Developers Wispfire has created quite an interesting point-and-click game, with their new episodic series titled Herald: An Interactive Period Drama. A story that is filled with Intrigue, drama, adventure, and… MURDER!
This will be a spoiler-free review, so I will try to avoid major plot points and story elements, so let’s get to it. I first want to say that I was provided with a free Steam key to review Herald, but that won’t affect my opinion about the game.
The story takes place in an alternate 19th-century timeline and follows a young man named Devan Rensburg, a man that is searching for his family roots and decides to join the crew of The HLV Herald, a merchant trade ship, for a life of adventure across the seven seas. Their cargo? A few crates of Indigo and a couple of rich passengers. But as the story unfolds, it seems that there is more to this voyage than meets the eye, and not everything is as it seems.
The gameplay is pretty straight-forward, with the controls quite literally consisting of the player just pointing and clicking your way around the ship. The Herald isn’t very large, and you will quickly find your way around after snooping a bit, but if you happen to get lost they do include a map in your journal.
You pretty much have free reign to walk and go wherever you want on the ship, whenever you want, with certain areas blocked off or locked due to the story to restrict your access, and new areas opening up as the story progresses forward. If you move the mouse to the top of the screen your journal book will appear, if you click it you can read about past story events, notes about your current mission, as well as read about other tidbits and knowledge that you have gathered while snooping around the ship. Certain NPCs will give you special tasks for you to fulfill to keep you busy, and for most of the dialogue scenarios, you can choose multiple choice options to help shape the story.
Like most Point-and-click games, Herald rewards the player’s curiosity by placing lots of different items and objects around the ship for you to click on, with Rensburg chiming in to give his input about the person or object in question. This adds an extra layer of immersion because about 90% of the entire game is fully voiced with dialogue.
There are only a few parts in the game where the text will appear but it lacks voice acted speech to accompany the dialogue, such as, talking to minor crew members that walk around the ship or when you talk to a character that currently doesn’t have a major purpose in the current plot. Other major dialogue sequences do have voice acting, though.
More importantly, the story has a branching narrative where your actions affect key plot points in the story which triggers new dialogue and can sometimes lead to dire consequences for certain characters.
Graphics And Special Effects
I have to say that I really love the art style and visual design for Herald. The intriguing plot and the semi-cartoon style graphics almost makes the game feel like a story from either Telltale Games or the Broken Sword series, and I dare say it is also equally enjoyable. I quickly got attached to the cast of characters and wanted to learn more about them, but I feel a major part of this was based on how the characters were illustrated in-game.
The 3D models and environments are decent enough, but nothing to marvel over. However, Herald: An Interactive Period Drama, utilizes Live2D art for the character portraits, and this is where the art really shines. For those not familiar with the Live2D program, it takes 2D pictures, divides them into parts and places vector points on them, then transforms those parts into 3D images. I have personally used the Live2D program and I know how difficult it is to do it right, but Herald nails it!
If you don’t draw and layer every part of the character just right, Live2D can be a real nightmare to use and the characters can come out looking like a hot mess. But that’s not the case here, the characters in Herald have an extreme amount of detail, a wide range of emotional facial features, and a cast of voice actors to bring the entire game to life. I take my hat off to the art team, well done!
There were a few times where I felt that the voice actors were lacking conviction with their dialogue or where the voice didn’t match the character, but I personally didn’t feel that it was game-breaking and quickly got over it. As for special effects, the game doesn’t have many other than the lighting and shadows, and even that is pretty basic. There aren’t a lot of flashy things, reflections, or other graphical effects, so in that regards, Herald keeps things pretty simple. Now that I think about it, there aren’t too many ambient sound effects either, the majority of the time it is just music (which is rather nice), and the voice dialogue to fill the silence.
My Overall thoughts
I should point out glitches and flaws, but the good news is that there was only one that I encountered. When I first downloaded the game there was a black screen glitch that prevented me from playing, the screen would just hang after launching the game, and it turns out it wasn’t an isolated event as several other players suffered from the same problem. However, once the developers were notified of the issue, they quickly went to work in patching the game to fix the issue.
Furthermore, Herald: An Interactive Period Drama is rather short since it currently only has two books, with books three and four being released as episodic content at a later date. In total, I would say that Herald has about 4 to 5 hours (depending on how much you snoop around the ship) worth of gameplay for the first two books. So, if you like story-driven point-and-click adventure games, then I think you will really enjoy Herald: An Interactive Period Drama.
Overall, I personally loved playing this game and I look forward to playing the last two books in the series. I highly recommend you check this one out.