There’s a few reasons why I left my review of Vigilante: Speak for the Dead (VS4D) until today. Firstly, starting this week Divisive Media’s social game launches internationally across a number of platforms, having built up a local following in Australia and New Zealand these past few months. Secondly, I’ve created a few different accounts and watched the game evolve over time, so now I can confidently state my opinion on this little experiment.
Any game that involves social interaction and a constant need to follow the situation requires time, more so than most. In the case of VS4D, based on the upcoming feature film ‘John Doe’, time plays a large part in how the game operates. From taking down small time criminals to building a clan worthy of wielding power, you’re going to need to put in as much effort as you can to get the most out of it.
You’ll start by creating a character, choosing from a number of facial characteristics and clothing for your mugshot. In my case I started by searching out my own image (the lads at Divisive were more than happy to include my unusual mug in the game … I can only imagine how many people have used my nose!) before trying out a few more outlandish matches later on. The likelihood of coming across another player with the same features as you is highly unlikely, though you can always choose to cover your entire face with a mask or similar at a later date.
VS4D is split into a number of different areas. You’ll start by taking out small timers and local citizens who you believe are causing trouble. The game will do its best to describe each situation, but it’s completely your decision whether you take any action and, if so, what action that may be. A warning here or there might sway a few people, but taking bigger risks or causing more damage may result in bigger XP or cash rewards.
Your character will continually upgrade over time, improving certain statistics that will later decide how effective your decisions may be. But your vigilante means nothing unless you choose a clan, which is where the social aspect of VS4D comes into play. Once you’ve requested to join a group, you’ll then be able to talk amongst yourselves within a separate clan only chatroom. If you do get lucky and join a talkative team, you can then arrange between yourselves what you’d like to do.
Rival clans, i.e. other players, will then try and take you out if you find yourselves growing in stature, so maintaining a level of communication is vital to your clans success. If one of your team is under threat, he can shout out to the rest to defend him against he incoming attack. Everything is timed, from a few seconds for earlier quests to a few hours for the more difficult challenges, such as taking out a higher level character or indeed defending against a rival gang.
VS4D feels more like a text based adventure mixed with a non-fantasy tabletop RPG. Interactions are played out through simplistic but well drawn menus, from choosing your clan colours to purchasing new equipment or targets within the map screen. When you do decide to take action, the event will play out in a short animation mimicking a motion comic before displaying your results. Your choices change the way your character survives and evolves, along with the kind of success your clan can achieve.
Impressively, you can continue the same game across different platforms (although the Facebook edition has yet to be released). This allows a continuous level of interaction, as soon as something happens in the game your phone app will relay the message during work hours, before you sit down and coordinate your next move at home on the couch via your iPad. Once the Facebook version comes online, the possibilities of the game are numerous.
VS4D’s setting mixes its comic style art with partial realism (you’ll see information popping up ranging from lowly drug dealers to family members caught in the crossfire and lives struggling to survive every day events) and some times it can be a little unnerving. It’s important to note that you can’t just take everything you see out, otherwise the chief gang will quickly put you in your place. There’s a sense of right and wrong here, you can’t just rely on random attacks. Choosing your targets wisely and using the right methods will gain the right level of awards without drawing too much attention from the in-game rival, though real world players won’t see things the same way.
That’s the beauty of Vigilante: Speak for the Dead. Each experience will vary depending on how deep you go down the rabbit hole. Join the right gang and you could climb up the ladder or be part of an endless war, back and forth. Though there are a few technical glitches here and there, with a little instability depending on your internet connection, there’s nothing here that’s game breaking or annoying.
My time with the game has so far been within Australia itself, but it’ll certainly be interesting to see the what player interaction the world over might do to the landscape. Divisive have also built a strong support base so far, with the hope that fresh content and updates will constantly stream through. As it stands now, Vigilante: Speak for the Dead is a well thought out and intelligently designed social experiment with the potential to grow significantly.
[review pros="Intelligent RPG/text adventure design, Impressive motion comic art, Compelling social interaction" cons="A few bugs crop up but nothing game breaking, Load screens can be a little long at times, Experience will vary greatly if you fail to join a strong clan" score=88]