The Novelist asks one central question: can you achieve your dreams without pushing away the people you love? The game focuses on Dan Kaplan, a novelist struggling to write the most important book of his career while trying to be the best husband and father he can be.
User reviews: Mostly Positive (698 reviews) - 78% of the 698 user reviews for this game are positive.
Release Date: Dec 10, 2013

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Reviews

“The Novelist affected me, deeply and painfully ... I frequently cried at the outcomes of the decisions I made for the Kaplan family.”
Rock Paper Shotgun

“While it arrives on the heels of other notable non-combat, story-based games, it still manages to feel fresh and emotionally resonant. This is thanks to sincere, realistic writing and an inspired approach to player choice, which has you picking sides and making difficult compromises in the context of family conflicts.”
Polygon

“The Novelist is the most personal and beautiful game I have ever experienced. The creator, Kent Hudson, has quite plainly poured his heart and soul into this game, and the outcome is genuinely something to behold. Never before have I felt so emotionally involved in the characters, their situation and potential future, as in this truly player-driven story.”
10 out of 10 – GameGrin

About This Game

The Novelist asks one central question: can you achieve your dreams without pushing away the people you love? The game focuses on Dan Kaplan, a novelist struggling to write the most important book of his career while trying to be the best husband and father he can be. The Kaplans have come to a remote coastal home for the summer, unaware that they’re sharing the house with a mysterious ghostly presence: you.

Read the family’s thoughts. Explore their memories. Uncover their desires and intervene in their lives. But stay out of sight; you can’t help the Kaplans if they know there’s a ghost in the house. It’s up to you to decide how Dan’s career and family life will evolve, but choose carefully; there are no easy answers, and every choice has a cost.

Dan’s relationships – to his work, his wife, and his son – react and shift in response to your choices. With a different sequence of events in every playthrough, The Novelist gives life to a unique experience each time you play.

The decisions you make will define the Kaplans’ lives, but they may also tell you something about yourself.

System Requirements

Windows
Mac OS X
SteamOS + Linux
    Minimum:
    • OS: Windows XP SP2 or higher
    • Processor: 1.8 GHz
    • Memory: 2 GB RAM
    • Graphics: 256 MB VRAM video card
    • Storage: 800 MB available space
    Recommended:
    • OS: Windows 7
    • Processor: 2 GHz
    • Memory: 4 GB RAM
    • Graphics: 512 MB VRAM video card
    Minimum:
    • OS: OS X Lion (10.7) or higher
    • Processor: 1.8 GHz
    • Memory: 2 GB RAM
    • Graphics: 256 MB VRAM video card
    • Storage: 800 MB available space
    Recommended:
    • OS: OS X Mountain Lion (10.8)
    • Processor: 2 GHz
    • Memory: 4 GB RAM
    • Graphics: 512 MB VRAM video card
    Minimum:
    • Processor: 1.8 GHz
    • Memory: 2 GB RAM
    • Graphics: 256 MB VRAM video card
    • Storage: 800 MB available space
    • Additional Notes: Built with Unity 4.3.4, tested in Ubuntu 12.04 and 13.10
    Recommended:
    • Processor: 2 GHz
    • Memory: 4 GB RAM
    • Graphics: 512 MB VRAM video card
Helpful customer reviews
35 of 42 people (83%) found this review helpful
6.3 hrs on record
Posted: January 3
"Human beings are born solitary, but everywhere they are in chains - daisy chains - of interactivity. Social actions are makeshift forms, often courageous, sometimes ridiculous, always strange. And in a way, every social action is a negotiation, a compromise between 'his,' 'her' or 'their' wish and yours." - Andy Warhol

The Novelist is a story driven narrative exploration game that strolls around quite loaded terms like choice, goals, drives, relationships, priorities and compromise. The concept that the game revolves around - influencing social dynamics to observe the result of interrelated choices and their consequences - is an interesting and hard to accomplish one. Sadly its presentation within the game both in definition and execution, is definitely flawed.

Here, we take a quick glance at the Kaplans - a family of three going through a though time. Dan is an author who's stressed out to complete the novel that he's been working on, Linda has some worries about her marriage and family ties - also struggles on going back to being a painter. Tommy, their only son is having some adaptation and learning difficulties who needs his parents' attention and support full time. At the beginning of one summer, the Kaplans decide to pass their vacation in a rental villa by the seaside to have some quality time and possibly work through their problems, a villa that YOU reside in... In this detached little game, you are a ghostly entity - who's presence within the house will never be explained properly. You have the ability to stalk, observe and influence the Kaplans, thus deciding the story of this specific family in the end.

The game has two distinct modes: Stealth or Story. In Stealth Mode, you have to avoid being seen by the Kaplans if you'd like to explore everything. If you are seen, they get nervous and focus on their annoyance rather than their actual problems. You are capable of travelling through possessing light sources within the house while you hide from their perception. This mode quickly gets annoying and breaks the immersion of the storyline that you are trying to reveal quite fast. In Story Mode, you are free to roam as you wish without worrying for them to see you, but even excluding that limitation, everything becomes boring and repetitive. You are stuck within the same house with the same tense mood and you basically memorize the possible locations a note may spawn after the second chapter. They never change or surprise you. It is not possible to miss something. You roam around, read notes, watch some memories, whisper what you decided to Dan while he is sleeping and you are done. Another chapter conquered. You only decide whose need is a priority and see the accumulated conclusions in the end.

