Review: A New Beginning – Final Cut

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How do you suppose the world is going to end? Here in the thick of 2017 we have more options than ever, but climate change is certainly a popular one. That’s the angle that A New Beginning takes, the fight against a ruined future fought in the trenches of environmental science and politics. But it turns out that it’s not fracking or carbon that’s going to do us in. No, what truly dooms the world are the absolutely shitty people you have to deal with throughout this adventure, people so repugnant that you almost can’t help but lie back and wait for everyone to die.

A New Beginning opens in the fjords of Norway with Bent Svensson, a reclusive scientist who gave up his hopes of a green future to grumble about how much he hates his life. A mysterious woman named Fay shows up on his doorstep to recount a mad tale of a future destroyed by climate change and a desperate quest through time to prevent it. While most of the action takes place in flashbacks there are plenty of interludes with Bent and Fay, eventually leading to the actions in the present that will determine the fate of humanity.

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There’s a chance that all sounds pretty neat, so let’s go back to Bent’s grumblings real quick. While puttering around in the makeshift prologue tutorial, Bent is going to harangue you constantly about his failures as a scientist, his failures as a father, and his failure to actually do anything about any of it. When Fay shows up, instead of helping kick-start his long-dead motivation, the first thing she does is call him an idiot for accidentally harming a bird. And then later, Bent’s therapist calls him and actively discourages him from improving his life in an absolutely INFURIATING dialogue where you are forced to say something stupid and self-harming. I almost quit on the spot, but somehow regrettably soldiered on.

Now let’s fast forward to chapter 2 and Fay’s efforts to determine the cause of the apocalypse. She’s joined by two teammates, one of which is the most hostile, dismissive, and venomous ally I’ve ever had in a video game. There’s not a hint of humor to it, either; he hates Fay, fully thinks her useless, ridicules her (your) efforts to do anything, and twists her accomplishments to his own ends. He’s a wholly reprehensible human being, and your other teammate is a depthless doormat who defers to Captain Asshole in every conflict. At this point, my regret was palpable.

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Doesn’t that sound like fun? Trying to save the planet with a gaggle of shitheads who resent your successes? Bent is no better, constantly picking apart Fay’s stories and belittling her conclusions. And Fay herself vacillates between woman of action and gormless simpleton, plowing through puzzles as you direct her but often being caught off-guard or making terrible, baseless assumptions about anything new. And I’m not even digging into the worst of this compost pile… To progress the plot, Fay will happily sabotage her own allies, and one of said allies will at one point murder an innocent in cold blood.

I cannot stress enough how disgusting the story beats and interactions between these people are. Every one of them is awful in their own way, and their lines come off as entirely divested from reality with ill-timed snark and bizarre exceptions to the strangest things. I’m sure something is being lost in translation here but there’s no way that can account for the abject unpleasantness of every person you are forced to interact with. And, AND, this idiocy extends to the over-arching plot which isn’t content to just let climate change happen as it’s happening, but ties the apocalypse to a baselessly alarmist doomsday scenario involving a nuclear power plant. I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised that writers who can’t even make people sound like people don’t know the first thing about environmental science, but it is shocking just how angry the ignorance on display could make me.

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In mechanical terms, A New Beginning is on the lower end of point-and-click competence anyway. The interface is clear enough, and most of the puzzles make sense and provide decent challenges. However, just about every chapter has at least one puzzle or sequence where what you need to do is clear, but the solution requires an extra twist of complexity that only the developers would think of. One example is when you have to power up a hand-held laser drill. There’s a whole bit about locating a battery and a power interface that should do the trick, except you ALSO have to change the focusing lens by carving a chunk out of something that the game warns you is rickety and should not be messed with, and can only be interacted with at one tiny corner.

The art isn’t bad with its clean items, expansive backdrops, and detailed characters, though the animations have a pretty severe lack of frames. Sound does its job as well, and I admit they got decent voice actors for this, even if their lines and direction are awful. A New Beginning would be a tolerable adventure game if it wasn’t filled to the brim with intolerable morons slogging through an equally moronic story. After the prologue got my blood pressure up I stuck it out maybe a third of the way through the game, but not only did the aggravations not let up, they found new ways to infuriate me. Honestly, if playing through A New Beginning were the only way to avert the apocalypse, I’d rather just die and get it over with.

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