It's hard for me to mention this title without also talking about the game Anna... so I'm not even going to try avoiding the comparisons. If anything, I'll probably end up using them as a stick to sort of beat this game with and show what it could have been. Both feature a man alone in a house in the woods forlornly trying to piece together the events of their past while their emotional and mental grip on the world gradually spirals out of control with the realisation of the true history that they have somehow forgotten. Both use a minimum of space for a maximum of focus on atmosphere and tension while also instilling the player with a sense of being extremely confined, to mirror the same trapped feeling the characters have, both in their current situation as well as their lives in general. Both also toy with many of the same themes and apparent approach to environmental design and other such aspects. But where they differ greatly is Anna is a fully fledged game complete with puzzles and an in-depth story that plays with the occult and supernatural forces, while Serena is more grounded in reality and has you walking around a single room for an hour examining things and listening to one man's flood of self-pity at the breakdown of a relationship.
I'm all for "games that aren't games", but rather "experiences" that invite you to submerge yourself in a unique world and present you with an interesting story or something pretty to look at, and I think that's just as worthy an endeavour as any other form of interactive entertainment or art, but Serena fails badly on this count. The diminutive cabin is pretty well crafted and at least serves well in creating a bleak and withered feeling to reflect its emotional themes as it tries to draw in the player to inhabit the protagonist's state of mind. But the actual story and its characters never capitalise on that and are ultimately uninteresting and not especially likable. This is partly due to the male lead's voice acting which seems at times out of place and unconvincing (made even more jarring by the much more natural sense of the female voiceover), but also by the writing that feels a little awkward or rushed through at times and just never really ingratiates the player to the subjects of its tale. It doesn't help either that the big story revelation is so annoyingly and artificially withheld until the right point in time when they want you to find it, despite the fact it can be seen coming a mile away.
Without an interesting story or characters to latch onto, all that you're left with is wandering around a small area examining the items, hoping to gain insight into what went wrong so you can progress your character's recall and further re-examine the items with a slighter newer perspective, then repeat. It's a tedious structure that will essentially have you running small laps of the cabin from the start right until the very end and quickly extinguish any initial excitement you had for exploring this new world. And that's really my biggest problem with the game. It's not exactly outright terrible, as the music, look and presentation is generally good and paints a scene of beautiful torment and misery with increasingly oppressive undertones of fear and madness, but all this is squandered by everything else and never really goes anywhere. Had they expanded it to several areas and spread the story out over a longer period, perhaps even added in some more conventional adventure game staples like some basic puzzles or light scavenger hunts, the story elements and character progression would have felt much more natural and they even could have charged a modest price for it. But, instead, my experience with titles like Anna and Dear Esther, which much more masterfully achieve the aims this game strives towards, makes Serena pale quite badly in comparison. I would still look forward to their future projects and hope that they can hone their craft to finally reach the greatness that this game hints at, but as it stands, this just feels like a failed experiment more than the touching, emotional masterpiece many would have you believe it to be.
Публикувани: 6 февруари 2014