“Three portals have opened to uncharted worlds. Earth has sent a team of explorers to investigate them, but after an accident, you are the sole survivor. Your mission remains the same: survey these worlds and write the only accounts of them that outsiders will ever know.” — Dejobaan Games
Elegy for a Dead World is an indie game developed by Dejobaan Games and Popcannibal. Released in 2013, the game has since been selected for the 2014 Experimental Gameplay Workshop and 2014 IndieCade, as well as granted an honorable mention at the 2014 Independent Games Festival. Players visit three lost worlds, explore them, and, through various prompts, compose poems, stories, or sometimes even songs. Each world is inspired by a classic British poem that talks about the end days: Percy Shelley’s Ozymandias, John Keats’ When I Have Fears That I May Cease to Be, and Lord Byron’s Darkness.
The game begins with the character floating in the middle of space. The player can fly the character to any of the three portals surrounding him or her. Each portal leads to a different extinct civilization which the player can explore.
Once the player has chosen any of the three worlds, he or she can opt to begin writing, read his or her written stories, or read other players’ compositions. All worlds propose a variety of writing prompts to choose from, so even though one visits the same world more than once, the experience is never exactly the same.
Entering the portal.
After selecting a storyline, the player can finally begin his or her journey through the beautiful yet haunting landscapes that shape the three lost worlds. Prompts are signified by the image of a quill, and it is in these areas that the player can stop for a moment and take the time to write.
Writing prompts appear as the character moves through the scenery.
Once everything has been written, the player can read through the entire composition, then publish his or her works for other players to see. Some people even reproduce their writings in digital and print media, or take screenshots of their stories to have them printed and bound in a book. This, of course, comes with additional payment.
Preview of written stories.
(Snippets featured above were written by Bea Adajar.)
While the game isn’t exactly a game in the traditional sense – the player simply navigates through various realms and writes on the way – it has notable features that make it worth the experience.
One of the game’s greatest assets is its graphics. Each realm is painted distinctly from the others with fine details that bring the whole scene to life. The background is made up of multiple layers that move as the character explores the area, giving the surroundings a realistic sense of depth. Attention to detail is apparent as subtle movements accentuate the art: the grass sways slightly, specks of light dance in the air around the character, rain falls gently onto the ground. Even at the start of the game, when the character is yet to enter any portal, the painted backdrop revolves around slowly as though the character is truly floating aimlessly in space.
Scenes from each of the three worlds.
Accompanying the art in the game is the music. Again, the attention to detail is remarkable: you can hear the footsteps every time the character walks, the heavy breathing through the suit that the character wears as he lands from flight, and the throbbing, eerie hum that shifts and follows the player around. This hum adds to the somber atmosphere of the destroyed surroundings. The sounds even adjust depending on the location of the character; if he or she is outside, the footsteps are slightly muffled. But it intensifies and echoes accordingly when he or she enters a room, making both the sound and the experience more realistic.
Of course, the writing prompts also help stimulate the player’s creativity. They are mostly fill-in-the-blanks type with a premise given at the start, but the player also has the option of free-form writing. Each segment of the entire prompt is indicated by a quill, and they are all located in strategic areas of the game, such as parts of the world with specific landmarks or striking features that could give the player ideas on what to write. The prompts all have interesting storylines and themes; with the intricate artwork and lifelike sounds, they are bound to inspire even non-writers to try their hand at poetry and prose.
Examples of some of the writing prompts offered.
All in all, I recommend Elegy for a Dead World to anyone who’s willing to try something new. While the game seems to be more for those who are into writing, the makers insist otherwise. As they’ve stated in their website, “We created Elegy so that everyone can write.” Writer or not, novice or expert, you are offered a chance to explore far-off realms, and the realistic and moving experience is bound to inspire you to create something yourself.
If you’re ready for that kind of encounter, then this game is the one for you.
You may buy it at Steam.
Elegy for a dead world: http://www.dejobaan.com/elegy/: 7 October 2015.
Zareva, Teodora: http://bigthink.com/design-for-good/experimental-game-turns-players-into-poets-and-writers: 6 October 2015.