I remember I found this game on Steam Green-light. I was intrigued by the concept and plot of the game, that I followed it while giving it my vote. I was so thrilled when the game was finally released on December 10th.
The Novelist is a story-driven game with choice and consequences game-play. You play as a ghostly entity that happens to reside in the house that the Kaplan family come to stay for the summer. You have the ability to influence the decisions that affect the family. For better or for worse. The Novelist is so compelling due how authentic and sincere Kent Hudson’s writing is. His writing gives the game its powerful emotional affect that draws you into its story, and feeling a connection with the family in the story.
You, being the ghostly entity are able to read the family member’s thoughts and explore their memories to see what they really want. Be warned, your decisions will affect the entire family. The choices and compromises (if you find the compromises) will affect their family dynamics, their relations to each other and their potential future. Be aware that no matter what choice and compromise you take, there is always one person who is unhappy with the outcome.
The game has two game modes due to the fact you are a ghostly entity. You can either play on stealth, which means you cannot let the family spot you. The other is story mode which lets you roam the house freely, without the fear of being spotted by the family. The game is divided into about nine to twelve chapters making the game relatively short. Each focusing on a central problem affecting the family (e.g a death in the family), and you can choose what outcome happens.
The choices will resonate throughout the entire game, affecting the final ending (you will have 3 main choices that serve as the game’s ending). However, there is no perfect ending. The game will take 1-3 hours depending on the person. I finished my first time in about an hour. However if you enjoy games similar to The Novelist and Dear Esther then you will highly enjoy this game. You will be torn between trying to appease everyone in the family.
The story is beautifully written and is extremely realistic. Mostly because there is no real way to keep everyone happy, there is always a trade-off. Someone is always going to be upset/suffer due to what decision is taken because that is life. Life is not perfect and we have to make compromises and sacrifice something. The fact that your choices really do count and effect everything, gives you a sense of a burden. You are an outsider whom has no relation to this family, yet you can heavily impact their interactions with each other and their future.
There are not many cons to this game other than its limitations. You are limited to taking one person’s side, and maybe an attempted attempt to make one other person happy with the compromise (although they aren’t really happy with it). You may not necessarily feel like a part of their lives, as you do not watch them live their lives. You mainly see the results of your actions through notes. You also don’t really get full sentences when you read their thoughts, it is mostly snippets of a thought which can be annoying at times.
The game also seems to add another element to the game, which involves the house’s history. You will mainly learn the house’s past through ghostly manifestations of diary entries, I felt like this aspect of the game was never truly resolved. It does seem to imply that you have been residing in the property for a long time and potentially had influenced other people’s lives, with mixed results.
Despite its limitations, I highly enjoyed this game. It was beautiful in its art and the attention to the writing of the story was exceptional. The price ($20 USD) might be a little high for some due to being an indie title, putting people off. Nevertheless, it is a reasonable price for a game. If you enjoy narrative/story-driven games such as The Stanley Parable, Dear Esther and the sort then you will enjoy the Novelist.
You can find The Novelist available on Steam or on the game’s official site.