A long time ago, in a distant land, there existed a genre of games called text adventures. These games had no graphics nor user locomotion. Instead, they gave you a text description of where you were, then you typed in what you wanted to do in accordance with the game’s syntax. Then innovation happened and we invented graphics and controls to actually manipulate your character.
Winter’s Wake is the fascinating — if slightly mad scientist — result of combining the two. Whilst you can use mouse control to look around the world, you do not see anything; rather, a short text description tells you what you are looking at. While this is extremely jarring at the start, I quickly got used to this new mechanic, which created a simple yet intriguing world, one which was broken down into a few chunks but had such richness and substance within. One thing that took a little to understand was the complete use of the spherical area which I could look at. While most of the time you have to look straight, sometimes there are things on the floor or in the sky, and at other times there are extremely small objects that you have to carefully point at, which is very hard when you can’t see anything.
In addition to the text description, your other senses are roped in to help engage you with this world. The background changes colour to reflect the most common colour in the scene, if it has any colour. Sound is also used as well, with a very well-equipped soundtrack to bring you into the scene. This background noise doesn’t sound like much at first, but it quickly brings the game to life and helps you understand where exactly you are, be it a secluded waterfall or bustling town square.
Winter’s Wake’s booth at PAX was perhaps the greatest piece of advertising I have ever seen in my life. Everything, from the signage and business cards to even the dev’s shirt, was text-adventure-esque. Taking such a bold stance really worked well, and made quite an impression, as well as instilling into me a wish for a browser extension that turns the whole Internet into a text adventure.
Winter’s Wake has an interesting future ahead of it. VR support is somewhere in the works, which is a fairly odd idea — looking around a virtual world, but with nothing to see apart from floating text. There is no definite release date, but Winter’s Wake is an ongoing project, with a pile of websites relating to its development, which are the greatest ever made by humankind.
A demo for Winter’s Wake is currently available over on the itch.io page of developer, Cheeseness, just here.
In addition, a good friend of mine over at Action Points! — an Aussie gaming podcast thang — did a podcast on PAX, including a bit on Winter’s Wake, so go check them out and say hi!