In each episode - there are 9 in total - you are presented with a couple of conflicting desires of family members. Everyone got different priorities and you must choose one specific desire to influence and accomplish, and maybe another one to half way accomplish through "compromising" which leaves you with one desire completely ignored. This is where things get a bit ridiculous. These 9 encounters oddly end up defining the whole being and interdynamics of a whole family! The definition of compromise in the dictionary is "a settlement of differences by mutual concessions; an agreement reached by adjustment of conflicting or opposing claims, principles, etc., by reciprocal modification of demands". Here, there is no middle ground between parties, no given opportunity to work on different needs, there is basically no settlement. Even real life doesn't work like this! We surely either act selfish or make sacrifices on things little or grand, but a human being is capable of undertaking more than one deed, feeling or accomplishment in a timely manner.

A human being comes with dimensions - which is another huge flaw in this game. The Kaplans are obscenely selfish - without much appreciation for sacrifices or understanding of shortcoming. Their personal desires never seem to even coincide with the desires of others. It is not possible to sympathize with any one of them. Heck, they even do not talk within the same house hold! You are a ghost, stuck within their household for his/her all being and never see them talk more than a couple of automated remarks and some memories. They seem to communicate through written notes scattered around the house. I mean, what kind of family does that?

I surely do understand the limitation of the developer team, thus I won't mumble much about the scenes, the environment and chapters being dull, stolid or repetitive; but I cannot accept the term "compromise" being misused for "forced priority and selfish desire". No remotely eligible father of a small boy would be so consumed with his ongoing artistic pursuit that he'd end up not putting together a toy car that would take 3 hours to assemble for 3 months! This really is ridiculous! So, I personally think this game comes with a possibly good concept executed without much sentimental or even practical depth. Don't get me wrong, I'm all for narrative exploration. I actually love games like Gone Home if they are capable of presenting the echo of an emotion, an idea or at least a state of being. In its current state and price, The Novelist surely doesn't deliver. Wait for a huge sale to satisfy your curiosity if you wish.

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18 of 26 people (69%) found this review helpful
16 people found this review funny
1.4 hrs on record
Posted: September 23, 2015
Suprisingly badly written for a game about a writer...
Was this review helpful? Yes No Funny
8 of 9 people (89%) found this review helpful
5.5 hrs on record
Posted: September 10, 2015
You play a ghost or some other kind of supernatural force whom lives in a house by the sea and that likes to 'push' or guide people's choices in life. The game revolves around a certain family living in the house for the summer and trying to sort out their issues in life.
Gameplay is simple and consists of moving around the house and hiding in the lights. Only a few controls. You have to collect various evidence and memories in each chapter and learn what each family member desires and try come to the best outcome. Basically you have 3 choices and can only pick 2 at once, and it's about keeping a balance between everyone and keeping everyone happy.
It's a nice little story driven game, and isn't very long. Quite fun, only grab on a cheap sale though. 6.5/10.
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8 of 10 people (80%) found this review helpful
1.7 hrs on record
Posted: December 16, 2015
Life is hard. Working is hard. Having a family is hard.

The Novelist tells the story of The Kaplan family during their summer break. To which through playing the game you can heavily influence the events of that summer.

THE GAMEPLAY
You are some sort of ghost that when not inside a light bulb you are probably slightly more opaque or corporeal than what the traditional notion of a ghost is. You can either play the game having the Kaplans react and cause you to fail upon discovery or just throw it into story mode and become invisible and focus on the objectives. The ladder is what I did.

The game revolves Dan, his wife Linda and their son Tommy. You explore the home WASD'ing around and teleporting between lights. You must find notes, pictures, documents and items laying about the house; additionally being supernatural (I guess) you can delve into the memories of the characters as well and see what they are thinking at any given moment. Each chapter you'll find clues of what each characters desires are and how they want to go about moving forward. You will choose which (by this I mean whose) outcome you want each chapter and possibly working out a compromise with one other character. My only complaint is that this really, more or less, is just a walking simulator; It might have been served better as a text adventure to be honest.

THE GIST
The outcomes will be very different based on who you decide to “resolve” certain situations with, as well as (if any) you compromised with. I'll tell you right now. Granted, I did not try my very best to keep everyone happy however one aspect of one characters life went exceedingly well. While the rest of that characters life among the rest got sorted out in a very mediocre (almost realistic) but very depressing in its delivery sort of way. Perhaps it was due to summarizing future decades into a few paragraphs. Though to be honest, I guarantee there are far worse endings than I got.

Yeah, its one of those sticky indie art games that you've already made a decision if you like or not. However, this is one of the better ones yet its still not stellar. Its interesting.
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5 of 5 people (100%) found this review helpful
2.7 hrs on record
Posted: December 25, 2015
In this game you play as a ghostorsomething who can positively interfere with the everyday life of a family.

Every level you explore the house and the minds of the residents (yes, you have mental superpowers) and decide who to help, being careful to not disappoint the others.

I like the idea and the overall realization, although the character design could have been more complex and engaging. Nothing really dramatic happens, and for most of the cases the individual desires you have to support or not with your actions are somewhat stereotypical and repetitive; basically the child wants to play, the wife wants attention and the husband wants to succeed in his work. At least for me, the choices were not very difficult, in the sense I did not perceive them as very strong moral dilemmas.

In my opinion the game can be tried at a low price; it is an original idea and it constitutes an affordance for some kind of phisolophical reflections on the impact everyday choices have on life. Unfortunately, it does not the same for emotions too.

6/10
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