If a game is described as being like Twin Peaks and True Detective, it is going to catch my interest. Playing Virginia, the interesting thing is, not only is the story inspired by Twin Peaks style shows, but the game plays like a television show too.
Experiencing the game through the eyes of FBI agent Anne Tarver, newly graduated from the academy, the year is 1992. Investigating the disappearance of Lucas Fairfax in Kingdom, Virginia nothing is at it seems. This includes your investigation, which seems to focus a little too much on your partner Maria Halperin who holds some mysteries of her own.
One thing that becomes apparent straight away is the lack of any vocals in the game. We are driven down a certain path, but what this provides us with is many visual clues as to what is going on. With no narrative though we are forced to make one up for ourselves and this is where Virginia becomes something special.
Imagine a Twin Peaks style show where we have to interpret everything only through visuals and written clues. What we are given is a mystery that is very well told, but very ambiguous in nature. Only by the time we get to the final scenes do things start making sense, and in some ways this is a weakness in the game. There is too much open to interpretation and the visuals we are presented with are very ambiguous in nature and rely on imagery that is sometimes hard to interpret.
Thankfully though the main plot (from what I decipher myself) is basic enough to let us interpret enough to enjoy the game. It will stimulate a lot of discussion into what is seen, but this is a good thing. Be aware though that this is a very linear game. There isn’t much that will change the events we see. The interaction we are given is the ability to find hidden and optional clues and items that don’t need to be discovered to understand the story.
If you’ve watched the trailer no doubt the style of the game will stand out, and this is another positive of the game. The graphics aren’t looking to be dazzling, but to stand out for their own style. They stimulate the story, and force a certain atmosphere to the game which is part of Virginia’s style. For me, this style was reminiscent of Firewatch which will get it a lot of attention.
In having the “television show” style, Virginia is also a game that may throw a lot of gamers out of their comfort zone. There are a lot of fast cuts to different scenes and we aren’t allowed to feel comfortable in the environment we are playing in. Understanding though that this game is being cut in the style of a show or even movie helped me to feel at home with Virginia though, which helped.
I’m a huge Twin Peaks fan, and Virginia pressed all the right buttons for me. The influence is obvious and there is a scene that feels straight out of Lynch’s work, which is very welcome to me. What Virginia manages to do though is stand out on its own as a very interesting gaming experience, which may throw some, but will be exactly what a lot of people are looking for.
Virginia is out now on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC.