I first came across Herald when I was writing for a site that doesn’t exist anymore. I didn’t write about it, but I thought it looked interesting enough. And I couldn’t even back it on Kickstarter because I was short on money.
Herald came out a couple of weeks ago and the developers gave The Arcade a key. And since I have such strong feelings about point and click games I practically demanded to write this review. So, I’ll give you my thoughts about the game and why you should play it.
“What is it that you seek in the colonies?”
One of the most striking things about Herald is its setting. The game takes place in 1857, in an alternate version of the world where all of Europe was unified (with Oliver Cromwell being an important part of that unification).
We play as Devan Rensburg, a young man originally born in the colonies. When the game starts he’s drowning but someone saves him. He then wakes up in a room where a woman tells him he’s her prisoner. She gives him his diary and asks him to tell her his story before she lets him go.
He then proceeds to tell her his story, he was part of the HLV Herald, a protectorate merchant clipper bound for the colonies. The reason why he’s in that ship is one of many choices we can make, but they all have to do with Devan wanting to reconnect with his roots, as he was born in the colonies but adopted and taken to the Protectorate.
Choices are important in this game. True, a lot of adventure games say that but this time it feels like this one means it. My choices took me down a certain path in the game and I’m really curious about what will happen if I do different things.
An example of these branching choices happens in Book 2. I’m citing this one because I liked it. Devan gets a promotion from sailor to steward. And among his duties he has to serve the food to the first class passengers. In this case the ambassador and his niece.
The ambassador is not a very nice man (and that’s an understatement) so when his niece asks him for the salt he says that’s something the help has to do. And to add insult to injury, he has the salt shaker right in front of him! The niece protests and says she can put salt in her food herself, so I passed her the shaker.
The ambassador starts complaining again and then decides he wants salt, and asks us to do it ourselves. My reaction? Let’s say that he got salt, more salt than he could’ve wanted. Antagonizing the most important person in the ship is not smart, but it felt right.
The game is full of choices like that, mostly in our interactions with the crew of the ship. A lot of them have their own agendas and we’ll be forced to take sides repeatedly. And as the game goes on, we will uncover secrets on all of them, and that’s quite cool. The game made them feel like people, not just generic NPCs.
Even though the game is set in an alternate past, you see a lot of research has gone into it. And the game treats topics like colonialism and race in a very interesting way. Exploring around the ship and unlocking snippets that tell you about how the Protectorate came to be and such makes that even more interesting.
And the game looks beautiful, the character models are great but the character portraits are stunning. Their lips don’t move at all but the portraits are expressive enough to convey how the characters are feeling. And the dub helps too, the voice work in Herald is perfect. Same with the soundtrack.
All in all, Wispfire have done something great with this game. My only complaint is that this was only half of the game, Books I and II. However, Books III and IV are already on pre-production and will be released as a DLC. Hopefully this will happen soon, the cliffhanger at the end of Book II surprised me.
You can buy Herald on GOG, Steam, or directly from Wispfire. It costs a tenner but I guarantee you that you will get your money’s worth. With all the choices involved there’s a lot of replayability involved. I’ve only managed to complete the game once but I’m looking forward to doing things differently just to see what happens.
If that’s not the mark of a good game, then I don’t know what is.
Angry Spaniard, adoptive Irishman. Writer, reader, tea drinker and video game player/designer.