Road 96, Review. Cross The Border In Search Of A Fairer World

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New from DigixArt, creators of 11-11: Memories Retold, puts the player in the shoes of teenagers trying to flee the country.

Petria knocks out. Revolution or elections? Is there something to do or is everything lost? Those are some of the questions posed by the main characters of Road 96, the new work from DigixArt, the studio responsible for 11-11: Untold Memories. At the same time, these questions are asked of the player himself, who is the one who manages the fate of teenagers who try to cross the border of this fictional country. The theme, very much in line with what’s really happening in life (Donald Trump and the Mexican wall), reflect the pain and difficulties of people on the edge of the precipice, cast by author and dictatorship.

Road 96 was designed as a narrative video game, a road trip with certain procedural elements, presented in the order of the various stories. The plot snippets gradually they make the whole photo. Tyrak, president of Petria, rules with an iron fist. He bought the press and knows how to use the police and command forces to carry out his will. Knowing that some are trying to flee the country, he has built a wall on the border. And as a lasting reminder that that order must prevail, the memory of an alleged attack that took place in 1986 does not stop. That day they attributed the attack to the Brigades, a revolutionary group now classified as terrorism, but the is that the whole truth?

At the election gates … democratic?

The context chosen by the developers to set the plot is interesting. The Petria nation stands on the edge of the razor, but with an election scenario on the horizon close. Tyrak is meant for the presidency against Florres, the liberal candidate, but in reality there is nothing involved. Or at least that’s what some of the characters in the game think, who are convinced that the president broke the system to secure victory in any way. Not everyone quits, of course, though the methods are questioned. Does the end justify the resources? Is violence the only way? Can voting change course? These are not easy questions to answer, but they are questions that appear over and over again throughout the adventure.

During eight episodes, we handle different teenagers, characters whose purpose is to reach the border and leave the country. DigixArt chose not to give them a voice, that is, they are silent characters that act based on players’ decisions. Perhaps one of the advantages of Road 96 is that the main characters differ only in their perspective on the future of the country.

Road 96, Review

An dialog options they are generally based on whether he is pro – democracy, Florres’ s candidacy, or whether his approach is more revolutionary and violent. It is also possible to shrug and quit. Because in the end the kids are in control of the player, it’s easy for everyone to look at each other, because after all, we make our way to see things on them. However, there are tensions in the face of some decisions, which can irreversibly change the fate of a character and are integrated in a very natural way in the story.

At the beginning of each chapter, we choose one of these anonymous teenagers, which makes its way to the border little by little. We can go on foot or take a taxi or bus, as long as we have some money. We can hitchhike or steal a car if we find the keys. Interacting with the characters and their stories is as important as serving our health bar. If it runs out, the police will automatically arrest us. Therefore, it needs to be constantly monitored.

How does it work and what is involved in the procedural part of the game?

Eat and relax it helps to regain strength, which is why money is vital for survival too. Without it, it is almost impossible to get food or drink, unless some Petria resident is kind enough to provide us with some of their provisions. As the chapters progress, it is also possible to learn a set of passive skills that allow us, for example, to hack machines or pick up locks. All of these enhancements are unlocked when we help the various characters in Petria’s life.

Road 96, Review

The procedural component is very narrative, because it determines the order in which we find the main characters and not much else. In general, this structure of the story does not generate too many internal inconsistencies, despite the fact that we went to work on some occasion something strange: For example, we talked on the phone with little Alex, a boy who could hack any computer in his hands, the ones that were used back in the mid – nineties. Soon after, we meet him face-to-face, but nothing is mentioned about that conversation. The same thing happened to us with Sonia, a dirty and manipulative journalist, who sometimes reveals her friendlier (rarely, really) side. We misinterpreted him when we told him we were in favor of the protesters, so he kicked us off his limousine. Days later, that circumstance seemed to have been forgotten.

The best thing about Road 96 is getting to know the history of all these characters with whom we interact on the road, in vehicles, at the gas station or even in the middle of a robbery. With each contact, we find out more about what they hide, their secrets and their position on what is happening in the country. Doubt, the pain of the past and the present, becomes the prospects for the future and relationships, which are intertwined.

Road 96, Review

Similarly, the user knows details of a character or some facts involved and that the others are not yet known. These characters shape the general plot, which are participants directly or indirectly in what happens next. With the contrasts, everyone has their motivations, right down to the hilarious criminal duo Stan and Mitch, Petria ‘s brightest criminals. Humor works great for balancing moments of tension, which is not much.

Yoan Fanise, director of Valiant Hearts – who has worked for many years at Ubisoft – has also built an episode that the storytelling always supports. The script is inseparable from the play, however the title goes far beyond talking and interacting with Petria residents. The fun component is intertwined with the gameplay and makes it a point to consider. DigixArt has introduced mini-games that add variety and fit perfectly with the storytelling: from turning cars into a chase to looking at security cameras and trying not to get caught in the middle of the act. Also included are arcade machines and small games that balance an already polished product.

Road 96, Review

Visually, the studio work is very solvent, though we found it problems of tearing at certain moments of the incident. In addition, we noticed that some NPCs do a lot of repetition of their designs (we saw the man with the mustache everywhere).

A ‘road trip’ that experiments with various in-game mechanics

Life is Strange, the saga of Dontnot Entertainment (now in the hands of Nine Deck) used to master music. It was inevitable for us not to think about this saga as we made our way to the border. The soundtrack is chosen, with indie songs always very good, symbolizing the young spirit of the main characters, their emotions, their melancholy and their hopes. Road 96 manages to keep its tone, though it’s hard to keep up with DigixArt. The end may be different depending on the decisions made.

Road 96, Review

PC version Review

CONCLUSION

DigixArt suggests a journey, a way into the unknown that is as fascinating as it is frightening. In this dictatorial country, teenagers flee their own nation and endanger everything to cross the border. On their way, they meet other characters, each with their own stories and relationships. Little by little, the players reveal themselves in and out of the plot, which is closely linked to the small and fascinating stories of the characters in which Petria lives. Road 96 is a political game with a political plot set in a very specific direction. Sometimes the most radical sites seem to be outside of what the developers want you to do with your character. In that sense, because the main characters represent the voice of the player, everyone avoids his own personality, unless the user experiments on different types of approaches. Overall, the plot, its main characters and its most usable elements, along with a great soundtrack and a well – chosen visual style, make for a game with 96.



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