Back in 1997, one of the most ambitious computer games ever was released. It was a game that had to overcome many technical hurdles during its development, including having to somehow compress 400 gigabytes of data onto just four CDs. The game then had to overcome a series of legal hurdles, remaining unavailable on any digital platform until this past month on GOG. Now, 20 years later, fans finally have the opportunity to play Blade Runner.
Excellent environments and world design. Blade Runner was a technical marvel at the time it was released, particularly with regards to its environments and overall world design. This is something that I feel still carries over to today. Although the game is blurry and pixelated, I was still impressed with the amount of detail put into just about every aspect of the game’s world. Throughout the experience you’ll traverse vibrant city streets teeming with life, alleyways lined with various shops, and even some areas pulled directly from the film. Each of these areas feel unique and make use of a variety of effects to really bring out the game’s aesthetic. From the lighting, to the weather, to the various mocapped NPCs, there’s a lot to take in and the game really does a good job at maintaining that distinct cyberpunk aesthetic, the same one popularized by the original film.
Interesting narrative. Given that this is a point-and-click adventure game, what really carries the experience is the narrative. Despite being given the same name as the film, the game is actually not a direct adaptation. You do not follow the story of Rick Deckard, but instead take on the role of another Blade Runner by the name Ray McCoy. The events that unfold over the course of the game occur at the same time as the events from the film, so its not exactly a prequel or sequel, but rather a spin-off that aims to provide a deeper dive into the Blade Runner world from another character’s perspective.
The game does a really good job at this too, providing players with a multifaceted story to explore. There are a bunch of different endings to go for, characters that change across playthroughs, and even entire story sequences that only occur under specific conditions. It’s a game with a lot of replayability in this regard and, while it does have some problems here (which I’ll get into later), it was a cool story setup and one that really plays well in the Blade Runner universe.
And of course, none of that would matter if the story itself wasn’t good, but that is simply not the case here. The characters are interesting, the mystery elements are well-done, the cutscenes are good considering the time period, and the overall story experience is pretty much on par with the movie, so if you’re already a fan there, then you’ll find a lot to like here.
General lack of direction. As with most point and click adventure games of the time period, Blade Runner suffers from a general lack of direction. I don’t mean this in the story sense, but rather in terms of gameplay. This is the type of game where playing through it without a walkthrough is very difficult, especially because here in Blade Runner, a lot of the event triggers are really random. For example, a character that is supposed to appear in one area will not do so until you completely exit that area and re-enter it. The game provides no indication that you’re supposed to do this so a lot of the time I would just be aimlessly wandering through areas I already explored waiting for some sort of event to trigger. I would be lying if I said I didn’t resort to a walkthrough a couple of times, but had I been using one since the start, I likely could have beaten the game in a fraction of the time.
Very nitpicky gameplay. What makes the lack of direction worse is just how nitpicky Blade Runner‘s gameplay can be. Given that there’s a lot that can change the outcome of the story, Blade Runner is a game built on permanently missable content. It’s a game that will require numerous playthroughs to see everything it has to offer. However, it makes this incredibly difficult on the player in a number of ways. For one, seemingly trivial things can change the course of the story. Didn’t click on that door before talking to the guy next to it? You just lost the opportunity to learn something from that guy. Didn’t click on the dialogue options in a very specific order? You’ve just locked yourself out of talking with that NPC entirely. Didn’t zoom in on that one pixel when investigating a photograph? You’ve just lost a vital piece of evidence.
Again, this is just another reason why playing without a walkthrough can be a bit frustrating. And what makes it even more so is the fact that, in the interest of making each playthrough unique, the game changes some characters and events randomly, completely out of player control. In one playthrough a certain character may be a human, whereas in another that character might be a replicant. It can make the gameplay really frustrating at times, especially if you’re a completionist.
Aesthetically, Blade Runner is brilliant. Along with its narrative, it makes for an excellent companion piece to the film. However, it is full of the gimmicks that plague point-and-click adventures of its time period. From a general lack of direction overall to the very nitpicky gameplay, it can be a frustrating game to play without a walkthrough. Regardless, it is definitely a game I would recommend to fans of the genre, and especially to fans of the original film. It may have its issues, but its strong aesthetic and interesting narrative make for a pretty cool experience overall.
You can buy Blade Runner on GOG here.
I was provided a review copy of the game in order to write this review. Read more about how I do my game reviews here.