Wayward Strand Review
The possibilities and methods to tell innovative stories in video games are almost endless. Some titles allow you to navigate the direction of the narrative whereas others simply provide a premise where you discover the plot in a non-linear manner. Wayward Strand resides in the latter of these. With the freedom to wander the cozy premises at your own pace, is this trip to the airborne hospital one worth taking?
As Casey, a young inquisitive girl, you begrudgingly accompany your mother to work over a long weekend. While you’re not particularly thrilled about the prospect, you attempt to make the most out of the situation. Your job is simple: keep the patients on the airship hospital company. As you do, you will learn all about the eccentric cast and dig deeper into the many narrative threads within.
On the Clock
The world of Wayward Strand is alive. Running on an in-game clock, the characters live and move around the environment to speak to friends or staff. It’s at these points that you can follow characters to learn more about them. These snippets that you naturally discover begin to form a larger narrative that tends to focus on relatable issues. From dealing with a debilitating illness to mental trauma, the patients feel real and make you want to learn about their life. It’s a wonderful system that gives you the ability to explore. As you gather tidbits of information, Casey writes it in her notebook to form these into an article for her school newspaper. The inclusion of this is extremely helpful as you can check these notes to locate new sources and points to investigate.
As this is a real-time story, several events will occur at once. People have motives and wander around to accomplish these which means you need to be active to catch all the gossip. As you’d expect, it’s impossible to see everything in your first trek to the sky and the game is designed with that in mind. Due to this, Wayward Strand encourages multiple playthroughs to get a broader picture of the intersecting stories. While the narrative progresses and continues to build intrigue, the conclusion is a little disappointing. I understand Ghost Pattern’s focus on relationships, however, I think it would have benefited from a more impactful finale.
Tale as Old as Time
Each character’s tale is touching. You will learn about their history through conversations. Stories are subtle and in the realm of reality and due to this, you will quickly become invested. The patients all have unique personalities which make you want to find out more about each of them. Due to this, you will probe anyone you encounter and share information with those you wish. Doing so can progress particular narrative strands so you can fill in the gaps. An overarching story is that the staff are preparing for a major visit. This results in present-day plot points which give an insight into the daily stresses and needless additional pressure that gets placed on nurses and doctors.
Journalism involves a little snooping and this is mandatory in Wayward Strand. While you can just wander around and bump into people, listening at doors and following characters to their destination is where you’ll find some juicy information. So, have a chat at dinner time and drop everything and follow Tannoy announcements to make the most of your time on board.
In terms of gameplay, Wayward Strand has very little, however, your time in the world is memorable due to the characters and your interactions. The voice work is inconsistent. Some are brought to life with brilliant performances that perfectly capture the character, whereas others feel a little flat with stilted delivery.
The picture-esque, postcard-style visuals give the game a lovely, comfortable atmosphere. This is further enhanced by its relaxing soundtrack which makes living in the world a pleasure. There are some issues with the animation. At times, items will float in front of their hands and their movement can be a little awkward. However, this doesn’t detract from life onboard an airship in the 70s.
Wayward Stand tells an intimate story that you discover at your own pace. The non-linear design gives you the freedom to personalize your journey through a long weekend at work with your mother. The in-game clock makes the world feel alive and pushes you to follow story arcs rather than meander. While the conclusion is a little lacklustre and there is an absence of gameplay, this is a wonderful passage through a moment in time.
*** A PlayStation key provided by the publisher ***
- Wonderfully Non-Linear Approach
- Interesting Characters
- Lovely Atmosphere
- Lackluster Conclusion
- Some Buggy Animation
- No Real Gameplay