There’s probably nothing more frustrating than a game that shows true ambition on its sleeve, only to be held back by some kind of gameplay quirk. We’ve seen it on occasion, a game with the most brilliant design out there, but something that plays not in the best light possible. And, sadly, that seems to be the case with Beautiful Desolation. All the inspiration in the game’s design can’t make up for the fact that it’s a point-and-click game that doesn’t click once you take it out of its point-and-click box.
Not to say that it’s not an inspired attempt. It is. The developers at The Brotherhood attempted to do something new with the game’s traditional point-and-click controls on consoles, translating them for more real-time movement. But that doesn’t mean the experimentation paid off. In fact, the game plays more slowly as a result, draining a good deal of fun out of it. This is a shame, because, had it stuck to more traditional means, it wouldn’t serve so much as a distraction from the pretty cool storytelling that’s involved here.
Initially released on PC, Beautiful Desolation takes place in an unlikely location – South Africa – following an apocalypse. We don’t want to give too much of the story away, but you actually learn a thing or two about the characters you come across, and the exploration is actually rewarded with additional puzzles and story threads – something that’s akin to older adventure games of this type. The design is very inspired. However, The Brotherhood doesn’t quite nail the formula when it comes to replicating the game’s success on the console front.
That’s because the controls are…problematic. The movement translated to real-time just doesn’t feel like a fit at all here, compared to you simply clicking to find a new direction. What’s more, the port also has its fair share of issues, like barriers that can be frustrating when you come across them, as well as sluggish combat that doesn’t happen nearly often enough. Even the puzzles feel like a slog, rather than inspiration in design. It’s as if the developers had a perfect equation figured out but then decided to complicate the field with extra mathematics that throws off all the numbers.
That’s a shame because this is one game that rewards those that dig a little deeper. Not that the story is everyone’s speed, but there are interesting threads and characters here, along with neat little side missions. That is if the gameplay doesn’t send you venting in frustration. There’s also a number of tech issues that get in the way, such as little bits and pieces of stuttering. Not to mention the loading times that happen quite frequently – even on a PlayStation 5. It’s like a demo of a game rather than the game itself.
That’s a shame, because the rest of the Beautiful Desolation experience isn’t bad, at least aesthetically. The visuals really shine when it comes to painting a creative post-apocalyptic world, and the characters and enemies don’t look too bad at all. The sound is pretty solid too, particularly with the effects that bring the world together. It definitely has that classic sci-fi vibe to it.
Beautiful Desolation feels like one of those games where formula shouldn’t have been fiddled with that much. Again, I get why The Brotherhood did what it did, but it probably should’ve stuck with what worked instead of saddling the game with what doesn’t. The gameplay feels overcomplicated and messy as a result and is sure to turn a lot of people off. All I can hope for is a patch that restores some stuff back to basics. Because, without that, the game will instead feel like something of beautiful desertion. And it deserves much more than that.