend to read more than a few sentences per page and that is one of the major issues with this game.
Ostensibly, Elegy For A Dead World could probably be considered something of a social, if not a literary, experiment, and it is somewhat staggering to see how similarly many users interpret the same images – though many will use the writing prompts provided, imagining that they are trapped on an alien world, there is little to no variation in the scenarios they imagine.
If anything, there has been too much set up for such an experiment to work as well as it could do. If the player was, say, dropped into a Minecraftesque world, or another form of sandbox, i.e. DayZ, or even an alternative like Mount & Blade, with little in the way of explanation as to why they are there and the ability to actually create their own stories within the game, then the ability to write might be useful.
Essentially, the trouble with Elegy is that feels too constricted – Sure, you can write whatever you want on the freeform writing selection, but that isn’t really different than just writing without having to spend ten quid on the game itself. Eventually, with more worlds, or some kind of randomly generated world, the game might be amazing enough to stand on its own two feet, but it seems a little sparse at the minute.
Elegy For A Dead World is certainly a different approach to gaming – it judges your success at the game through the community’s reaction to your writing and the only three achievements to be unlocked are when a thousand people say that your writing is good on each of the three worlds.
And, don’t get me wrong, I like Elegy, I’m enjoying my first run-through of the worlds, I’m enjoying something a little different from the rest of my Steam Library, but I can’t help but feel it might be better suited if the ‘gameplay’ is not the main feature, but instead an additional component of another game.
Sure, being able to read other player’s journals and their stories is a cool idea, but when most user’s stories turn out the same as your own, the entire process becomes either: a kind of heightened narcissism, affirmation that you aren’t as creative as you think you are and certainly no more creative than anyone else, or a waste of time which could be spent writing wholly original work.
I would definitely recommend trying it, if only because it is so completely different than any other game I have ever played, and it is certainly one of the most innovative. Besides that, the settings are visually stunning, the first time you play, and the minute details to be found are incredible; until you notice them all. On my very first play through I used the free form writing selection – as I have continued to do – and it got to the point where the game wouldn’t let me add anymore pages in. I don’t know if that was because they were too close together or because I had written 25 pages, but it was annoying that I had to rush the ending into two hundred characters in place of the thousand I desired.
Anyway, be sure to check it out if you’re interesting in new concepts of game design, but unless new worlds are coming, don’t expect it to hold your attention for extensive periods of time.