Platform: Nintendo Switch | Release Date: October 10, 2018 | Hours Played: 10
When you play any interactive visual novel, you usually play as a part of the story. Like a protagonist whose choices are based on the events unfolding around them. However, as a player, we sometimes forget the amount of agency we have. After all, we can always just restart, right?
WILL: A Wonderful World is a Chinese indie visual novel, that explores this idea as you play the role of a ‘God’ entity who helps humans on Earth, in the form of letters. The letters, which outline their problems, can be re-arranged with a special God-tool and can thus greatly change the outcome (which are ranked S, A, B, C and X) of these characters – whether it be for better, or for worse.
While the letters are read and not played in real-time, they are aided by sound effects and small animations (even the silhouette of the characters move, which I appreciate), as well as a wide variety of beautiful background music that can really set the mood and can also let you know if you’re en route towards a good or bad outcome. There are also a small amount of CGs sprinkled throughout different letters.
The game takes the concept of VN flowcharts, normally used in text-heavy VNs with different routes (i.e. Fate series), and seamlessly integrates it as letters that are received as a result of achieving a certain outcome for each character’s letter. Each letter is a plea that a character makes to the ‘God’ and thus if no more pleas are made, then no more letters will be recieved.
As all VNs are narrative-focused and often are limited in delving off storylines, I found this to be a really clever way to encourage players to figure out the right sequence of sentences to achieve the right outcome. Some characters may have connecting letters where sentences can be swapped between another character. These can lead to clever, as well as ridiculous deus ex machina moments, such as changing a character’s gun to a salted sardine and vice-versa, causing hijinx and hilarious moments.
From the start-up of the game to the Gods themselves, there are some meta comments, such as the God singing and wondering why their voices sound like constant beeping, or reading a letter about a gang bust and noting how it’s like an action-thriller movie. These moments can undercut the serious themes that are prevalent within the game however.
There is a wide range of characters that we are introduced to in the story. They have diverse personalities, backstories, as well as cultures (and one cat). Their stories’ are also varied but delve into really serious topics. Normally, I’m not one who is easily shaken, but the themes can focus on death, murder, violence, aswell as abuse and rape. These scenes in question can become very uncomfortable, even without any imagery, the use of sounds and animation, such as blood splatters covering the screen until it is completely red, can be very triggering to those who are sensitive.
However while some of these can be seen as overplayed or too much, it does not do this out of self-gratification as each event plays a huge part in the character’s development – no matter how overdramatic it can seem. Although some characters can seem completely opposite and random, their stories are interwoven one way or another and the way they perpetuate their lives is a fascinating thing to see. Especially, as certain characters do cross each other in different point in their lives.
In spite of this, as always, a factor that needs to be taken into account is gameplay fatigue. And I felt a big amount towards the end of the game. For reasons unexplained to the player, the game places a timer of 1 and a half hours for them to complete S endings for all the characters. This requires not only completing the remaining letters, but unlocking them as past letters may need different outcomes to unlock more letters that thus unlock the final letters. As much of an effort that was to write, it pales in comparison to searching around the flowcharts to figure out the right letters that will unlock the final ending.
As the game explicitly states that unlocking all the outcomes for letters was OPTIONAL, for those who did, this can ruin their whole gameplay as being unable to complete this will result in a bad ending.
Even though the wannabe completionist in me had already unlocked the majority of it, the remaining letters were still hefty pieces to read. Compared to the beginning where I was able to take my time and fully take in the story, I felt rushed and was unable to remember half the things I read and focused on clicking the flowcharts like a mad man. Thus, when I actually completed an ending, I was left absolutely clueless when a character who was missing in over half the story was magically present in the ending.
This ruined the immersion for me and after a 4-hour binge, actually made me stop the game. Maybe for someone detailed orientated, this would be a piece of cake, but as someone who is easily distracted and is able to process information slowly, this was a slight deal-breaker for me.
However, I attribute this to a personal problem, and would not use this as a reason to detract from the brilliant overall presentation of WILL: A Wonderful World.
The game is able to break down large chunks of information in a way that those easily distracted such as myself, are able to stay invested and wanting more. The characters of both the Gods as well as the humans are fully fleshed out. They are beautiful in both personality and design, and the relationships that are interwoven into the letters is so intricately done. The themes, as well as keywords that teach the player new things show that the developers have made sure that they can immerse themselves in different genres that they otherwise may never have delved into. Even individually, the characters’ stories were detailed enough to be their own separate games, though would never have the impact they would have if not merged into a story of a God trying to help the lives of humans.
As the first game created by WMY Studios, it excites me to see what other games they come out with in the future.