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:
Overall:
Mostly Positive (742 reviews) - 77% of the 742 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
Customer reviews
Customer Review system updated! Learn more
Overall:
Mostly Positive (742 reviews)
Recently Posted
scottdharris85
0.9 hrs
Posted: August 27
I'm a pompous, arrogant, intellectual. I thought this game would be right up my alley. Boring.
Helpful? Yes No Funny
ccphil
17.6 hrs
Posted: August 16
idk how the hell you stumbled upon this game; i didnt even know it was in my library tbh. its good though. forgettable, yes. but very enriching
Helpful? Yes No Funny
kelseyr713
2.1 hrs
Posted: August 14
I really loved The Novelist. The choices are difficult, and it can seem like it's going to be impossible to please everyone. I managed to get a wonderful ending on my first playthrough. The VO is well-done, and the music is lovely. I was completely invested during the two hours it took to complete my first playthrough. There's a lot of opportunity here for replay as well. Extremely moving and emotional experience. I can see myself coming back to this quite a bit.
Helpful? Yes No Funny
GotSka81
3.0 hrs
Posted: August 4
This game forces you to make decisions you don't want to make. It will consistently make you questions those decisions and leave you feeling uncomfortable. As a result, though, my investment in the game and the characters therein was multiplied exponentially. After only a short time (I completed the game in roughly 2 hours on "Stealth Mode") I really cared about the characters and their well-being. As a soon-to-be father I also found that the subject matter hits a little close to home, so that probably played a factor in my emotional investment. I recommend this game and applaud the dev for his creative work.
Helpful? Yes No Funny
The Red King
2.8 hrs
Posted: August 4
Excellent game. Very moving with a great soundtrack.
Can be harrowing and exteremely personal in the best possible way.
Helpful? Yes No Funny
Icarus
2.7 hrs
Posted: July 23
The Kaplan family has temporarily moved to new house, led there by the husband and author, Dan Kaplan, who is suffering from writer's block. But it just so happens that the house is haunted by a spirit. But not the "built on an indian burial ground" kind of spirit. This is not a Stephen King video game (a.k.a. Alan Wake). Instead, it's more the "greek muse" kind of spirit. Which is a nice change actually.

In The Novelist, you play this spirit, flitting from light bulb to light bulb, reading minds and searching memories to discover everyone's desires influence the decisions of Dan towards the best possible outcome. This game is about balance. Balancing Dan's writing career with the individual needs of his family while still maintaining strong family bonds. While I only played it through once, I got the strong feeling that there's definitely better choices and compromises to make. You can form a limited idea of what the outcome from Dan's actions will be and how you influence Dan probably depends on what you prioritise. Do you prioritise Dan's book being a best-seller? Or prioritise Dan's wife breaking to the local art scene? Or do you help the son make friends at school?

The Novelist is simple, in looks and execution. There are only three characters and you never see yourself (or even if you have a material form). I did feel that there could have been a bit more effort put towards the character models, especially the faces, in order to feel a bit more empathy towards them. But, thanks to some decent voice acting and good writing, I don't feel that the characters are as robotic as they look. It's a simple, short play through, with limited, yet solid re-playability. I'm not sure if it's worth $15 US, but definitely worth a play.
Helpful? Yes No Funny
DarnMan
1.6 hrs
Posted: July 17
A moral choice management sim presented unnecessarily as a first person perspective game.

The moral choice is stretched over several days and ultimately takes the form of helping one of three people. Irritatingly (and unrealistically) the choice is zero-sum, meaning that whenever you choose to benefit one of the three you simultaneously harm the other two. Because of its zero-sum nature, you cannot 'win' this game - there is no way to play it so as to achieve a 'better than expected' result - you can only choose how you want to distribute the benefit/harm.

