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
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.
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.
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.
GRAPHICS AND AUDIO
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.
|+ 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|