Virginia (PC) Review

By Athanasios 31.01.2017

Review for Virginia on PC

Narrative driven video games. An impressive part of this wonderful medium, or something that doesn't really belong here? Without going too deep into that discussion, one thing is clear: like it or not, these have come to stay, and, as such, they should be judged based on their own merits, which is on how well they handle the only thing they have to offer - their story. Enter Variable State's Virginia (read about its PS4 version here), a title that's so… not video game, that even fans of this side of the gaming world will feel strange about "playing" it. As mentioned before, though, it's all about the story… so, is it any good?

Those who wanted to play a "pure" video game, and accidentally came here, leave! As for the rest of you, expect even less interactivity than visual novels, Telltale titles, and even walking simulators. Generally, Virginia is more like a movie; a feeling further enhanced by the style of the very intro, which has an (admittedly, awesome) cinematic vibe, credits, music, art style and all.

The team behind it, however, doesn't follow the generic cut-scene-after-cut-scene formula, and instead shows some real montaging talent in the direction of this tale. One interesting technique is that many parts are seamlessly connected, with one example being that moment when the protagonist opens a mirrored bathroom cabinet in her pyjamas, only to appear clothed and ready for work when she closes it. These sound like minor and unimpressive touches, but actually look great, and help a lot with the overall pacing.

Screenshot for Virginia on PC

Another unique thing about this, is that it follows the silent movie approach, something that manages to strongly impact something far more important than the pacing - the narrative. Not a single spoken word will be heard throughout this mysterious tale, and, thankfully, this turns out to be one of this title's strongest aspects, as it brings back the almost forgotten show-not-tell magic of older video games.

Of course, it's impossible to talk about Virginia and not mention it's stunning soundtrack, courtesy of the philharmonic orchestra of the city of Prague, which boosts the already strong emotional vibe at hand. Unfortunately, this is the perfect place to start talking about the flaws. For starters, this sacrifices interactivity for the sake of music matching. For example, if the protagonist walks through a corridor, and decides to stop and… do nothing, instead of reaching the "target" object, then it will all jump to the next scene, without giving you the chance to explore.

Screenshot for Virginia on PC

This leads us to the next problem, which is the fact that there's nothing to explore. Really, if this hasn't been emphasised enough, let it be mentioned once more: this is not a game. The player can move the main character's head, use her hand to open doors or grab objects, and her feet to walk, but that's only to "push" everything towards the next scene. This begs the question: why not make this an actual film, when the minor interactivity at hand damages the immersion instead of improving it?

So, this is just a series of cut-scenes. End of story. At least, is the plot worth the trouble? To be honest, no, and that is being written with a great amount of disappointment, because there's a strong charm here that's hard to deny. Before delving deeper into his, however, here's a look at the basic concept: set in 1992's fictional version of the town of Virginia, it follows the FBI rookie Anne Tarver on a mission to find a missing person, along with veteran partner Maria Halperin, which Anne must also spy on.

Screenshot for Virginia on PC

Those expecting a simple crime mystery/spy drama, though, better have their tin foil hat ready, because things will soon get weird! Actually, weird is not the right word. Silent Hill is weird, but it has a generally comprehensible storyline, with a beginning, a start, and an end. Virginia is more abstract than weird… and on one hand that's the beauty of it. There are tons of things that don't make sense here, and yet, many scenes will manage to evoke some pretty intense feelings, and without really "saying" anything concrete.

…And that's the final problem. This doesn't really say anything. It makes some subtle jabs towards racial discrimination, the challenge of balancing friendship and work, feminism, and many more, but, as a whole, it feels more like experiencing a dream - something aided by the simple, low-poly, yet magnificent visuals, which blur the lines between what seems real, and what clearly isn't. Is it an enjoyable dream? Yes… until one reaches the end, scratches his or her head for a couple of awkward minutes, and then decides to never play this again.

Screenshot for Virginia on PC

Cubed3 Rating

5/10
Rated 5 out of 10

Average

Virginia is one of these labours of love that's hard being… hard towards. From the realism-meets-surrealism visuals and the passionate orchestral tunes, to the great way the whole thing is directed, it's pretty obvious that the developer shows lots of promise. Unfortunately, everything crumbles under the complete lack of interactivity, and the initially enjoyably nonsensical… "plot."

Developer

Variable State

Publisher

505 Games

Genre

Adventure

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  5/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   

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