The choice takes the graded form of 'Help this person the most' (+1) vs. 'Help them a little' (+0) vs. 'Harm them' (-1), meaning that in a sense it is possible to reduce an entire playthrough to an (implied) balance sheet. You get a bit sick of navigating the environment and interacting with everything only to find that there is no strategy to the game and you're just as well picking a random character when deciding who to benefit/harm.
Helpful? Yes No Funny
Bright
1.7 hrs
Posted: July 10
Bores me to tears.
Helpful? Yes No Funny
Conor
3.0 hrs
Posted: July 9
Everyone can't be happy 7/10
This game has slow gameplay, but is still satisfying to play. I know not everyone will be into it, but keep reading if the following interests you, and you should know, this game faces realistic problems, and the game's adjectives present a very depressive situtation. You play as a spirit that lives in a house, where a family of three decide to spend their summer. These family members contrast in what they want, and how their summer should be spent. The father Dan wants to finally finish his second novel. The Mother Linda wants her husband to spend more time with her, have a closer family, and to pursue a possible future as an artist, while the son Tommy just wants to enjoy the summer, and isn't fully aware of the family's problems.

As the spirit, you have the ability to observe these characters, read their memories/thoughts, find clues about what they want around the house. Once you discover what they want, you decide at the end of each chapter, who shall get what they want, and then you can follow up by giving a compensation to a second member (Not as good, but better than a depressing event for that character), while the third will get a depressing event. As the spirit, you can whisper to Dan at night, and pass what you decide on to his own thoughts.

There are 12 chapters in the game, followed by an ending decided by the relationships that you've created between the characters, and your final choice. The game becomes more interesting as you feel for the tragedy that each character is going through because of your decisions, and even more so, if you are trying to keep everyone happy, similar to how I did. The problems that the family faced hit pretty close to home, which makes it even more tragic as they repitively face problems, and often feel empty, and disconnected.

Like I said, there isn't a huge amount to gameplay, but if you're interested, I'd recommend trying it. It took me about 3 hours to complete it once, and I don't plan to play again, but there are other changes that can be made to the story. However, I do not feel that is enough personally to create replayability. Price is a bit high, I'd recommend trying this game if you see it to have a decent sale.

