At its heart, Acolyte is a game that offers a deep, dark, and mature mystery at a reasonable price. That comes with a couple caveats, however.
Two of the bigger selling points for the game are the AI chatbot client that runs the game, and the ARG aspects, and those are really what I’m going to focus on. I’ll get the simple stuff out of the way first – the graphics in-game for the AI client are very nice, and give a good amount of emotion and character. There’s an ambient soundtrack which serves its purpose perfectly well. But the AI is..not always the best. Their store page emphasizes how you’re using an actual chatbot with natural language processing, but she often won’t understand very basic phrases or words, like “maybe”. For all the talk of “you can have a natural conversation”, I regularly had to use simple sentences and rather stilted language to get her to understand.
The game paints her as your “partner” in the investigation, yet her participation is wildly inconsistent. Sometimes she clearly is waiting on you to utter a key phrase (which you can do without trying to be conversational) before unlocking her canned dialogue/lore dump on the topic. Once she has something to say, however, she will literally ignore whatever you say while she makes a multi-post rant. Afterward, she’ll respond to what you said, usually in confusion because she thinks you’re responding to the last thing she said. (You weren’t, you were commenting on something prior to it, but she doesn’t understand you.) On occasion, she’ll respond essentially with nonsense – contextually, it makes zero sense in response to ANYTHING you’ve said, because some aspect triggered a canned response. In short, it’s JUST like dealing with the majority of chatbots online. In this case, though, it breaks the immersion because (obvious, but minor spoiler) she’s supposed to be very advanced. (For reference, I actually have dealt with much better AI bots online. This feels much more akin to a customer service bot.) There’s a gameplay hook as to why you need to use specific phrases, but the execution often feels (somewhat ironically) artificial. At no point did I feel like I was dealing with actual intelligence, artificial or otherwise, and though I understand the reality (this is a game, this tech doesn’t exist) it kind of breaks the immersion. You really have to work to suspend your disbelief here, as the game is telling you “This is amazing. You need to be shocked,” and I personally didn’t ever feel that level of connection to the world, Ana, or the narrative.
The ARG aspects are really just concerned with you going to websites to process clues and a handful of fake websites/social media profiles to find other clues. I understand the desire to increase immersion, and overall, it works, but I feel like this story could have been told completely within the game and everything would have worked just fine, and nothing from the story would have lost impact at all. We all know this is a work of fiction. It’s worth noting that if you’re not deeply familiar with more complex puzzles, like cyphers, etc, this may not be the game for you. They’re not lying when they say you need to think outside of the box.
All that being said, however, this game is an earnest, solid effort that I will recommend. The price is reasonable, and the game itself is generally well-written and coherent. Even at full price, it’s a low-risk venture. Just be aware that your mileage may vary, and if you’re not familiar with puzzle/mystery games, you might not see it through to its conclusion without a walkthrough (either due to skill or lack of interest).
To buy Acolyte on Steam, CLICK HERE.
The Chuck is a lifelong gamer who was born in Ohio, but now lives in much closer proximity to Mickey Mouse.
The Chuck has found his life to be a series of improbable and almost unbelievable events, starting when he was twenty and caught the bubonic plague from a prairie dog. He was as surprised as anyone when he found out that's something that can happen.
When he isn't gaming, The Chuck can be found enjoying baseball, (American) football, pro wrestling, and horror movies. He is most commonly seen in the company of one or more cats.
Reclusive by nature, The Chuck is (like most semi-feral creatures) reward-driven. Approach with caution and some form of treat.