Far From Noise Review
Some people are going to read this review and think I didn’t get it. The problem isn’t that I need more game out of my games or am unable to experience alternate forms of the medium. It’s just not that great at what it’s trying to accomplish and offers nothing else.
Trapped in a car teetering on the edge of a cliff you spend the night talking to a friendly wanderer. The game unfolds in this single scene through quick, simple dialogue choices.
It’s stylish in a flat, minimalist way. The score is quite excellent and the ambient noises are pleasant. If you look at a single screenshot and imagine palate changes, a bit of weather and some animated wildlife you’ve seen the entirety of what the game offers visually. It’s very small.
Which makes everything rest on the writing. It’s decent but should be quite a bit better for an hour of gameplay and $7.99. Both in how interesting each individual sentence is and in overall insight.
Far from Noise is not good enough to be published as a short story. There’s no real branching or choice and consequence. The graphics are pleasant but not engrossing enough in and of themselves and there are no actual game elements.
So in a vacuum is it occasionally interesting and can make you smile and think for a moment the way a fortune cookie would? Sure. The bar should be higher for spending your money or time. There are far better examples in any medium even if your goal is just to relax.
Far from Noise makes no claims about being an RPG but you’re constantly making dialogue choices which makes me feel like I’m supposed to be the person in the car. But it offers very few choices I would make. Most were two or three variations of the exact opposite of how I feel and speak.
Since it’s not a controlled narrative either I could take no pleasure from experiencing another person’s point of view like I can when reading a book. It was me making the choices after all. I was set adrift yet in control. Neither participant nor particularly interested observer.
What pleasure there is comes from your conversation partner – the wanderer who keeps you company through the night. The marketing boasts of a dynamic, naturally flowing conversation but it achieves it by constraining the variety of your choices. It’s what created the sense of detachment.
There are the usual, consequence free CYOA tangents that quickly return to predictable chokepoints. It’s not even subtle, gathering the threads into single dialogue options that read “…” before branching out again.
Your companion is clever and charming. His words should be inspiring and insightful but they’re not particularly deep or tailored to me. That would have been an accomplishment for this sort of game – creating something that’s responsive to a wider set of fears. I replayed to test the branching but there’s nothing special happening behind the scenes.
I hoped the conclusion would bring some magical insight based on my answers that would make the previous hour feel worth it in retrospect. Instead I listened to banal advice given to someone who didn’t feel real in any sense because they were speaking erratically even when I wasn’t controlling them.
When a game chooses to present so little, what is there should be exceptional, especially if some sort of immersion is the goal; I kept staring at a hatchback wondering why you don’t just crawl out the back. At one point you nonsensically attempt to leave through the driver’s door instead.
The reason you’re stuck until morning is an overheated engine. You’re waiting for it to cool so you can drive off. But engines cool down in a few hours and your wheels clearly aren’t touching the ground. It’s contrived, feeling like the result of a brainstorming session on how to setup other ideas the writer was more excited about.
I’d probably note the clumsy story devices in a review for an adventure or action game. In a purely narrative game they’re egregious. You’re experiencing nothing else. At one point a bird flies by and freezes, flapping in place instead of flying off-screen. The characters theorize about its appearance for a few minutes as if they saw it fleetingly instead of hovering near by.
I don’t want to crap all over someone’s cute artistic endeavour but watching the glitchy bird, the easily escapable car while listening to my new friend spout pot-talk level wisdom I feel slightly annoyed. Indie games have reached a level of craft to make this amateurish.
Who is it for?
I guess if some of the central themes strike closer to home or cause an epiphany then this might be a worthwhile experience for some. I’m just not really sure who. Even when the themes circled around issues I struggle with I found it empty. And despite the mechanical nature of some of my complaints, I really did try and sink into the experience for its ambient properties.
It’s too light to be weighty and too expensive for its brevity. Even if it was free I wouldn’t think of sending it to my friends. $7.99 is downright ballsy considering what it’s competing with at that price.
Disclaimer: PC Aficionado was provided with a code for the purpose of this review. All thought and opinions expressed in the review are the writers own and are not influenced by the developer and/or publisher in anyway.
- Great ambient score
- Pleasant, minimalistic visuals
- Charming companion
- Only an hour of gameplay
- Limited choice & consequence
- Erratic, unrealized central character
- Writing not good enough to carry everything else
- Narrow focus and subject that thinks it's more universal than it is
- No other gameplay elements