Free to be Weird is a kind of spotlight/written let’s play of small, free, indie games. When most people think small, free, and indie they probably imagine some YouTube fodder making loud sharp noises and calling itself “horror”. We won’t be talking about those. Free to be Weird is going to be about unique ideas from voices that might otherwise get lost in the internet. I can’t guarantee they’ll be any good, but I can guarantee they’ll be interesting.
(So I should mention that the complete game is not only out and free for download, it has been since 2013. However, the Greenlight page just popped up on July 31 of this year. I don’t get it either, but it’s being presented as a new game. it’s new to me, so that’s how I’ll treat it.)
Moirai is a first person adventure/horror game with five to ten minutes of gameplay, graphics that make Doom look like Bloodborne and a concept built entirely around a single gimmick. I also kind of adore it.
Let’s start with the visuals since this is what might just turn you off or get your nostalgia engines revving right away. There is no denying how primitive it is. It really does look like a Wolfenstein 3d mod. The background trees look like they were (ms)painted on and the faces are just a bunch of pixels. Though that’s not to say that the art direction lacks sophistication. The fact that everyone has to face you at all times(because they’re all just 2d pictures on a 3d plane… like Wolfenstien) adds an effective uncanny valley that ramps up as the faces become gradually more sinister with darker lines and eye holes. The background and music show a surprising sophistication as well. You start in a very brightly colored village with trees endearingly painted on the primary blue skybox like something you’d see in a preschool. The music (which I barely noticed on my first playthrough) was cheerful and rustic. Then the darkness sets in. You go directly to a dark cave that would feel a lot less spooky if not for the aforementioned sunny daycare scene. There it has a subtle spooky acoustic guitar to where your footsteps play the percussion. It also helps that they throw some really creepy stuff your way.
Since there’s no way to talk intelligently about the story (and more importantly, the twist/gimmick) without spoiling it, here’s your obligatory spoiler warning for a free game you can download and beat within ten minutes (I’ll wait). Okay? Okay.
So Moirai begins with with you in a small farming community. The first thing you want to do is talk to the preacher because he’s smack dab in your POV and staring at you like a creeper. It turns out he’s concerned about a local woman, Julia. She lost her husband a year ago, and her son disappeared recently. Now she’s disappeared and the preacher wants you to find her. You check her home and the nearby sheep barn to no avail. Then you see a lumberjack at the mouth of a cave. He asks you to find his brother in the cave and gives you a lantern. You find the brother quickly enough and he tells you about the eerie moaning he keeps hearing. He gives you a knife and asks you to investigate. Being a videogame you totally do this. You can take two detours that lead to some creepy backstory (a skeleton of whom is almost certainly Julia’s son and a room covered in tally marks with a book of the previous players) but eventually you will see a farmer covered in blood wielding a lantern and a knife. You can interrogate him; asking about the knife, the blood, and the strange moans behind him. The farmer’s answers… vary. It’s usually pretty weak and poorly written, coming off kind of defensively. Sometimes what he says is downright nuts. You then decide whether to kill him or let him pass.
Either way if you keep going you’ll find Julia. She’s lying on the floor covered in blood. She asks you to help her… die. She says that her husband left her after he found a gold nugget and presumably hid it in these caves. Her child entered the caves and was never seen again. So she came here to die. You can either kill her or not.
Now for the kicker. As you leave you see another farmer with a knife and a lantern. He asks about the knife, the blood, and the strange moans behind him. You can type in whatever you like as an answer.
You probably figured out the gimmick by now. You just judged a player for making a hard decision that they didn’t have all the info for, and now you are in their shoes. I personally find this brilliant. Maybe one of the smarter ways to do a moral choice. You don’t gain or lose any points; in fact what you choose has no bearing at all on what the farmer does. Just how you look (like a scary man with a knife covered in blood) and what you say in your defense. No morality. Just pure perception.
Maybe the best thing; you can also type in your email address to find out if the next person playing this game kills you or not. Here’s what I got.
As you left the cave you were confronted by a farmer called bay. They asked you three questions.
The first question that was asked was:
Why do you have blood on your overalls?
To which you responded:
I… I dunno.
The second question that was asked was:
Why do you have a knife?
To which you responded:
Why do YOU have a knife?
The third question that was asked was:
I heard moans, what have you done?
To which you responded:
It’s…. not how it looks, okay?
After hearing your answers bay decided to let you pass. This was quite a foolish act considering that you were covered in blood from the killing of the previous farmer, Alkard.
And that draws an end to your involvement in this story. Thank you for playing.
Yes, I come off as a bit of a defensive git but I was roleplaying a guy in a situation that escalated really damn quick. I was also kind of shocked in real life, which is one of the best things I can say about a game, let alone a free one.
PS: If I’ve convinced anybody to play this game, I would love to hear about your experience with it in the comments. I’m sure there are some funny/odd/creepy tales we can get out of this. It’ll be fun!