A Long Journey to an Uncertain End (Demo Impressions)Platforms: PC
Science fiction is a vast and varied genre, and there’s no one right way for it to be done; there are as many ways to create a science fiction story as there are science fiction writers. But there is something that underpins most sci-fi, however, and it’s that for all the spaceships, aliens, time travel, or artificial intelligence, science fiction is a tool for examining what it means to be human.
For this reason, the science fiction that appeals to me most are stories where just as much care is given to creating characters as it is wondrous technologies or planets. We need something to connect to, someone to root for, someone to relate to. This is why it’s also important for media, in general, to be inclusive and diverse; because everyone deserves to see someone who looks like them, acts like them, has similar experiences to them. That’s why I’ve been interested in A Long Journey to an Uncertain End since I first stumbled across the announcement a few months ago. Its promise of a space opera which is character-focused, and will have you travelling across the universe as a sentient ship with a diverse crew that becomes a family had me hooked.
It’s hard to tell how good a game is from a twenty-minute demo, but I can say for certain that it did what it probably intended, which is to make me even more excited to play the full product. The main reason is not that the game mechanics are particularly outstanding, but because that small taste I got of the characters and story were.
In A Long Journey to an Uncertain End you play as a sentient ship. The first moments are intriguing as you respond to vague and disorientating messages as you try to remember who you are. This is a smooth transition into a character creator, where you give your name, pronouns, and can design what you look like as a human. After this, and being asked about your ex, you’re left with a lot of questions about if you were always a ship, and what happened to you.
The main game mechanics are straightforward, revolving around assigning the crew to jobs. Each crew member has different strengths, making them better suited for particular things. Giving the right crew member the right job means you have a higher chance of succeeding and gaining more supplies, which you will need to travel anywhere. It’s all nice and simple to get the hang of, although some of the symbols dotted around the interface could have used more explanation.
Each place you visit has different jobs available, and work well to transition you through the narrative by either progressing the story or giving you insights into the characters. The short segment of the game available in the demo was enough to make me fall in love with each one of them. There’s Aylah the mechanic, an older woman with a robotic arm and a to-the-point attitude. Next is Denny, who uses a hoverchair and is the rouge of the group, a smooth talker and pickpocketer. Then there’s Matias, who on first appearance looks to be the muscle of the group and he is, but he’s also got a big heart and a penchant for the dramatic. The pilot of the ship (that doesn’t actually need a pilot) is Truly; they’re charismatic, a little flirty, and knows the right people to talk to if you want to procure less than legal items. The cook is Zeke, is a young woman with extra robotic limbs who absolutely loves her job, and last but not least is C.O.R.G.I, a holographic dog who helps you out with all things ship related.
You get the chance to interact with each of the crew individually, which lets you find out who they are exactly and gives you snippets of insight into why they’re travelling with you. This elevates them into three-dimensional characters quickly and leaves you wanting to know more about them. When reading dialogue, you get the sense that you don’t even need the character’s pictures there, because each one is written in a unique way. Little touches like their reactions to landing in a certain place also hint at how much love went into creating this crew.
Beyond who the crew are, the fact you are explicitly told each of their pronouns is a simple yet effective way to send a message to the audience about the kind of game it is. In A Long Journey to an Uncertain End, all are welcome, and all identities will be respected. The tension comes not from anyone feeling like they can’t do something because of an aspect of who they are, but because they’re travelling in a sentient ship when sentient ships have been banned for centuries, which is presumably going to lead to that all-important science-fiction question; what does it mean to be a human?
If you’re into deep game mechanics or highly involved management systems this game may not be the one for you, however, if you’re happy with simple mechanics that do the job of serving the game where it really shines, in character and story, then this seems like it’s going to be one to watch. The Kickstarter is now live for you to check out, and you’ll be off on your own adventure with a loveable crew of rebels.
It's hard to tell too much about a story-based game from a small snippet, but the demo created lots of questions and curiosity about what would happen next. Although the game mechanics are simple, the cast of characters are immediately loveable, and a lot of care has gone into creating an inclusive gaming experience.
You can download the demo for A Long Journey to an Uncertain End from today, via their Kickstarter page, and it will also be available on Steam from the 3rd as part of their Steam Game Festival.