Do you wish for the son to have a happy childhood more than Dan's acomplishment in completing a quality novel?
Do you focus on your son's education struggles, or your own problems?
Do you target Dan's drinking problem to help Linda?
Do you wish for Linda to have a real chance at becoming an artist over Dan's career?
Do you wish to destroy the family's already faulty relationship for their careers?
And BTW, I ended up with two of the three characters happy after such a depressing game, so I'm pretty sure that's good.
Helpful? Yes No Funny
McMeme
2.7 hrs
Posted: July 5
ส์ํ์ั์ํ์๋์ํ์ั์ํ์่์ํ์ั์ํ์๋์ํ์ั์ํ์็์ํ์ั์ํ์๋์ํ์ั์ํ์่์ํ์ั์ํ์๋์ํ์ั์ํ์็์ํ์ั์ํ์๋์ํ์ั์ํ์่์ํ์ั์ํ์๋์ํ์ั์ํ์็์ํ์ั์ํ์๋์ํ์ั์ํ์่์ํ์ั์ํ์๋์ํ์ั์ํ์็์ํ์ั์ํ์๋์ํ์ั์ํ์่์ํ์ั์ํ์๋์ํ์ั์ํ์็์ํ์ั์ํ์๋์ํ์ั์ํ์่์ํ์ั์ํ์๋์ํ์ั์ํ์็์ํ์ั์ํ์๋์ํ์ั์ํ์่์ํ์ั์ํ์๋์ํ์ั์ํ์็์ํ์ั์ํ์๋์ํ์ั์ํ์่์ํ์ั์ํ์๋์ํ์ั์ํ์็์ํ์ั์ํ์๋์ํ์ั์ํ์่์ํ์ั์ํ์๋์ํ์ั์ํ์็์ํ์ั์ํ์๋์ํ์ั์ํ์่์ํ์ั์ํ์๋์ํ์ั์ํ์็์ํ์ั์ํ์๋์ํ์ั์ํ์่์ํ์ั์ํ์๋์ํ์ั์ํ์็์ํ์ั์ํ์๋์ํ์ั์ํ์่์ํ์ั์ํ์๋์ํ์ั์ํ์็์ํ์ั์ํ์๋์ํ์ั์ํ์่์ํ์ั์ํ์๋์ํ์ั์ํ์็์ํ์ั์ํ์๋์ํ์ั์ํ์่์ํ์ั์ํ์๋์ํ์ั์ํ์็์ํ์ั์ํ์๋์ํ์ั์ํ์่์ํ์ั์ํ์๋์ํ์ั์ํ์็์ํ์ั์ํ์๋์ํ์ั์ํ์่์ํ์ั์ํ์๋์ํ์ั์ํ์็์ํ์ั์ํ์๋์ํ์ั์ํ์่์ํ์ั์ํ์๋์ํ์ั์ํ์็์ํ์ั์ํ์๋์ํ์ั์ํ์่์ํ์ั์ํ์๋์ํ์ั์ํ์็์ํ์ั์ํ์๋์ํ์ั์ํ์่์ํ์ั์ํ์๋์ํ์ั์ํ์็์ํ์ั์ํ์๋์ํ์ั์ํ์่์ํ์ั์ํ์๋์ํ์ั์ํ์็์ํ์ั์ํ์๋์ํ์ั์ํ์่์ํ์ั์ํ์๋์ํ์ั์ํ์็์ํ์ั์ํ์๋์ํ์ั์ํ์่์ํ์ั์ํ์๋์ํ์ั์ํ์็์ํ์ั์ํ์๋์ํ์ั์ํ์่์ํ์ั์ํ์๋์ํ์ั์ํ์็์ํ์ั์ํ์๋์ํ์ั์ํ์่์ํ์ั์ํ์๋์ํ์ั์ํ์็์ํ์ั์ํ์๋์ํ์ั์ํ์่์ํ์ั์ํ์๋์ํ์ั์ํ์็์ํ์ั์ํ์๋์ํ์ั์ํ์่์ํ์ั์ํ์๋์ํ์ั์ํ์ส์ํ์ั์ํ์๋์ํ์ั์ํ์่์ํ์ั์ํ์๋์ํ์ั์ํ์็์ํ์ั์ํ์๋์ํ์ั์ํ์่์ํ์ั์ํ์๋์ํ์ั์ํ์็์ํ์ั์ํ์๋์ํ์ั์ํ์่์ํ์ั์ํ์๋์ํ์ั์ํ์็์ํ์ั์ํ์๋์ํ์ั์ํ์่์ํ์ั์ํ์๋์ํ์ั์ํ์็์ํ์ั์ํ์๋์ํ์ั์ํ์่์ํ์ั์ํ์๋์ํ์ั์ํ์็์ํ์ั์ํ์๋์ํ์ั์ํ์่์ํ์ั์ํ์๋์ํ์ั์ํ์็์ํ์ั์ํ์๋์ํ์ั์ํ์่์ํ์ั์ํ์๋์ํ์ั์ํ์็์ํ์ั์ํ์๋์ํ์ั์ํ์่์ํ์ั์ํ์๋์ํ์ั์ํ์็์ํ์ั์ํ์๋์ํ์ั์ํ์่์ํ์ั์ํ์๋์ํ์ั์ํ์็์ํ์ั์ํ์๋์ํ์ั์ํ์่์ํ์ั์ํ์๋์ํ์ั์ํ์็์ํ์ั์ํ์๋์ํ์ั์ํ์่์ํ์ั์ํ์๋์ํ์ั์ํ์็์ํ์ั์ํ์๋์ํ์ั์ํ์่์ํ์ั์ํ์๋์ํ์ั์ํ์็์ํ์ั์ํ์๋์ํ์ั์ํ์่์ํ์ั์ํ์๋์ํ์ั์ํ์็์ํ์ั์ํ์๋์ํ์ั์ํ์่์ํ์ั์ํ์๋์ํ์ั์ํ์็์ํ์ั์ํ์๋์ํ์ั์ํ์่์ํ์ั์ํ์๋์ํ์ั์ํ์็์ํ์ั์ํ์๋์ํ์ั์ํ์่์ํ์ั์ํ์๋์ํ์ั์ํ์็์ํ์ั์ํ์๋์ํ์ั์ํ์่์ํ์ั์ํ์๋์ํ์ั์ํ์็์ํ์ั์ํ์๋์ํ์ั์ํ์่์ํ์ั์ํ์๋์ํ์ั์ํ์็์