The Old City: Leviathan, developed by PostMod Softworks is a game that is likely to turn some heads this week. Released today, the game features a beautiful visual design and unique approach to storytelling and design. The Old City: Leviathan takes players on a journey into madness. They’ll explore the ruins of an abandoned civilization, which seems to exist primarily in the various buildings and sewer systems of an old water treatment facility, to try to uncover the truth behind a whole bunch of mysterious stuff.
Players should abandon any hope now that the game is going to be the straightforward explore, loot, quest, etc. type of engagement that we’re all accustomed to. No part of The Old City: Leviathan’s story is told in a traditional fashion. Instead, players are left to craft their own narrative by piecing together the visual clues and sneaky symbolism that’s literally everywhere in the maze of tunnels and hallways that make up the facility. Even the unnamed character that players control, which the game openly describes as an untrustworthy narrator with a broken mind, is a mystery. Players will spend most of the game trying to decide whether or not he’s a super philosophical explorer or just some totally insane guy trapped in a water treatment plant.
The important thing to understand about The Old City: Leviathan is that nothing is concretely real, and at no point should anything you’re seeing or reading necessarily be taken as factual. Wandering through the labyrinth of sewers, I found myself not only getting lost, but also returning to find new things in places that I’d already been. Initially I had attributed this phenomenon to my just not being that great of an observer, but as the game wore on, I returned to more and more locations that were just slightly different. By different I of course mean the surprising presence of dead bodies in a deep state of decay, where there were no dead bodies before. I’d just stand there, looking at this blatantly obvious corpse that clearly should have been there before, and question how the hell I’d missed that the first time around.
You see, The Old City: Leviathan does an excellent job at making the player second guess themselves, not to mention their overall sanity. The ominously unsettling sounds, as well as the clearly insane writing riddled on the walls of this abandoned city, keep players in a perpetual state of uneasiness. As the players venture deeper into their surroundings, creepy dream-like states seemingly transport them into different levels of consciousness. Walking down dark and extremely long hallways towards a bright white light, only to be transported to an opulent dining room inhabited by statues, makes for a intensely unsettling experience that really never stops. The Old City: Leviathan is scary in a totally different way than players might be accustomed.
Walking is a key phrase that interested players should take note of, because the gameplay in The Old City: Leviathan mostly consists of walking, stopping to look around, and reading. It’s decidedly not your traditional approach, yet a number of games such as Gone Home and The Vanishing of Ethan Carter have shown that this style of game can be enjoyable and commercially successful. Exploring the richly detailed world around you, deeply analyzing it for hidden context clues, is actually quite engaging. The more that players explore, the more they’ll potentially understand. Taking your time, and not just rushing to the end of each “level” will result in a much more complete experience.
You’ll need to rethink your approach with The Old City: Leviathan if you’ve played games in the past where character’s notes were just added fluff, often replicated level after level, and mostly passed over. Throughout the game, players will uncover journal entries that offer clues to the truth of their situation. Further exploration will uncover a toggleable box that unlocks a new chapter in the game’s 30,000 word novella, a truly complicated and interesting read in itself. The concepts throughout the game and the accompanying book probably aren’t suitable for younger gamers though, but only in the sense that they may not understand what the hell is going on. To be honest though, I’m still not quite sure what the hell is going on in The Old City: Leviathan.
The Old City: Leviathan is not type of game you’re going to watch some glammed-up YouTube star play, as he lets loose slightly forced, high-pitched shrieks of somewhat terror due to some monster chasing him through a dark corridor. It’s doubtful that they’ll get a fury of viewers as they read fans a 30,000 word novella over Twitch.tv, point out the Minotaur’s labyrinth symbolism behind a group of individuals called the Minotaurs that reside within the city’s labyrinth-like walls, or zoom in an a stray bullet casing on the ground and ponder what event took place there. The Old City: Leviathan is a game for educated gamers with an open mind and sense for exploration.
Not knowing what is real, despite clear evidence in front of you makes The Old City: Leviathan a quite unique experience. If you’ve ever wished for a type of game that felt more like those fascinating philosophy or fiction books that you read while in school, The Old City: Leviathan is that game. This game blurs that line between book and game so well, that it feels more like you’re playing a story rather than playing a game. It feels somewhat unfortunate that I’m constrained by my own review standards in the sense that I must actually score the game. I feel as if the overall experience is very much dependant on the person, rather than strictly on the game’s design by itself.
In my quest to not reveal too much about the game’s story, I’ll leave you with this tip: take your time, look around, and read everything. If you’re trying to decide what game to play this cold Friday night, warm up a cup of tea, turn off the lights, and be prepared to find out the truth behind The Old City: Leviathan.
|Developer: PostMod Softworks||Publisher: PostMod Softworks||Official Website|
|Version Played: Steam Release Day Build||Steam Achievements: No||Steam Cards: No|
|Buy on Steam|
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The Old City: Leviathan
Summary: The Old City: Leviathan is a truly engaging dive into madness in a quest for truth, depending on what you perceive as real. Players that love exploring , reading, making keen observations should enjoy The Old City: Leviathan.