Your mission remains the same: survey these worlds and write the only accounts of them that outsiders will ever know.
There probably isn’t a better time to take an early look at Elegy for a Dead World than right now. After all, with Elegy coming out of early access unexpectedly on the 10th, and with NaNoWriMo finally becoming nothing more than a stressful fading memory, what better way to celebrate the pair together by… writing more words. Dedicated to the game entirely based around writing. It’s a lot of layers, and it’s words all the way down.
If you missed its successful Kickstarter campaign and early access period, then Elegy for a Dead World is a stunning, empty story (several stories, in fact) waiting for your input to shape the history of the worlds. It’s an experimental, quiet, and almost introspective 2D piece created as a joint project between Dejobaan Games and Popcannibal.
It’s certainly not what you might expect from a pair responsible for exuberant games like Monster Loves You!, AaaaaAAaaaAAAaaAAAAaAAAAA!!! – A Reckless Disregard for Gravity and Girls Like Robots – the subtly charming Elegy is walking a line between game and writing tool, straying into a potentially fascinating look at the different ways we interpret the same visual data. Without combat, puzzles, or even any other characters, the only is task is for you to walk the ruins of a world and decide just what exactly happened there.
You start off floating in a patch of space that only you inhabit, tasked with documenting the downfalls of the three worlds awaiting you nearby. The worlds available to aspiring writers / players are inspired, apparently, by British Romantic era poets – Byron, Shelley, and Keats. Each has a unique visual theme for you to interpret, and before entering you can select one of a handful of writing settings depending how much you want to write, and the mindset you want to approach the world in. Prompts come in the flavours of “a scientific journal,” “their story,” or “my story” to offer you three different perspectives to approach the world from, or a completely blank option for full creative control.
I can see that Elegy seems like an easy walk at first. No complicated game mechanics, fetch and carry quests, or obstacles of any kind. There’s no antagonist, no punishments, nothing to stand in your way but your own lack of verbosity. However, even as a regular writer I found it was working me harder than I initially imagined. You aren’t just being asked to fill in the blank verbs like an elaborate and stylish vocab test – the challenge of Elegy is in witnessing the unexplainable, unidentifiable landscape around you and finding a captivating explanation for why.
It’s unsettling at first to have so much power over the narrative of a game, but once you start to feel in control of your ideas the experience is surprisingly powerful. Being right in the middle of a dead world, trying to put yourself in the shoes of its former inhabitants and truly understand what could bring a civilisation to ruin – it became an activity I couldn’t let go of even when I’d closed the game hours ago. There were certain stories that I couldn’t forget.
The most charming part of the whole experience though is being able to read the stories of others. You can share them through steam workshop once you’re finished, or even produce print copies through some online publishers if you’re so inclined. Even if the writing is a struggle for you, there are worlds and worlds of words awaiting you, courtesy of other players.
Elegy for a Dead World is available now for PC, Mac, and Linux – you can get your hands on it through Steam now for £10.99 / $14.99. See what you can make of it, world-builders.
- Excellent writing tool
- Visually compelling
- Great network of stories and creators
- Not a lot of repeat play for less keen writers