Elegy for a Dead World offers an incredibly unique gameplay experience. It’s essentially a game about writing. You were part of a group of scientists sent from Earth to explore one of three abandoned worlds. Unfortunately, something went wrong and now you are the only survivor of that group and there is currently no way to send you back home. After contacting mission control, they tell you that your mission still stands; you are to explore each of the three worlds and record what the last thoughts and actions were of each planet’s civilization.
When you load into the game, you are instantly in control of your character who is floating inside some kind of psychedelic, inter-dimensional pocket containing three portals, each going to a different world. It’s your job to venture into the portals and start your writing expedition. When you approach a portal, it’s pretty self explanatory. You press the Enter key to select the portal then you have options. You can start writing, read stories you have already written, view any commendations you may have received or read other player’s stories.
If you select “Start Writing” you will be given nine different writing prompts per world to choose from. One of them is a free form prompt where you can literally write whatever you’d like. Another is a grammar lesson, designed to help English speakers develop better grammar skills. The other seven prompts all vary. They could be of person’s thoughts, a poem, your character’s scientific evaluation of something – the list goes on. Once you pick a prompt, you appear on the world’s surface and walk/fly, stopping at each writing prompt you find. Some prompts may only have 12 entries to discover, others might have 18. When you’re done with every entry you can review your work, edit or revise anything you’d like and even upload your “story” to the Steam Workshop for the whole world to see. It’s pretty cool. The different prompts and their multiple entries keep the game interesting. You use the same prompt over and over and create a different story each time. I enjoyed it immensely.
Text: Ten times, we scoured the records of Byron’s world, but to no avail. We found that _________.
The “Your Stories” option lets you review the stories you have already written for that particular world. When you select one, it’s displayed in a kind of story book format. You only read an entry or two at time then turn the page to read more. There is a small picture, just below the entry, of the writing prompt’s surroundings. That way, whenever you or anyone else reads what you wrote, they’re not just reading about the planet, they’re experiencing it too. Seeing what you and your explorer saw when you wrote that entry. You are also able to edit your stories from this mode and republish them when you’re done.
In the bottom right corner you see that the player has written two out of 10 writing entries available for the prompt they chose.
Commendations are awards or kudos other players can give your story. Since you read other player’s stories online, if you happen to like a particular story or line, you can let that writer by giving them a commendation. Other players can read commendations given from other players as well. They’re sort of like a pat on the back for a job well from your peers.
Choosing the “Read” option opens up a sub-menu where players have the option to read the most popular stories from this planet, read recently written stories from this planet, browse the Steam Network for stories and read stories written by players you are subscribed to. The “Read” option is what really makes Elegy for a Dead World so unique. You’re not just making stuff for you and friends to chuckle at. That is an option however. You are writing stories that can be shared with others via Steam. You can read and commend them on their creative process and they can do the same for you. It is a very refreshing way to play a game. No competition. Just admiration among players.
Text: The Great Artist ________ shaped these lands as a testament to her own world.
Visually, Elegy for a Dead World is beautiful and very meditative. Though just a humble 2D side-scroller, the artwork is one-of-a-kind and awe-inspiring. The game shows you each planet well into the distance so you can see what it is now and imagine what it once was. Each planet has its own unique landscape and theme that is based off certain works from three different British Romance Era poets:
- John Keats – When I Have Fears That I May Cease to Be
- Percy Bysshe Shelley – Ozymandias
- Lord Byron – Darkness
Keat’s World is very natural looking and pink. On the surface you’ll find wide open fields, mountains, wild animals and lots of plant life. There are even GIANT statues holding up something that doesn’t even fit on the screen. Shelley’s World looks very industrial and war-torn. The surface is littered with massive carved stones mysteriously marked with a “T” symbol. Its primary color scheme is filled with reds and yellows and you can see the remnant of broken machines, some still twitching, and abandoned cities in the distance. Finally, in Byron’s World, you appear inside a city of sorts and begin working your way upward, only to find that you were deep underground. The surface of the planet is covered in ice and snow and revolves (awesomely) around a dark sun.
Elegy for a Dead World provides a very meditative and relaxing game experience.
My only real issue with this game (and I have this issue with a lot of early access games) is the lack of tutorial. Elegy for a Dead World literally loads the player into the game with no instruction whatsoever. I had to fly around the pocket-dimension for a bit, find each planet’s portal and then figure out what each of the menu options meant. Granted, it wasn’t that difficult, but I still greatly dislike being thrown into a game with no direction.
If you have a love for the written word or just enjoy reading a good story, Elegy for a Dead World is THE game for you. It’s a very zen and relaxing game. As a writer, I couldn’t get enough of it. This game is a keeper. Pick this one up for yourself or be a dear friend and gift it to any aspiring writer/gamer. Buy it and wrap it with a bow on Steam today.
The Write Stuff
Gameplay - 8/10
Plot - 9/10
Design - 10/10
One of the most creative games I've ever played. There should definitely be more games like this one. Whether you're a writer or not, Elegy for a Dead World can be a fun time for all.