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Where the Water Tastes Like Wine Review

Where the Water Tastes Like Wine is a narrative driven adventure game that takes place in Depression-era America. You play as a traveling skeleton who, after losing a game of cards with a wolf-man, has to collect stories from your travels as you traverse the landscape. As you meet fellow travelers and drifters you tell them your stories and in exchange they tell you their most powerful and personal stories of struggle, hope, life and death.

Where the Water Tastes Like Wine Review

introduction

Where the Water Tastes Like Wine is a narrative, adventure game about traveling, meeting strangers and storytelling. You play as a wanderer traveling across Depression-era America and as you travel you witness what is left of a country ravaged and haunted by manifest destiny. ON your travels you take part in events and depending on your decisions you get to witness stories of grief, death, acceptance, humour, and hope.  These events are then stories you can tell to other wanderers of the road and then, in return, they will tell you their stories. Where the Water Tastes Like Wine is an enchanting game of surreal tales, humorous fables and genuine moments of human connection. It’s was a highly anticipated game in the indie scene and I think it meets expectations and exceeds them. It’s perfect for player’s who like relaxed, story-driven games.

You can buy Where the Water Tastes Like Wine on Steam for £14.99

STORY

The story of Where the Water Tastes Like Wine takes place in a very particular time in America. The Great Depression had swept across the nation, affecting and shaking the lives of every single person. It was also a time where folklore and superstition were still an influential and powerful force. Tales of ghosts, spirits and strange entities were part of many American cultures. Where the Water Tastes Like Wine combines the harsh, real histories of 1930’s America with mystical tales of the supernatural and surreal folklore. This balance of real and mythical is what is really makes the game so bewitching, straight from the opening. Having lost in a game of cards to a man with a wolf’s head he asks to you repay your debt in a strange way. You are bound to travel across America, learning the stories of the people you meet and when you have collected these stories you are to tell others, spreading these tales across the country.

Where the Water Tastes Like Wine - Meeting characters by the campfire

After discussing this with your wolf friend, in a poetic but cryptic way, the game begins and you are literally plonked onto the map with no other explanation. As much as I like games that let the player explore and discover the game on their own I did feel that there should have been more of a tutorial because some of the game mechanics, like fast walking and hitch-hiking, I only discovered halfway through the game.

There is more to collecting stories than just learning them, as you tell strangers your stories they will tell others and those people will tell more people. So a story you tell someone in Atlanta might come back around to you when you wander into Los Angeles but it will have changed. Parts of it will have been exaggerated and warped by the people its gone through. That one humble story you told about a strange light you saw in the sky has been swept across the landscape and has become the legend of the colossal fireball that cascaded across the sky. The stories you tell will come back to you further along your journey. It’s this boomerang-like effect that makes the Where the Water Tastes Like Wine so engaging, it feels like you're planting a seed and letting it grow.

GAMEPLAY

Where the Water Tastes Like Wine plays out as a mix between 2D and 3D visuals. As you move around the 3D map, wandering from state to state, there are symbols to interact with. These represent the 2D visual novel-esque side of the game and hold events that you can take part in. For instance, you could happen across an event that gives you a story or have an encounter that earns you some money. There are also capital cities spread across the map where you can replenish your health and travel to another city by train if you have the cash. Then there are also the looming eye symbols, events where you get to share a campfire with a particular character and talk with them through the night – it’s these character interactions that really drive the game.

Where the Water Tastes Like Wine Review - The story menu

These character interactions are the highlight of the game. Where the Water Tastes Like Wine has a variety of fully voice-acted characters who have been created by individual writers so the diversity and depth of these characters are pretty amazing. As you chat with them they ask for you to tell them a certain type of story (hopeful, sad, exciting etc.) and you chose which story to tell them from the ones you’ve collected. Through a tarot card themed menu screen, you are able to see all the stories you have collected, both the truthful ones and the exaggerated ones.  These stories are what the developers describe ‘act as a currency’ as you continue on your journey. Some character’s ask for a specific type of story and it’s up to you to decide which story fits their needs. If you get it correct then they will reveal their own personal struggles and tales. The writing of the character’s and their histories are so well-written, their struggles with the Depression, their broken dreams and lost families and talk of destiny and fate.

I don’t know much about this era of America but you can see the research and care put into the identity of each character. The personal stories that these characters tell are so thoughtful and full of depth, they are chilling portraits and are a reflection of 1930’s America. They represent the lives of everyday people; a coal miner, a poet, a jazz singer, a war veteran, a migrant worker – all of them are a unique take on the ‘American’ experience.

Where the Water Tastes Like Wine - The map of America

GRAPHICS AND AUDIO

Where the Water Tastes Like Wine has a strong visual identity. It’s rough, colourful visual style perfectly captures the feel of the setting. Character’s look warn down and even haunted as the shadows of the campfire flicker across their face. I do wish the same approach was put into the 3D map as it’s a little underwhelming and falls flat compared to the rich, vibrant illustrations. The concept art for the map was detailed and colourful and I don’t think the final look reflects the art. Even though the map does capture the different landscapes of America, the rocky mountains of Colorado and the beachy coasts of Miami, it all looks a little dull.

Even though the map is underwhelming, traveling is still fun and walking doesn’t get boring due to the hearty soundtrack that plays as you walk across it. The soundtrack is a mix of 1930s inspired music such as blues, jazz, swing, and country that changes depending on the area of America what you are currently walking through. It just adds an extra sense of identity to the part of America you are walking through. One oversight I feel was when you want to walk faster, your character starts to whistle a tune over the top of the music, almost drowning it out. If the whistling had joined in with the music then it would have been charming but instead, it’s a clashing of two different songs which ruins the atmosphere.

Where the Water Tastes Like Wine - Told truths and tales

conclusion

After completing the story and playing a good 10 hours of Where the Water Tastes Like Wine I feel like I haven't truly taken it all in. It has the same American Gothic feel as Kentucky Route Zero, it’s a game with depth, heart, and history. If you love a thoughtful story and a sucker for gorgeous illustrated artwork (like me) then make sure you don’t let this game pass you by. Where the Water Tastes Like Wine is a beautifully crafted game and will without a doubt be a standout game in the indie scene for 2018.

PROS
CONS
 + A tory with heart and history – Needed a more detailed tutorial
 + Interesting story spreading mechanic – The whistling can clash with the music
 + Striking visual style and music
8
Great

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