Blackwood Crossing Preview
If you like narrative games like Gone Home, Firewatch, Journey, or Dear Esther to name a few then chances are pretty good that Blackwood Crossing will hook you by your emotional game playing sensibilities. This is a game about the painful transition from childhood to adulthood. It’s all the more painful because the age gap between two orphaned siblings means one is taking their first adult steps while the younger is not. The tension between Finn and Scarlett is heightened because of their orphan status. All the two have in the world is each other and now Finn feels like Scarlett is betraying him too. Scarlett recognizes this dynamic and feels guilt over the anger and frustration that Finn is experiencing.
In the first chapter preview, Scarlett wakes up to find the two of them on a train heading to a destination unknown. Over the course of the chapter, the train acts like the closet in Narnia and becomes a gateway to another world. The train is populated by people from the children’s lives but the characters are altered in ways which may be a manifestation of expression of their base personalities or Scarlett’s perception of them. It all comes across as very Alice In Wonderland further bolstered by the voice casting of British actors.
“Blackwood Crossing will hook you by your emotional game playing sensibilities.”
Graphically the game looks gorgeous with a bright palette of colors being rendered with the Unity graphics engine. The character and environment designs are storybook stylized adding to the feeling of being part of an active narrative adventure. Being an early preview the were some expected technical glitches with jerky frame rates and a control scheme that came off as funky and finicky. Hopefully, this will be improved as the gameplay is focused on simple puzzle solving and eliciting narrative cues from the other characters.
It must be noted that the game engine is put to exemplary use on character model faces not just for animating a variety of expressions but also proper emoting. This ability to emote is a big boon to game developers of these types of stories. Subsequent chapters will be darker so it will be interesting to see how the more negative emotions of fear will be handled.
Blackwood Crossing comes from the British game developing company – PaperSeven. This is their first adult game and so far what they have put together is impressive. Technology aside it will be their ability to weave a fiction about Finn and Scarlett that forges an emotional connection with the player that will ultimately determine how well the game will fare. Latest word is that PaperSeven is aiming for a Q1 2017 release on the big three platforms – Xbox One, PS4, & PC via Steam.
*** PC code provided by the publisher ***