ํ์ั์ํ์๋์ํ์ั์ํ์่์ํ์ั์ํ์๋์ํ์ั์ํ์็์ํ์ั์ํ์๋์ํ์ั์ํ์่์ํ์ั์ํ์๋์ํ์ั์ํ์็์ํ์ั์ํ์๋์ํ์ั์ํ์่์ํ์ั์ํ์๋์ํ์ั์ํ์็์ํ์ั์ํ์๋์ํ์ั์ํ์่์ํ์ั์ํ์๋์ํ์ั์ํ์็์ํ์ั์ํ์๋์ํ์ั์ํ์่์ํ์ั์ํ์๋์ํ์ั์ํ์็์ํ์ั์ํ์๋์ํ์ั์ํ์่์ํ์ั์ํ์๋์ํ์ั์ํ์็์ํ์ั์ํ์๋์ํ์ั์ํ์่์ํ์ั์ํ์๋์ํ์ั์ํ์็์ํ์ั์ํ์๋์ํ์ั์ํ์่์ํ์ั์ํ์๋์ํ์ัส์ํ์ั์ํ์๋์ํ์ั์ํ์่์ํ์ั์ํ์๋์ํ์ั์ํ์็์ํ์ั์ํ์๋์ํ์ั์ํ์่์ํ์ั์ํ์๋์ํ์ั์ํ์็์ํ์ั์ํ์๋์ํ์ั์ํ์่์ํ์ั์ํ์๋์ํ์ั์ํ์็์ํ์ั์ํ์๋์ํ์ั์ํ์่์ํ์ั์ํ์๋์ํ์ั์ํ์็์ํ์ั์ํ์๋์ํ์ั์ํ์่์ํ์ั์ํ์๋์ํ์ั์ํ์็์ํ์ั์ํ์๋์ํ์ั์ํ์่์ํ์ั์ํ์๋์ํ์ั์ํ์็์ํ์ั์ํ์๋์ํ์ั์ํ์่์ํ์ั์ํ์๋์ํ์ั์ํ์็์ํ์ั์ํ์๋์ํ์ั์ํ์่์ํ์ั์ํ์๋์ํ์ั์ํ์็์ํ์ั์ํ์๋์ํ์ั์ํ์่์ํ์ั์ํ์๋์ํ์ั์ํ์็์ํ์ั์ํ์๋์ํ์ั์ํ์่์ํ์ั์ํ์๋์ํ์ั์ํ์็์ํ์ั์ํ์๋์ํ์ั์ํ์่์ํ์ั์ํ์๋์ํ์ั์ํ์็์ํ์ั์ํ์๋์ํ์ั์ํ์่์ํ์ั์ํ์๋์ํ์ั์ํ์็์ํ์ั์ํ์๋์ํ์ั์ํ์่์ํ์ั์ํ์๋์ํ์ั์ํ์็์ํ์ั์ํ์๋์ํ์ั์ํ์่์ํ์ั์ํ์๋์ํ์ั์ํ์็์ํ์ั์ํ์๋์ํ์ั์ํ์่์ํ์ั์ํ์๋์ํ์ั์ํ์็์ํ์ั์ํ์๋์ํ์ั์ํ์่์ํ์ั์ํ์๋์ํ์ั์ํ์็์ํ์ั์ํ์๋์ํ์ั์ํ์่์ํ์ั์ํ์๋์ํ์ั์ํ์็์ํ์ั์ํ์๋์ํ์ั์ํ์่์ํ์ั์ํ์๋์ํ์ั์ํ์็์ํ์ั์ํ์๋์ํ์ั์ํ์่์ํ์ั์ํ์๋์ํ์ั์ํ์็์ํ์ั์ํ์๋์ํ์ั์ํ์่์ํ์ั์ํ์๋์ํ์ั์ํ์็์ํ์ั์ํ์๋์ํ์ั์ํ์่์ํ์ั์ํ์๋์ํ์ั์ํ์็์ํ์ั์ํ์๋์ํ์ั์ํ์่์ํ์ั์ํ์๋์ํ์ั์ํ์็์ํ์ั์ํ์๋์ํ์ั์ํ์่์ํ์ั์ํ์๋์ํ์ั์ํ์็์ํ์ั์ํ์๋์ํ์ั์ํ์่์ํ์ั์ํ์๋์ํ์ั์ํ์็์ํ์ั์ํ์๋์ํ์ั์ํ์่์ํ์ั์ํ์๋์ํ์ั์ํ์็์ํ์ั์ํ์๋์ํ์ั์ํ์่์ํ์ั์ํ์๋์ํ์ั์ํ์
Helpful? Yes No Funny
Most Helpful Reviews  In the past 30 days
1 of 1 people (100%) found this review helpful
Recommended
3.0 hrs on record
Posted: August 4
This game forces you to make decisions you don't want to make. It will consistently make you questions those decisions and leave you feeling uncomfortable. As a result, though, my investment in the game and the characters therein was multiplied exponentially. After only a short time (I completed the game in roughly 2 hours on "Stealth Mode") I really cared about the characters and their well-being. As a soon-to-be father I also found that the subject matter hits a little close to home, so that probably played a factor in my emotional investment. I recommend this game and applaud the dev for his creative work.
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1 of 1 people (100%) found this review helpful
Recommended
2.1 hrs on record
