The Novelist is a completely story-driven adventure in which the player takes on the role of a supernatural being that decides a family’s fate. I’d even go as far as branding it as an interactive story. It was an excellent narrative experience nonetheless.
The gameplay is offered in two different flavors: Stealth and Story. In the stealth mode of the game, you’re challenged to not be spotted by the family throughout the entirety of your playthrough. This is easily done, but there were a few scenarios where I made a few of the characters “suspicious”. Upon the characters catching your appearance again, they become “scared”. Once they’re scared, you’re unable to choose a compromise for that chapter (more on that later). The story mode of the game is for those that just want to experience the story, without the element of stealth playing a role.
Essentially, you’re tasked with finding each character’s own desires through their thoughts and objects they’ve interacted with (drawings, writings, etc.). The majority of the story is told through these writings and drawings. The game is laid out in a series of chapters, covering the events during a summer in the character’s lives. The player is the one that decides what will happen during this summer. At the end of each chapter, you make a decision based on the three family member’s thoughts. You cannot please all three characters, but you can select up to two outcomes, called a “compromise”.
A compromise can only be accomplished if you have learned what each character wants, well, the characters you want to choose an outcome for. Upon selecting an initial outcome, you can then select another one. This is a nice addition and doesn’t make me feel so bad about the terrible choices I made throughout my playthrough. The fact that not everyone can be happy is hard to accept and The Novelist truly shows this. Makes me wonder if it is really that difficult to manage a family. It was painful for me to always put down Tommy’s outcomes, but they were simply not as important as the other outcomes offered, at least, to me.
The Novelist employs a very anguishing story. It’s simply… depressing, the way events played out. It is very difficult to get a great outcome for the family, without at least one member being very dissatisfied (and in my case, two). The game does show how difficult a family can be, but I never realized it could be this degrading, although, the family in this game is placed under a lot more stress than what you’d expect from an average family on summer vacation.
The game’s graphics were great. The style reminded me of Borderlands, but the name of this style escapes me. I believe it’s called “cel-shaded”. The music in the game was also excellent, although I am a sucker for game music, heh. The voice acting was top-notch, very well done. I enjoyed having the writings read to me, but a few of them (the writings from characters that you’re never introduced to) had no voice to them, which was somewhat disappointing, but understandable.
The Novelist was an excellent story, easy to immerse yourself in. I highly recommend it for anyone that plays games for the story, not so much for the gameplay. It truly is a fascinating game, if played by the appropriate player.