Road 96, preview of the new indie "on the road"

Road 96, preview of the new indie on the road
The journey as an adventure and training path is a basic element of the story and in many respects also of the video game, when it comes to adventure with a classic structure, yet there are not many games that use it in its purest way as happens in Road 96 , of which we write a first preview waiting to learn more. Emerged as one of the most interesting surprises presented at the 2020 Game Awards, Road 96 tells the journey of a boy along the homonymous road, in search of freedom and his own identity, on the path that will lead him to become great by facing obstacles, threats, fears , joys and situations of all kinds. There is still not much information beyond some first details, some images and a presentation trailer but the project still portends good things, if only ideas that have not been too exploited by other productions previously, and this is already an important element of distinction for a game like this.

The trailer is particularly intriguing: a female voice at the other end of the phone asks the protagonist how much he is far from the border, suggesting the need for reunification and suggesting the idea that the responsibility placed on the shoulders of the quiet nerdy boy weighs much more than the bulky backpack that he carries around. It is not only the youthful desire for adventure, which suddenly exploded on a sunny summer day in 1996, that pushes the protagonist to set out along Road 96, but there seems to be something more important and compelling, a search for freedom which results in a social and quasi-political rebellion, according to what emerges from some details. Then the hitchhiking journey becomes a vital adventure and a glimmer of hope to which we can strongly attach ourselves, facing everything that the route places in front of us.

An itinerant and procedural adventure

What can better convey the idea of ​​a picaresque journey to discover the world and oneself than a path that is built each time in a different way and unpredictable? Here the procedural construction of situations becomes a fundamental element of the spirit of adventure that characterizes the whole game, as well as being an important expedient to guarantee a succession of unexpected situations and the possibility of always trying new paths. The protagonist's journey is studded with encounters, secrets, intertwined stories and choices to be made that can change the fate of the whole bizarre theater of characters that meet along the way: we are constantly faced with possibilities that open up different paths, how to accept or not the passage of a stranger, get in touch with a particular character or run away from him, are all elements that shape the game experience and the path to the border.

Having to be able to travel many kilometers, the need to rely on the help of others is inevitable, therefore Road 96 constantly confronts us with more or less binary choices, capable of starting further bifurcations. Considering that the country we are trying to flee from is a nation called Petria (although it remarkably resembles the American hinterland) where there is an all-encompassing absolutism, we can expect threats to lurk everywhere and that even less suspicious individuals can react against us, should they discover our intention to escape and thus subvert the established order. We must therefore decide who to trust, who to help us or who to help, all choices that have important consequences on the development of the story and the continuation of the journey, which always makes the adventure unpredictable considering also that the various situations arise. composed and distributed in a procedural way at each game.

Fra Tarantino, the Coen brothers and Bong Joon-ho

Although the concept of bass may suggest it, it does not seem there is a lot of Kerouac on Road 96 but the journey through the dusty streets of Petria is still full of quotes and tributes. According to the authors themselves, that is the DigixArt team, among the major sources of inspiration we find Tarantino, the Coen brothers and Bong Joon-ho: in fact the game has a distinctly cinematic cut, both in the rigorous study of photography and in the construction of situations where we can find ourselves. The dialogues but also simply the shots exploit a language that is above all filmic, to which, however, is added the fundamental introduction of interactivity and the possibility given to the player to decide how to develop the story and which path to take. In short, the narrative seems to have a very accurate direction, but in which the player himself takes part, since in the end it is he who decides in which direction to carry the story forward, through the choices that are made along the way.

The various situations in which you can find us open the door to sections of gameplay with quite different structure and rhythm, ranging from reflective and contemplative moments in "walking simulator" style to situations more purely narrative and focused on dialogues, up to almost action situations that also emerge in some moments of the trailer or in certain images, although it is still not clear what challenges are facing the protagonist precisely. We can still expect a great deal of attention placed on the narrative, presumably moving and engaging as Yoan Fanise has accustomed us with his previous productions. The director of Road 96 is in fact the same who directed Valiant Hearts and 11-11 Memories Retold, a curriculum that clearly tells us what expectations to have on this new game, given that it is two of the most emotionally enthralling titles of these years .

A great work also emerges from the graphic characterization, judging by the first glimmers of the game seen so far: the attention to cinematographic photography, as we have said , it is in fact also based on precise choices from an aesthetic point of view. Defining the graphics as "low poly" would be doing the game a disservice, but it is clear that realism is not what the team sought: the style is instead slightly caricatured and cartoonish, almost surreal at times, but a great deal of attention has been paid in the rendering of the wonderful natural settings that characterize the scenarios of Road 96 with wide and fascinating panoramas, from the distant horizon. The remarkable realization of the sky and the lighting system also contributes to this, capable of giving life to splendid sunsets, starry nights and scorching summer days.

Even in a panorama full of solutions stimulating narratives such as the indie field, Road 96 manages to stand out in a particular way thanks to the idea on which it is based and the charm that transpires from the first images. Transforming a daring journey in search of freedom to escape from a totalitarian regime into a video game is an interesting idea, even more so if this path seems to be full of different situations, arranged in a procedural way and with development strongly dependent on the player's choices. In short, the premises from the point of view of the subject and the possible development are really very interesting and Road 96 is already at the top of the list of indies to keep an eye on for the near future.


Beautiful idea of ​​travel / escape as a subject Interesting the procedural construction and the importance of the choices to be made Fascinating the aesthetic result DOUBTS It is not clear how precisely the gameplay develops The procedural construction and freedom of choice will affect cohesion of the narration?

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