Orwell is an indie simulation game by Osmotic Studios. You play as an investigator looking for the mastermind behind the error attacks happening in the game’s nation. You go through the digital lives of suspicious citizens, simultaneously looking through and hacking their private messages via instant message, text, emails, and even calls. With the information you acquire, it’s up to you to choose which information to report to the police.
It’s a choice-driven game, and tackles politics. It seems to be inspired by George Orwell’s novel 1984.
Big Brother has arrived – and it’s you. Investigate the lives of citizens to find those responsible for a series of terror attacks. Information from the internet, personal communications and private files are all accessible to you. But, be warned, the information you supply will have consequences.
Orwell makes the use of an actual interface that seems to break the fourth wall, citing you — the player — as Orwell’s first investigator. You don’t interact with anyone at all, you are only given orders to follow, and people react based on the information you supply, whether it’s on time or too late. On the left, you have the profiles of each person and their respective connections, and everything on the right is where you find data to export and send to the government. It makes use of news sites, blogs, and even a social media website called “Timelines”. The opening sequence was very impressive, I’m hoping to see more of that if there’s any update or if there’s a sequel.
The music really played its part really well. My emotions were up to pace with exactly how the music played out; every time I would be shocked, the music would stop at the exact moment.
Orwell is a program that allows you to “stalk” other citizens. Datachunks you can send out are highlighted, and you have the choice to add that to the Orwell database for the government to see. You are advised to only input relevant information, and depending on what you input, someone can get arrested or even killed. I liked getting different endings and seeing how differently things would have played out. It’s all click and drag, and there’s no difficulty when learning to play.
Some conversations — mostly at the start — felt unnatural for the convenience of the player to find datachunks. But overall, the conversations still felt real (though one part in Episode 5 got cheesy). Since they don’t stop talking as soon as you open the dialogue, it seemed like they happened in real-time, even with a small “typing” period when it’s via instant message.
The downside of choosing to replay this game to see the alternate endings (or to acquire more Steam achievements) is that there’s no skip feature, so it’ll really take a while clicking certain parts of your screen.
The story’s twists are pretty good and none I really saw coming. It’s a game that was really enjoyable, but short. With a game like this, it felt more like you’d have more cases to work on. Though it did execute what it set out to ask: the ever long debate on privacy vs. security. Orwell reminded me how easily accessible information is, especially private information on the web. It’s a story rich kind of game, and you are technically a researcher. If you don’t like reading so much, this game may not be for you.
Rating: 8 / 10
Find out more about Orwell in their website here. Orwell won the 2017 A MAZE.Award for Long Feature, an honorable mention for the 2017 Seamus McNally Grand Prize (Independent Games Festival 2017), and won the 2017 Deutsche Computerspielpreis (German Gaming Awards) Best Serious Game. Try the demo here!