Posted: August 14
I really loved The Novelist. The choices are difficult, and it can seem like it's going to be impossible to please everyone. I managed to get a wonderful ending on my first playthrough. The VO is well-done, and the music is lovely. I was completely invested during the two hours it took to complete my first playthrough. There's a lot of opportunity here for replay as well. Extremely moving and emotional experience. I can see myself coming back to this quite a bit.
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Most Helpful Reviews  Overall
445 of 493 people (90%) found this review helpful
1 person found this review funny
Recommended
2.1 hrs on record
Pre-Release Review
Posted: December 9, 2013
The Novelist is a 'narrative adventure' that is similar in many ways to games like Gone Home and Dear Esther, which is to say that it's not everybody's cup of tea. That being said, if you enjoyed those games or are open to experiencing a mature and realistic story, you might find that you enjoy The Novelist as much as I did. You play as a 'ghost' (for lack of a better word) that observes and influences a family of three (Dan, Linda, and their son Tommy) during a summer spent in the Oregon countryside. The game is sub-divided into 12 chapters, each of which has a central problem such as a family member drinking too much, a death in the family, or a child's difficulties learning. Your task is to explore the thoughts and memories of each family member and determine how they would deal with the outcome in the way most desirable for them. Inevitably this leads to a prioritization of people that results in a lot of uncomfortable trade-offs: Do encourage Dan to spend more time on his novel at the expense of his relationship with his wife and son? Or, do you make the family spend as much time together as possible at the risk of their professional obligations? And, perhaps more importantly, which of these outcomes do you choose consistently?

