Okay, so I’ve decided to give this game a try since it looked so beautiful and intriguing in the store page.
I’ve managed to play through the game and finished it. I really do think that Across is good, but halfway through the game I can’t say that there weren’t times that frustrated me. I’ll start by listing a few positives.
The narration starts off by introducing a grieving daughter whose pet had just deceased. So the mother decides to tell a story about a little cub’s journey through the world. It starts off weird because the mother will immediately talk about a family living in the countryside trying to flee soldiers right after mentioning the cub. This may seem random, but trust me on this one, it makes sense as you continue to play. Themes of tragic loss and war are readily apparent in the first part of the game. Later you’ll play as a sparrow and a lioness trying to find her lost cubs. There’s not much explicit plot here, but I absolutely love the ending with the twist. The game is basically saying that war ruins the lives of families which is something that I believe people should be aware of in these times.
Art & Sounds
The atmosphere is ABSOLUTELY GORGEOUS. The light of the setting sun feels real along with the falling leaves of the forest. The colors blend well in their respective environments: The orange autumn trees, icy tundra, and the grey ruins of an ancient kingdom. I was mind blown by the sheer quality of the world.
The sounds in this game are exceptionally crisp for the most part. The birds chirping sound so lifelike, the waterfall splashing, and walking through the grass feels so nice. The music is the real killer here. It is so relaxing to hear it during the game. You hear the peaceful strumming of the guitar while there could be a somber piano playing in another level. The music manages to perfectly match the tone of each section of the story.
What I Didn’t Like
Alright so the game sounds pretty good so far, right? Well there are things that really hold it back from being a very good game.
Gameplay: You’re basically playing a cub/sparrow/lioness walking simulator. Is it a bad thing? Absolutely NOT, but the controls feel very clunky especially for some parts that require a bit of platforming and maneuvering. The camera control sensitivity is a bit too high and I notice a bit of a delay when I’m jumping. THIS was very noticeable when I played as the sparrow, it was exceptionally clunky at times when I tried to fly. For the game you mainly walk around interacting with glowing objects to find tidbits of the story. There are puzzles in the second half of the game that could have been explained a bit more, but they are simply “find something, interact” and a bit of switching between the sparrow and lioness.
Narration: Okay I will be brutally honest here, you can easily tell that English isn’t the native language of the voice actors and maybe the developers. It feels like the VA are just reading off of the script and you can barely feel the emotion that they’re supposed to be conveying. I couldn’t tell at times if the mother was tired or trying to be reassuring since she is telling a story about grief and war. There’s clearly some dissonance between the content of the story and how it is being portrayed through narration. Nothing against the VA, I know how hard it is to voice a character, but this is something that could be improved.
This game is beautiful and I find the story to be well done. I love how the story of the cub intertwines with the theme of grief in the family. The atmosphere and music are utterly phenomenal. However the controls and the narration negatively impact the immersion of Across.
If Steam had a NEUTRAL option then this game would deserve it at the very least since effort has been clearly made but the negatives really hold it back. For now I’m giving a positive because the story touched me (no not that way) and the environment is breathtaking. It’s a walking simulator that I actually enjoyed that had a bit of depth to it. If the issues I mentioned were fixed then I would whole-heartedly recommend Across.
You can purchase Across on the Steam store page HERE.