The game where everyone dies.
From the moment Vidar, an indie RPG from developer Dean Razavi, booted up, I could tell I was about to experience something special. Unique is too simple of a term to use when describing what Vidar could be. Innovation takes the many forms, and Vidar certainly is one. Self-described as the game where everyone dies, Vidar tosses you, the Stranger, into the wintry town of Vidar shortly after an accident left you unconscious. After regaining consciousness, you set off on a subtle adventure of puzzle solving and tragedy.
Presently in its alpha stage on Steam, Vidar plays like your classic, old school RPG from a bygone era – an era of RPG gems and nostalgia. Hoping to capture the essence and beauty of RPGs of old, Vidar crafts an eerie world accompanied by serene piano compositions in the vein of I am Setsuna. Shortly after its dreary opening, you learn the dark secret of Vidar: each member of the village is marked for death, and each night, an entity known as the Beast kills one villager. According to the town, there is no hope remaining.
Vidar spends a good majority of its gameplay presenting the player with various puzzles to overcome. Each time you boot up a run-through, Vidar randomly generates its puzzles, thus creating a fresh experience with each new game. Ranging from simple to mind-bending, the puzzles I’ve faced so far have yet to completely stump me – but there have been plenty to cause me grief. And this is good – Vidar was built as an RPG puzzler; without solid puzzles, the game would fail. To this point, however, Vidar and its puzzles remain successful.
The second aspect that Vidar has built its foundation upon is within its narrative. Since the game is randomly generated each playthrough, each game runs around a fairly unique narrative (while the overall premise is the same, different characters may meet different fates in different orders, thus creating ripples in the narrative timeline. It appears that approximately 24 characters exist with one character set to die each night.
With that said, the narrative of Vidar can change on any given playthrough. For example, if, say, the blacksmith is the first character to die, then those directly related to that character would experience different story arcs depending on who was left. Conversely, if the blacksmith’s apprentice were to perish first, then the blacksmith and others would thus be set with a different narrative. With such a clever and unique approach, it should take players a number of new stories to even have a chance at repeating story elements based on deaths. Why? Because life is unpredictable and unfair. Why do stories change based on the order of deaths? Because we, as humans, approach the matter differently – perhaps with apathy, remorse, cheer, etc. This is something that I have found both intriguing and inspiring in equal measures. The result: a beautiful mixture of tragedy and the study of human behaviors.
My biggest concerns for Vidar involve its gameplay. Remember, Vidar is still in its Alpha phase, meaning much of these issues may be resolved before launch. Until that time, Vidar is filled with clunky character control that often led me off cliffs. For those of you interested in Vidar and aren’t aware, Mr. Razavi built his RPG via RPG Maker VX Ace – which is pretty cool. Unfortunately, it appears that crisp character control is lacking from RPG Maker, so I hope that it is a fixable issue. Still, this particular aspect isn’t a game killer, and you should definitely take Vidar out for a test spin.
With all of this said, I highly recommend at least trying Vidar. If you’re a fan of RPGs, puzzlers, or RPG puzzlers, Vidar may fill a void you didn’t know existed. The sprites and art are unique from RPG Maker, and the soundtrack is worth your time alone. With puzzles that don’t hold your hand and little direction on where to go next, Vidar is not for the faint of heart. Be aware of the few issues I noted earlier in the preview because they are problematic, but they should not detract from the overall experience. Get to the bottom of Vidar’s secrets and stop the Beast from slaying another villager – if you have the smarts to do so.
Set to release in 2017 and green lit on Steam, more information on Vidar can be found on its website. Check out our interview with Dean Razavi soon, and read our review once the game is released.