This is a game that you may only get 2-3 hours of playtime out of, but I valued those 2-3 hours a great deal.
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392 of 515 people (76%) found this review helpful
1 person found this review funny
Not Recommended
1.0 hrs on record
Posted: December 10, 2013
When I first saw this game I was intrigued with idea of being able to interact with and influence the lives of a family. I was expecting something akin to Heavy Rain (minus the murder mystery), with choices presented very naturally through events and conversations within the game. That's not what I got.

The Novelist started off as a quirky game that I believed could offer a few hours of enjoyment. For that first day, I was intrigued with my ability to sneak around the house, observing this family while trying to learn from each family member what they wanted. However, by the end of the first day I found that my interactions with the family were limited to taking one persons side (or maybe finding a compromise). What this game boiled down to was picking up notes, listening to a few snippets of dialogue and then being offered the dreaded choice of A, B, or C (or red, blue, green if you prefer to see it that way). I didn't feel like I was involved with their lives. If they happened to see me, the only penalty was losing the option to choose a compromise. You don't feel as though you have any real role in their lives, except for making that one choice at the end of each day. This is something that gets repetitive very quickly.

Even worse, you don't actually watch the family live their lives, you learn about it through notes. The sole role of the physical characters is to simply be there and provide (optionally) a watered down stealth mechanic. You don't interact with them, you don't learn about them from watching their routine, at most you get not even a sentence from choosing to listen to their thoughts. They may as well not even be there in the game.

I have to say, I was thoroughly disappointed with this game (it hardly has the interaction to be called a game) and could not recommend it.
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84 of 98 people (86%) found this review helpful
Recommended
6.9 hrs on record
Posted: May 20, 2014
This game made me confront the fact that I was slowly destroying my relationship with my partner through neglect. That it was able to speak to me on such a human level is probably the greatest accolade I could give it.
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74 of 85 people (87%) found this review helpful
7 people found this review funny
Not Recommended
2.8 hrs on record
Posted: January 4, 2015
I was briefly torn about whether or not to recommend the game, but after about five minutes of reflection, I can safely say that this game isn't worth buying. Despite having a great concept and being superficially well-made for an indie game, for the brief and predictable story, the asking price is extremely steep. The enticing story-and-gameplay concept is, sadly, completely and utterly wasted. This game could have been made between fifteen and twenty years ago as a college project and would be expected to be distributed for free.

Most of the critique of the game will be about the story, so a bit about the gameplay first. As far as point-and-click adventure games go, this is one of the most simplistic. I've seen -more- simplistic games that I did play, but I can't think of any right now. There are no puzzles, nothing to figure out. You just find all the stuff that glows when you mouse over it, then sneak up behind everyone to see what they're thinking. Playing in stealth mode is a joke, no challenge (even for the minimally competent) whatsoever. The graphics are acceptable for the style (and one might assume, budget). The sound and music are pretty good, but they don't really seem to fit the mood of the game very well. It's sort of like matching up Silent Hill's music and sound with Casper the Friendly Ghost.

The main part of the game is its story, and while I'm not opposed to a cliche setting or starting scenario, sadly the story does not really progress beyond the starting situation. Which is a shame, because the voice acting was pretty good. I played in stealth mode, looked at every interactable object, viewed every memory, unlocked every story option, and was never seen by any of the family members. Finished the game in 2.8 hours, got an ending I would consider 'good', and I have no desire to play it ever again.

Instead of really giving you choices that matter that actually branch out the storyline, the three maladjusted characters are put on a sacrificial altar and the player gets to decide who will get to act all pissy/mopey/whiney this chapter. Some of the 'choices' offered are split between propriety and a non-sequitur option. Not chosing the non-sequitur option has the same level of consequences for the affected character as failing to fulfill social/societal expectations. Additionally, the choices are made for an entire week at a time, but most of the life-altering 'choices' are things that might take anywhere between fifteen minutes and a couple of hours in most of the chapters, or wouldn't be mutually exclusive no matter how you looked at it.

Minor Spoilers: Hilariously, despite being myself in a somewhat similar life position as Dan, I could not find him interesting or identifiable. He's mopey and non-commital, and if I think of Tommy's reading troubles as hereditary, that would explain Dan's writer's block pretty well. I found it so hard not to disparage Linda as a selfish, whiny bellyacher, that I kind of just did. Tommy is a static and boring character, even for a kid. He exists in the story to be the sacrifical lamb whenever you decide talentless Dan should do his job or do apparently incapable Linda's work for her, however more often than he seems neglected, he seems more like a spoiled and undisciplined crybaby with more cognitive deficiencies than poor reading comprehension.

I have problems with the writing for the game, as the game's primary tension is the supposed marital problems between Dan and Linda, which are barely mentioned. The only problems I can see the two having are related to Linda being an implacable whiner who blames Dan for her lack of drive, focus, and ability for most of the game (for perspective, I still got what I would consider the best ending for their relationship). This is made worse by the half-hearted attempts to frame Linda's personality as creative and indepenent using her own words, which make her look hypocritical and even more selfish and listless. While this can be considered a negative personality trait written into the character, I can't help but feel the writer is tacitly implying that women expect their husbands to do everything for them. Personally, I can't stand her the way she is written.

