Orwell is an interesting choice-based game where players take the role of Investigator in the Orwell program. Orwell is an all-seeing government program that is used to investigate citizens of the fictional nation of The Nation. While the system is used to investigate target citizens, it can be used to monitor the online activities of anyone. There’s a clear philosophical question surrounding the game with some political roots. However, it’s not as straightforward as it initially seems to be.
As the player takes the role of Investigator, they have a single main job: collecting “Data-chunks”. These Data-chunks are formed from pieces of information found online from various locations on the internet. It ranges from favourite colour to a telephone number which lets the player hack different devices. The player can collect a large amount of information but it’s up to the player to decide what’s useful to the investigation. All of this information is being collected in the wake of a terrible crime and the player must discover the truth behind the terrorist attack while also catching those responsible.
While it’s possible to collect a large amount of data, some of the information conflicts so not everything can be collected in a single playthrough. This conflicting information reveals different characteristics about the possible suspects in the game. It can be used to determine if someone is a threat or record extremely personal information.
Where is the limit?
The game poses an interesting question. Where is the limit when it comes to surveillance? The game forces the player to think about things in a different light and about the practicality of such as system. There’s a point in the game where the Adviser thinks the phrase “partner in crime” refers to a real crime instead of just being casual slang that points out two people are close friends. As a result, it becomes ‘evidence’ against the pair. It’s a very strange situation and players must think carefully about their actions.
As previously mentioned, the game is quite political and poses some interesting philosophical questions about surveillance. Especially in a time where governments are pushing for better surveillance laws around the world. It’s an important topic which has been addressed nicely without forcing players to pick a side.
Orwell features multiple endings depending on the choices that players make. While the choices leading up to the finale are mentioned, the ending is focused around the final choices made by the player. So while the game is choice heavy, some players may be displeased by this. Each ending is still quite rewarding and offer a satisfying outcome. However, the game still lacks replay value as the story is very linear and there’s no free play mode. After the first playthrough, there’s not much left to discover. Despite this, there’s a nice amount of achievements to unlock over various playthroughs.
This is a very thought-provoking game which offers an amazing experience for the first playthrough. However, it is quite a short game at around 3 – 5 hours long. The story is filled with twists and turns to keep players hooked throughout the different episodes and for those who aren’t convinced, the first episode is currently free to play on Steam.