South Africa. The ’80s, but not quite as we remember them. In the sky soars the Penrose, an amorphous structure, the twisted, the access to which is protected by the military. His appearance, that thinking about the contemporary cinema reminiscent of the wheels of the huge spaceships of Arrival, has caused serious incidents around the globe.

There is something that is not right and Mark Leslie has decided to convince his brother, father – war veteran – to fly on the surface is geometrically impossible, absurd, and ever-changing unidentified flying object. Obviously, from this moment on everything will change.

Beautiful Desolation is a graphic adventure that begins in the heart of the mystery. The interface refers strongly to the Fallout classics and prefigures a journey into the realms of post-apocalyptic, desert, hostile. Those who have played Stasis, the debut of the team of The Brotherhood, should not fear a drift towards the role-playing game. Despite the isometric view, Beautiful Desolation is point and click in all and for all.

You will find objects to combine, puzzles, dialogues with multiple choices, some mini-game. Also some problem due to a formula not really updated, including the inevitable backtracking, which we will discuss later. But they are problems that disappear of the face of the graphic impact of the scenarios that have jungles, beaches, towering monoliths, civilization, aesthetic, tribal-punk and afrofuturism from the hip.

Compared to their predecessors (Stasis and Cayne), to change is not the formula but the setting, no more horror and claustrophobic. You will find an immensity of wild, where to wander, getting lost in valleys and tunnels arzigogolati. All that is bizarre: the bones of giants, creatures, gargantuan, stone statues, abandoned against the mountains, a singularity in space-time, the entity of robotic intelligence irreparably damaged, the men and women who have sacrificed their flesh to achieve immortality, the courageous who live close to the climatic conditions and deadly thanks to technology and chi più ne ha più ne metta. Here, in a nutshell: sci-fi pure, dystopian, alienating and horrific because it’s really far away from the formula more visual notes and tried and tested.

Beautiful Desolation

  • Developer: The Brotherhood
  • Publisher: The Brotherhood
  • Version covered: PC
  • Availability: From 26 February 2020 on Windows PC (Steam and GOG).

The Brotherhood, more than a team, it’s a duo. The brothers Bischoff, Christopher as an artist, and Nicolas, as a programmer, have reached the videogame market thanks to Kickstarter. It is interesting to note that the plot, beyond the wonder, of the unknown around the corner and the majesty of the environments, focuses on relationship between two brothers, the bond that will connect with an automaton and on the choices that will affect the world that surrounds them. Our Mark can be affectionate or cynical, and something of our journey will change.

The writing is not virtuosic but a clean, honest and, above all, worthy of the best works of science fiction. There are times, for anxiety and strangeness, that make you think of Harlan Ellison I Have no Mouth, and I Must Scream), to the famous Hyperion by Dan Simmons and a few pages of the Miéville. In other words, expect any type of meeting, body horror, anguish, but also so much variety, so much worldbuilding and so much beauty.

1Exploring is a pleasure for the eyes and the senses. In addition to finding the interactive elements, the Mark will be able to observe the quirks of the various civilizations that you will encounter, and record them in his notebook.

The soundtrack, at times the synth, is Mick Gordon (DOOM; Wolfenstein: The New Order; Killer Instinct). Is appropriate and never intrusive, although not really memorable. The dialogues of the characters, fools and visionaries, that we will meet along the adventure, they are all dubbed: talk while a GIF will move on the screen even if sometimes the timing is not always precise, it will be evident the moment in which it will start its cycle. And, behold, one of the first defects of the title for mole and ambition collide with his recurring problems.

On the graphic side we see scenarios simply beautiful, to explore with awe and, at times, built thanks to the technique of photogrammetry, collide with the 3D models of the characters are often confused, in some cases just detailed, and wide-open. We see, in short, a fantasy stunning fettered by technical limitations that, by force of things, such a small team meets on her journey. Also in this case, the defect is reduced: every place is full of life, that are drones, pets, NPC’s in motion, fireflies, and other atmospheric effects.

In terms of gameplay, the classic formula of point and Click has its typical problems of darkness, exacerbated by the techno-babble (that is, from a technological new and sometimes incomprehensible) of the setting. Without total attention, patience, intuition, it is easy to wander for more time in huge scenes that maybe hide only a secondary object, disconnected from any type of quest.

2The turn-based combat is limited to a specific section of the game. The two teams will face off until the exhaustion of the troops, lining up three pawns for a time.

Sometimes the concentric waves of green indicate the presence of a key object, many other times, however, this object does not appear: it is deliberately invisible, it turns out just walking across next. This results, unbelievable but true, moments hunting the pixels, a problem that the graphic adventures should have fixed it by decades.

The puzzles are not particularly complex, and fortunately they are all well motivated by the presence of passwords and computer systems, anything that requires to read the mind of the designer. On the contrary, the dialogues appear only when they serve to bring forward a few quests, and this makes the clues are distributed with the eyedropper. How to frame activities, it is possible to play craps witnessing the fights between xeno-insects.

There is a mini-game in turn-based combat is fairly demanding: each pawn has three types of attack that may be used depending on the skill points collected round after round. Are fighting three against three, until the last character in the team. In view of the potential evolution of the Brotherhood, it is interesting to see these attempts to probe the gameplay from the RPG. The developers were careful not to make it mandatory, just for the respect of their core target: in fact, the players of graphic adventures.

3The air travel shows beautiful scenery of South Africa, realized thanks to the photogrammetry.

Narratively, however, is to praise the variety of location and the freedom with which it is possible to pursue the one or the other plot-line. No shortage of alternative routes and optional. The longevity of the title amounted to about fifteen hours, of continuous enchantment and non-stop suspense, that because of the structure of the game non-linear and can even double and triple.

Every important decision is accompanied by a cutscene full of details. In phases of exploration on foot alternate sections to the edge of a half-plane, from which to observe from above the points where we will land. The climax may not convince, paradoxically, it is too quick, but the journey will amply justifies.

In conclusion, we are facing one of the graphic adventures, the most fascinating, original, and aesthetically appealing in recent years. Something very different from Stasis, for the vastness and airiness, but at the same time very faithful to the property.

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4The dialogues with NPCS will shape the character of Mark and its relationship with the supporting characters.

Unfortunately, despite its undeniable beauty, the game is dragged down by the gameplay which makes it difficult to recommend outside of the niche of fans.

Beautiful Desolation is recommended, without any doubt, to lovers of graphic adventures, and devourers of fiction. This game is made for them. All others, before deciding to give an eye to the already mentioned Stasis: it is an experience much more focused and all.