Beautiful Desolation (Nintendo Switch) Review

By Albert Lichi 28.11.2021

Review for Beautiful Desolation on Nintendo Switch

First impressions can colour a person's entire perception. Beautiful Desolation is a game that presents itself as something that is expected to be some kind of CRPG, based on how it looks. Anyone going into this and expecting skill checks, combat or role-playing of any kind is going to be disappointed, because that is not what they are going to get. Just what is Beautiful Desolation? Let Cubed3 explain it in the review of the Switch port.

Vast and detailed prerendered backdrops with a distant overhead point of view is a visual flourish commonly associated with CRPGs. One look at Beautiful Desolation and it would be easy to assume that this would play like something along the lines of Pillars of Eternity or Planescape: Torment, but there are no stat checks or battles of any kind in this unconventional adventure. At its core, Beautiful Desolation has a lot more in common with a point-and-click adventure; more Monkey Island than Disco Elysium, but with an emphasis on surreal sci-fi imagery, and exploration of a strange and alien world.

Screenshot for Beautiful Desolation on Nintendo Switch

Mark and Don are brothers from South Africa, and have managed to get their helicopter transported through a mysterious alien structure known as the Penrose. Along with POOCH, an autonomous security droid that is modelled after a dog, the trio will have to work together to make their way through a nightmarish dystopia and not upset the locals while trying to find a way home. The set-up is very simple and easy to follow, and the bulk of what makes the adventure so engaging is the rich world-building and atmosphere. The setting that the protagonists are sent to is a very detailed one, full of weirdos and strange characters, and lots of unsettling voice filters that make South African accents sound like the voices of demons.

Aside from Mark, Don and POOCH; most of the denizens of the Penrose world appear to be horrible abominable cyborgs. Everyone has seemingly lost their humanity and have desecrated their bodies with unimaginable implants and body modifications. Most of the time the characters and various NPCs met will resemble horrific mash-ups of skulls, bones, and machinery. At least POOCH has the excuse of being an AI robot dog, but the regular Joes and Jills met throughout the land all look like death. Mark will often have conversations with these abominations, and the poor guy really tries to get a grip as he comes face to face with cyborgs who would make most people experience some kind of existential trauma and probably vomit.

Screenshot for Beautiful Desolation on Nintendo Switch

Beautiful Desolation was originally a PC game that was controlled with a mouse, and this new version has been given a control scheme to utilize a traditional control set-up. After a few seconds of moving around Mark, the PC origins becomes very obvious. Roaming around the maps does not feel accurate, and Mark feels like he is sometimes stuck on some invisible tracks. While in portable mode, navigation becomes extremely tricky, since the camera distance can make the party look really tiny, and the highly detailed maps can become very hard to read. It is recommended to play Beautiful Desolation on a larger screen to better understand pathfinding, otherwise obvious routes become unintelligible.

Screenshot for Beautiful Desolation on Nintendo Switch

Exploring and discovery is a major aspect of the experience. The developer created a wonderfully alien world full of esoteric gadgets and gizmos to mess around with and to try to figure out. This is also a very linear story despite the dialogue choices, and the open-ended exploration. There may be several points of interest to explore and maybe even a few puzzles that need negotiating, but there is always only one way to progress. The only real freedoms that are afforded to the player is Mark's dialogue choices, and even then, Mark is his own man. Try as one might, there is no way to become a sex-slave to the cyborg madam who runs a brothel, no matter how badly she asks the protagonist.

The only impact any of these dialogue choices have is on which ending is earned. It is not always clear as to what the consequences will be for making some choices and some results may come off as unfair or, in some cases, downright cruel. Making progress is also not always a matter of solving a puzzle or acquiring a specific key item or two; there are times when Mark will have to speak with a specific NPC, and it won't be obvious that this is what must be done. Beautiful Desolation feels a lot like a cryptic adventure game from the 90s due to the way people will be expected to trial-and-error their way through many walls, or scour the world for every NPC and exhaust all dialogue. This compounds upon itself the further the story progresses, as more areas open up, which means spending a lot of time sitting through load screens as each map has to render.

Screenshot for Beautiful Desolation on Nintendo Switch

Cubed3 Rating

7/10
Rated 7 out of 10

Very Good - Bronze Award

Rated 7 out of 10

Beautiful Desolation is a very unique and different kind of adventure game. It has a tremendous amount of respect for the player to figure things out, but also has little respect for their time too. The writing is very engaging, and the acting is surprisingly exceptional. The South African flavour of the cast adds a ton of personality to the experience; Mark and Don's chemistry feels very real, and their slang and colloquialisms make them very unlikely video game characters. They're both schlubby guys in their '40s, and even POOCH manages to have a great deal of humanity to her character, despite being a robot dog.
xploring a post apocalyptic cyber-nightmare South Africa, while solving puzzles and talking to religious robots and using diplomacy to diffuse warring factions without any combat sounds like a fun time, then Beautiful Desolation is that kind of game. The experience is held together with amazing looking backdrops, freakish cyborgs to converse with and movie quality CGI cutscenes. This is not an RPG, but it is a highly creative and imaginative adventure game that has some spotty controls and overly cryptic puzzles.

Developer

The Brotherhood

Publisher

Untold Tales

Genre

Adventure

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  7/10

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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