Virginia Reviews

116,789 (93,060)
TT Score for this game: 275
Posted on 10 November 16 at 23:45
This review has 5 positive votes and 3 negative votes. Please log in to vote.
A Collection of Thoughts On: Virginia

Hi all, welcome to my reviews. These tend to be free form thoughts about particular titles that go over various elements of a given game. Though you may not agree with the thoughts below, please realize that this is my opinion and everyone is different in what their tastes and interests are. I would love to hear any thoughts, arguments, or opinions you have on the title at hand so please post them below or tweet at me @64BitCJ, and if you like my work follow me over at where I write articles weekly. I love you all and enjoy the review!

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The definition of what makes a game is different to everybody. Some hold the term more loosely, while others follow an exact guide of what they expect from each and every title they play. In recent years what qualifies as a ‘game’ has been tested more so than ever before as genres like the ‘walking simulators’ rise to become ever popular. A few weeks back 505 Games released a small title called Virginia, and it has stressed what I define as a game like no other before it.

To be blunt and honest I was greatly anticipating this game prior to it’s release and frankly I could not have been more let down. The trailers leading up to the final product promised this deep and complex mystery along the likes of ‘Twin Peaks’ and ‘The X-Files’ and it only barely delivered on that in the most bare bones of ways. This is a story driven game first and foremost and what story we have is vague, often painted in broad strokes. With no voice acting and very little text to read, it’s up to environmental details and character mannerisms to convey the story, and neither do a great job.

We play as a detective looking to find a teenage boy that has gone missing from a small rural town in Virginia, but the plot rarely revolves around that but instead focuses on you, your partner, and your relationship with her. Slight cues are given every now and again as to what may be happening but nothing is ever flat out said, leaving you to interpret a good 90% of the story. Unlike games like Gone Home, or Firewatch, environmental details are kept to a minimum, leaving little to find and connect. As stated, everything you need is given at face value, and even then it takes long leaps to deduct what could actually be happening.

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Of the two stories we follow throughout, neither are particularly coherent to follow. At too many instances throughout the 2 to 3 hour campaign, scenes will play out with no indication that you are on a timer. Plot details can be outright missed if you’re not fully paying attention to what you should be. Instead of a player driven game, Virginia plays out more like a movie with scenes stitched together with hard cut transitions from one to the other. When you enter a new scene, it will either end within an allotted time, or there will be something obvious you will need to interact with before moving on. The worst of the entire case is a 20 or 30 minute segment when the player character is experiencing an hallucinogenic trip where scenes go by so quickly, and for little to no reason, that it becomes disorientating as to what is actually happening. To end it all off, there is no sign as to when the trip ends, which left me personally unable to identify when the plot was actually picking back up.

As a game, Virginia is incredibly limiting. There is rarely anything for you to do other than look at what’s in front of you. Exploration is kept to very specific instances, but even then you gain nothing by doing so. Interaction is restricted to trigger events and a few scattered collectibles that give nothing to the overall experience. The most you can do at any given moment is to walk, and look around. For games like Dear Esther who also sport the same mechanic setup, there was at least substance to the plot and world at play. Virginia offers little to grasp onto, and actively punishes you for not following the specific guide it has laid out for you. There is nothing to this title that lends itself to being a game; this could have been an animated film and nothing would have been lost. Player agency in this world is near to nonexistent so it begs the question as to why someone shouldn’t watch this game instead of play it.

For every positive point I can think of, like the endearing visuals and the occasional nice attention to detail, I can’t think of any reason to follow that up as an actual reason to play. You can get the highlights that this game offers by watching a playthrough; it’s even a possibility that you can gain more by doing because of your own curiosity during timed scenes. This could all be excused if Virginia had one of those stories that ‘you have to see for yourself’ but you don’t. The story is muddled, underwhelming, and at points even confusing. Smaller more emotional moments do bring the experience up a bit but they don’t save the rest of the play time.

Condensed Points: Virginia is barely a game. Endearing visuals don't save what is otherwise an incoherent and unsatisfying plot. With little for the player to do, there are few actual reasons to play this yourself.

+ The few well done emotional bits
+ Charming visuals

- Unsatisfying and incoherent plot
- Restrictive gameplay
- Little player agency
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