The Detail has all the attributes to make a fantastic game. Crime noir, comic book art style and point and click adventure goodness all rolled into an episodic thriller. As soon as the first instalment of The Detail popped into my Steam queue, I watched the trailer, looked at the screenshots and before I’d even finished off reading the blurb about the game, it was already in my cart.
Rival Games put a well thought out branching story into the game, where your decisions do have an effect on what goes on around you. Admittedly, not much – the core story still plays out the same way regardless of your choices, but it does give you different viewpoints on things that go on and allows you to have different experiences when you play, depending on what you select.
From an artistic point of view, this game is stunning. Some environments that you enter in are so fantastically created and very well thought out that it’s almost a disappointment when you have to leave one to move onto another. Every scene looks exactly how you would expect a grimy, crime-riddled city to look. It’s very evident from these scenes that the game has been so lovingly crafted by a team that are simply brilliant with the way they can create the world you see. It would, in fact, be unsurprising to see some of these guys working for major comic book companies, because their creation is so above the ordinary standard you see from games imitating comic books.
The story in this game is very promising. It grabs you by the scruff of your neck from the get-go and leaves you wanting more at the conclusion. This would be fantastic if the developers had stuck to their original time frame and managed to push out episodes more frequently. As it is, I’ve played the first episode – a painfully short experience – in six months. While I can appreciate that indie devs aren’t massive companies and cannot provide as much effort in their endeavours, one thing they can do to alleviate any criticism they may receive after missing deadlines is by communicating frequently and appropriately. The best way of doing this is with a blog on their website, or even using the Steam blog or news functions. Doing simple things like blog posts lets your customers know that you’re still active on the game. It gives us all a window to peer through to experience the highs and lows of your development cycle, even in a 25 word update, it’s an invaluable tool. Rival Games have decided against using this to its fullest extent, making updates to their blog every few months or so – the last one came on the 30th of January. I may just be impatient, but this kind of inactivity really makes me anxious. I don’t like feeling like I’ve wasted money, and currently the developers are giving me that vibe.
The Detail: Episode 1 is also dreadfully short. I managed to complete it in around an hour, which is definitely not ideal, nor is it what I’d expect from a game where I’m paying upwards of £5 for. The fact that it’s so short is made worse by the fact that the story is so compelling. I really wanted to continue playing but the developers thought that an hour of gameplay is an adequate teaser for any prospective buyers. This has backfired on them, at least from my perspective, as there is no way what they’ve pushed out is worth what they’re asking for. I fully expected at least two and a half to three hours of gameplay from an indie title, so instead of tantalising me and making me hungry for future episodes, it’s made me very, very apathetic about their title. If future episodes cost the same and provide the same amount of gameplay, it’s definitely not worth looking into.
As with all episodic games, I’d recommend waiting until the entire thing is released. It will certainly be a very good game, but it is not yet finished, and there isn’t a roadmap to speak of, so there’s no saying when it will ever be finished. Even though the game is stuffed full of good ideas, vibrant artwork and believable characters, it’s all meaningless if there is no resolution. It will just leave you disappointed when the episode closes. It’s definitely got potential there, and when it’s fully released, if there are at least five or six episodes, this game will be well worth adding to your library, but if the game ends after the third installment, and if they’re all as short as the first, then it is going to be something you won’t be missing out on.