Orwell, was a refreshing, engaging and thought provoking experience for me. Playing Orwell has provided me with somewhat of a palette cleanser a point in time when i have become restless with gaming. Orwell was a well needed break from heavy, demanding and action packed shooters and rpgs that i have become bogged down in lately. But, don’t mistake this for me saying Orwell is a dull experience, as this is not the case. Orwell managed to keep me engaged throughout its shortish story – My first play through took around 5 hours with me taking my time- genuinely making me contemplate my actions and feel remorse for how i could have done things differently.
Employed by the Nation to collect data on their citizens, you are the inspector. The latest surveillance system named Orwell is your tool. Surveillance has been outsourced. The Nation does not do it’s own dirty work. The game starts with CCTV footage, and an explosion. Using your snooper skills- but not really as you aren’t playing just yet- you spot someone who flags up on the system with a criminal record, leaving you with your first lead. You are then thrown into the Orwell user interface in which you’re introduced to how to play the game.
.Fulfilling the role of the inspector is relatively simple at its core. You scour databases , news reports and many other increasingly invasive sources in order to collect “Datachunks”. You upload data to the Orwell system and use it to continue with your investigations. The data chunks that you gather will serve to update your profile for each “target person” you’re investigating The game does a good job of explaining all this relatively quickly then puts you in the drivers seat to harvest information as you see fit.
Split across 5 days, the game takes place in what are essentially episodes. Each episode begins with an overarching goal, and
has a clear conclusion. This made it ideal for short burst sessions for me, as i had a definitive point to end my play session on, unlike other games in which ” One more turn” syndrome can start to kick in.
The Orwell system itself cannot recognize the context of statements you upload. Clear jokes between two people, or sarcasm, can be taken out of context and deemed as fact by the Orwell system.As the inspector you will sift through this and gather information that is accurate and important. Depending on what you upload will then dictate what happens later on. Will you keep to the facts? Or misuse your power to fit the Nations agenda?
Conflicting Data chunks will occasionally raise their heads, whilst you are trawling your increasingly more intrusive data sources. Sources can be used to check conflicting data chunks to see if they are correct. For instance, if one source out dates another. However, it can feel like with some you’re just taking a stab in the dark. Although, i usually found whichever data chunk took more digging around to be correct.
Food for thought?
I particularly enjoyed the commentary contained within the game. Issues explored include, Surveillance ( obviously), privacy , the power of information and abuse of authority. Playing the role of the investigator, allows you to experience and contemplate these questions first hand. It is easy to realize and contemplate how much information can be readily available on oneself through both matters of public record and the likes of social media. This creates a profile of an individual. Whether this is accurate or skewed to fit your agenda is your choice.
Do the ends justify the means? Playing as what is essentially the totalitarian government allows you to see from behind the curtain and contemplate the value of sophisticated surveillance systems, and how abuses of power can be justified in the moment. Should the protection of the Nation take priority over individual freedom? This is what you must decide.
In conclusion, Orwell was a positive experience for me. The commentary and questions presented aren’t
ham-fisted. Simple game play allows you to dive in, but the story means this doesn’t become boring. I would definitely recommend Orwell to anyone who is beginning to become fed up with playing
games and looking for something fresh to reignite that spark that made you love gaming. Orwell is approximately £7 ( $10? i think). At that price i would recommend it, although if you get it on sale – i got it with humble bundle- then all the better!