Sunday, June 5, 2016

The Friday FREE GAME Feature! Ep67: The Way of Life

Play through the same life experiences as a child, adult or elder in this unusual game.

The Way of Life is an exploration walking simulator that lets you experience life from three different viewpoints. It was originally created during the Global Game Jam in 2014 and over the last couple years received updates, crowdfunding and was recently released on Steam after going through Early Access.

After playing all three perspectives in all the free levels for about 2 hours on stream, I found this title difficult to recommend to anyone. 

The perspectives of each level were at best tenuously connected according to topic, and even that's stretching it a bit. For example, the first level seems to be about dreams, but the child has to make a life or death decision involving his parents while the adult decides how to spend a mountain of cash and the old man tries to piece together the order of his family memories. While this added a little more variety than I initially expected, the levels didn't feel nearly as connected as the game's description said it would be. 

The side effect of this variety ended up being a disjointed game both in terms of story and gameplay. About halfway through, the game throws some quick time events (QTEs) at you with no warnings or instructions. Failure during the "grim reaper" level means you begin the level over again, but I found it far more frustrating when I discovered that it didn't matter whether I won, lost or ignored the fight in the alley! This left me confused as to what statement this game was actually trying to make, as it went to great lengths to acknowledge the importance of making decisions only to fail at actually implementing any consequences for doing so. Additionally, this title is chock full of grammatical errors due to poor localization/translation, further weakening the impact of the emotional and intellectual statements it was obviously attempting to produce. I must also note my disappointment of finding invisible walls in a game supposedly encouraging exploration.

I normally let a lot of things slide for games created in a limited time period because they typically go untouched afterwards. The Way of Life has received updates, financial backing and a Steam release in the years following its initial creation, so there's really no excuse for this title's lack of coherency or polish at this point. Considering how cutthroat most people are when it comes to criticizing games, the number of positive reviews for this title on Steam leaves me scratching my head.

I didn't go into this game with high expectations, yet I ended up sadly disappointed anyway. Thus is The Way of Life, I suppose.

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