Story driven exploration games, or walking simulators as they’re sometimes known, are a fairly divisive genre of games. There are many reasonable reasons why they don’t appeal to all players; perhaps it’s the lack of immediacy in the story since you’re discovering the thing that happened rather than being a direct part of it yourself, perhaps it’s the limited gameplay, or perhaps it’s just simply the slower pace. Whatever a person’s reason for disliking this kind of game, you’ll probably find it’s the very reason another loves it. Though not always the biggest fan of massively open world games, I do appreciate a game that’s able to use the entirety of its world to tell a story. I also can’t afford to go on a large number of holidays each year so often these beautiful and realistically rendered worlds are a good form of escape.
Inspired by wonderful first person exploration titles like Gone Home and Dear Esther, Niten is a game set on a remote Japanese island where players must explore in the first person in order to uncover the island’s history and the story of its previous inhabitants; a Samurai master and his orphaned student.
Built using Unreal Engine 4 with assets created using Speedtree, the game world looks absolutely stunning, with lush environments and rich colours. It also has an original studio-engineered score, some of which you can hear in the trailer below, which makes the game sound as good as it looks. Considering I’ve played the trailer several times now just to hear its music, I think I’d be happy with just the soundtrack.
Niten aims to be a tranquil free-roaming experience where players can explore everywhere at any pace they desire, moving through bamboo forests, around lakes, across fields and along beaches. Players even have their own lodge and zen garden which they can decorate and cultivate when they’re taking a break from exploring. Niten also has a dynamic weather system and a day-to-night cycle in an effort to make each day and playthrough feel unique.
It’s important that the game feels consistently fresh as the story is revealed in fragments as the player explores. At the end of each playthrough, the player can download the story fragments they’ve discovered and view them as pages of a fully illustrated graphic novel. This is a neat way to bring together visual storytelling mediums and it sounds like an interesting way to keep a memento of the game after you’ve finished playing. It’s also a good incentive to keep going back to make sure you’ve discovered the whole story.
Niten is currently seeking funding on Kickstarter and is looking for votes on Steam Greenlight. So far the team has only raised £510 of their £15,000 goal but there are 29 days of their campaign left to go and their stretch goal of £25,000 which would see them create a standalone VR version of the title sounds intriguing. If you’d like to help make Niten happen, you can contribute £15 to get a digital download code for the game when it’s released in December 2016.