There's never even an insinuation that Dan is writing the book to provide a living for his family, and given that zero of your decisions seem to change which or how the chapters play out, all the more reason for the player to never help him do it unless you think supporting his pride/hubris as a writer is important. The characters certainly never act like the book is at all important to their well-being. That said, Dan's choice is almost always about industriousness, the other two choices are usually about him satisfying the demands of his family, so it would make a lot of sense if you could 'lose' the game by failing to help him write a good book and meet deadlines. Several of the choices -seem- like they would be weighted to give you a better score with both the book and with the family, but that does not actually appear to be the case.

Finally, I did not feel any of the decisions were particularly hard or weighty, and I feel I would not ever have made different decisions at any point in the game. The fully linear chapters and extremely repetative gameplay made my stomach hurt with frustration as I wanted and tried to hurry up and finish. The ending (as with all of the chapter plots) was mundane and predictable. The character outcomes were clearly linked to a hidden score and had no relationship to any of the actual decisions made throughout the storyline.

If I didn't get this game with a bundle, I would be extremely upset about having paid any specific sum of money for the product.

And, there you have it, folks. A review that nearly took longer to write than the game took to finish.

Edit: Clarified the intro paragraph.
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62 of 79 people (78%) found this review helpful
Recommended
3.0 hrs on record
Posted: December 10, 2013
The Novelist is a story driven adventure game that takes place in a summer home. The main character, Dan, takes his family to this place so he can get away from the city and focus on his book. You don't actually play Dan, or any of his family members, you play some sort of ghost, who is trying to influence their lives.

First of all let me adress a small issue. This game is what I would consider "Art". Therefore, there isn't much in terms of the standard definition of gameplay. There are definitely choices, and different endings, but you really aren't doing much. Your watching the story unfold based on your choices. Especially if you play in story mode.

There are 2 different types of modes. Stealth and story. In story mode, the family is unable to detect you, leaving you to be able to discover clues and read their memories with ease. This is what you would want to choose to just focus on the story. Stealth includes a stealth mechanic to the game, you must remain out of site. For the first time, I'd recommend using stealth. It makes it feel more like a game, even though without the mechanic I would still call it a game.

Okay, the story. The story is great, and the choices, unlike other games that claim this, actually count. Your choices will reflect in the ending no matter which exact "ending" you choose. And I do not believe there is a perfect ending. No matter what, someone will end up disapointed one way or another. That's what I love about this game, because that is life. You can't make everyone happy. And when your in an outsider situation, that makes it even harder. The story isn't complex or epic, and it doesn't have to be. It's a simplistic story about a families life and problems. But it feels real, and I love it.

I absolutely love story driven games, and I'm glad I spend 15 bucks on The Novelist. If you enjoy games like The Stanley Parable, Gone Home, and the sort, you will love The Novelist. I surely hope people give this game a chance.

Buy At Full Price
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166 of 248 people (67%) found this review helpful
Recommended
0.2 hrs on record
Pre-Release Review
Posted: December 3, 2013
The Novelist is a very unique and difficult game. It's not difficult mechanically, but rather the decisions you're given are quite often tough to make, a meditation on the sacrifices we make for family, for work, for ourselves.

Instead of simply being presented a wall of text or buttons to click you physically (incorporeally?) explore the home of the family you're influencing. You move among them in a first person view and have to avoid detection if you want to help them in the most effective ways. The movement in itself can be entertaining as you stalk the family and zip from light fixture to light fixture.

The game also has quite a bit of content to explore, especially if you want to (probably out of intense guilt) revisit the family and see how things might have gone differently.
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53 of 67 people (79%) found this review helpful
Not Recommended
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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84 of 119 people (71%) found this review helpful
2 people found this review funny
Not Recommended
3.0 hrs on record
Posted: October 8, 2014
I really wanted to like this game. But I just couldn't. The envrironment is as bland as it gets. The house feels lifeless and boring. The choice in this game is simplistc, and the outcomes are predictable. The stealth mechanic is in the way of what the game is supposed to be; but without it, it becomes even more repetitive and dull. The writing is not bad, which seems like a victory for a videogame, but it feels lacking in characterization. There are hints everywhere of interesting directions the game could have taken, but it manages to avoid all of them. The ending result is a bland, dull and completely unremarkable experience.

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