A New Beginning

Posted by Matt Barton.
First posted on 11 August 2011. Last updated on 11 August 2011.
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A New Beginning
Bent is a retired scientist who may be humanity's best hope for survival.
A New Beginning
The cut scenes are reminiscent of graphic novels but with subtle animations.
A New Beginning
Can Faye and Bent escape to the surface?
A New Beginning
Faye is a determined young radio operator with a great deal of cleverness.
A New Beginning
Bent must trick the guard into letting him operate the boat.

A New Beginning from Daedalic Entertainment is a point-and-click adventure that seems to have it all: great graphics, intriguing characters, and an engrossing story. It has been a long time since I have played an adventure game this enjoyable. To put it simply, if you are a fan of adventure games or graphic novels, you must give this brilliant game a try.

Among my favorite graphic adventure games is The Dig, a sci-fi adventure game from LucasArts with comic book styled graphics but with a serious narrative. A New Beginning adopts a similar style, with high quality art similar to those in graphic novels. However, this game is more politically relevant, featuring a complex story that focuses on the coming ecological crisis brought on by climate change and disappearing fossil fuels. As the game begins, it is revealed that mankind has ruined the planet and the human race is going extinct. As a last, desperate measure, a small group of men and women travels back in time in an attempt to change the past. Most of the group is destroyed upon arrival, but a pair of leaders soon emerge among the survivors—Salvador, who prefers a violent solution, and Fay, a radio operator who believes that a retired and disillusioned scientist named Bent is humanity's best hope. Supposedly, Bent has developed an energy production system based on algae that may be a solution to the planet's ecological catastrophe.

There are many interesting characters and plenty of convincing drama in the game. You control both Bent and Faye, though at different points of the game. Bent has long been estranged from his son Duve, who continues his father's work after his retirement. Duve is very resentful of his father's neglect, and while Bent wants to make amends, he is confused and frustrated by his son's anger. Fay also has several tense relationships: Salvador is quite dismissive and even abusive towards her, and Bent does not trust her. Meanwhile, it is not clear whether the greedy capitalist Indez or the vicious Salvador is the true antagonist in this game. All in all, the game does a good job making you care about these characters and what happens to them.

The interface is typical of a modern point-and-click adventure game, with minimal buttons and icons on the screen. You simply hold the mouse button down on an object, and a context driven radial menu pops up showing the available actions. The puzzles are what most fans expect of a game from the genre, such as finding a coin to unscrew a grate or improvising a clamp for a broken hose. There are also some challenging logic puzzles, but the developer provides an option to skip these segments if they prove too difficult for casual players. Whenever I am stuck, the game does a good job for the most part suggesting to me the right course of action. I particularly enjoy the logic puzzles, many of which are quite fun and make sense given their context. A particular puzzle that stands out in mind is that to get into a room, Bent needs to distract his son by having the radio operator send him a message. However, to do this, he needs to discover an important fact about his son so that the message will seem authentic. The story is explained in-game and in comic book inspired animated cut scenes, which look great and are fun to watch. The script and voice acting are good as well, with only the occasional flat or incorrect delivery. The animation is a bit awkward at times, especially when characters are walking or climbing. Indeed, these bumpy animations are the only aspect that seems amateurish; the rest of the game is top notch.

The game is unabashedly leftist in its politics, with an unambiguous view that climate change is real. While the events in the game are of course fictitious, the message is clear: humans must do their part to convince each other to quit wasting energy and find more sustainable and ecologically friendly energy sources. Admittedly, the game feels preachy at some points, and it will challenge the views of individuals who are convinced the whole global warming crisis is a leftwing conspiracy.

A New Beginning has reinvigorated my interest in adventure games and convinced me that the future is bright for the adventure genre. While the tone of the game is mostly serious, there is occasional snarky humor. I also really like the game's packaging, which includes a colorful cover, a comic book themed manual, a poster, and even a CD of the game's excellent musical score. That is the sort of special attention to detail that is sorely missing in almost all modern game releases. Daedalic Entertainment has put a lot of love and passion into this game, and it shows readily.

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