A New Beginning Summary:
Beautifully made and satisfyingly long
adventure game with tons of puzzles of varying difficulty and only one puzzle that is too coo-coo for its own good. German voice acting is great. Full recommendation and worth it even at full price. 5 stars for the German version, only 4.5 for the English version because the English voice acting is poorly done. Longer explanation about why I think the game is underrated:
Somehow, this game only has an average rating of 3.5 stars, not just here on GOG but across the internet. I checked a lot of reviews and read a bunch of them to see why this game is so lowly rated, in some cases getting only 1 and 2 star reviews and a whole lot of 3 star reviews. Such low ratings are not justified in my opinion.
One major criticism was the story
. People complaining about the moral agenda of the game regarding the global warming topic. I beg to wonder, which part of "entertainment" is so hard to understand? This isn't an edutainment title, it's purely fictional and pure entertainment. Whether the writers intended to make a political statement or not and whether there is anything to human influence on global warming or not should be irrelevant when playing and reviewing this game. It would be a bit like downrating Indiana Jones because it has Nazis in it, or downrating Thief because the main protagonist is a criminal, or downrating Doom because killing is the only answer in that game.
I feel like most people didn't get some of the subtleties here, for instance how the game pokes fun about eco-activists.
Very reminiscent of real life where a lot of hypocrisy can be found. I'll give you an example: There are activists here in Switzerland who camped out in front of one of our nuclear power plants in tents to protest but they took showers at home, using warm water heated with power from the very power plant they were protesting against. Further more, they use nuclear power to load the batteries of their i-macs and i-pads. They did have portable solar panels lying around the camp but those were only used to recharge their i-phones. But If you told these people about the poor environmental and social policies their beloved company Apple has, they simply won't hear of it. Complete denial and confirmation bias, no chance for reason to get through.
Everybody knows that nuclear power plants are a huge safety hazard and that they must be replaced asap, however simply turning them off right now is no option. Not if you have a basic understanding of how the electrical grid works and how much time and money it costs to decommission a nuclear power plant. We need alternative energy and we need it urgently but please don't be a hypocrite about it and please don't downrate a game because its plot is built around a future environmental catastrophe.
Other player criticized the story of A New Beginning by how it was told
. That's more viable criticism. The story involves time travel which is always problematic because it is inadvertently paradoxical. But it's well done in this game and made sense within the logic of the story which has a nice arc and never fell into a boring slouch, always presenting new scenery, new characters and new challenges. I'm surprised that a game like The Longest Journey is super popular even though its plot is all over the place and the dialogues are often a complete bore, especially in the first chapter, while as the story in A new Beginning is seen as "making no sense". I found the story to be cohesive and the actions of the characters are believable, even if they are over the top at times. With the exception of the two main characters whose actions and behavior are perhaps a bit surprising. Fay, the female lead, seems oddly at peace with being transported back into a time unknown to her. Her voice acting (German version) is on the spot though, she is an unassuming and almost childlike character and the voice actress captures that perfectly.
Bent, the elderly main lead, is surprising in the opposite way. Coming out of deep depression and living by himself in a remote place, he is suddenly thrust into an adventure full of action and it seems he is adapting unusually quick. This does make sense though because he used to be a go-getter when he was younger, so it is in his nature to get stuff done, he just needed to be pulled out of his slouch by force.
Another point of criticism were the stiff animations
, I agree that the walk cycles in particular aren't as well done as let's say Broken Sword 1 and look floaty. In a more cartoony style like Deponia where walk cycles are equally flawed it's less noticeable but A New Beginning has a more mature and very detailed style so the walking animations do look rather poor. The character art itself and the backgrounds are top of the line though. All the backgrounds are wonderfully detailed yet never cluttered, bested only by other Daedalic games like the Dark Eye series which have even nicer backgrounds but make no mistake, A New Beginning is impressive and beautiful to look at.
Music and sound effect are great, didn't see much criticim about those so let's move onto the puzzles
I got terribly stuck early on but it was my own fault, I had the right idea but due to being tired used the right item on the wrong hotspot. After that failed, I spent about 1.5 hours trying all kinds of nonsense and was strarting to loudly curse until I came back and try the same thing but this time on the right (equally named) hotspot. It frustrated me that even though I instantly had the right idea, I failed due to lack of concentration. Not the game's fault.
There was only one puzzle where i got stuck and used the "fast forward" button to skip it, a most ingenious feature that allows players to continue the story! Once I finished the game, I reloaded at that spot and finished the puzzle in all peace, and without being stressed I was able to solve it fairly quickly, in less than half the time I had spent on my first attempt. It was a classic bomb disarm puzzle, nothing too hard really but when you're tired those puzzles will swamp you, I'm general not a fan of this type of abstract "minigame filler" puzzle and prefer the ones where you have to combine items and use the game's environment. There a TON of those puzzles in A New Beginning, it's the purest joy. Most are easy but just tricky enough to keep your attention and some are quite challenging. Overall a very good mix.
There was only one puzzle which in my opinion required too much lateral thinking, I'm talking the annoying Sierra kind you'd never figure out, not the slightly less unfair LucasArts kind of lateral thinking. In classic adventures where there is only exactly one solution, it's not a very good idea to make the stretch so frustratingly "stretchy". I got lucky because I solved the puzzle by accident without having intended to set things up that way, I'm not going to spoil anything though so you go find out which puzzle i meant on your own :) I have to admit that I probably wouldn't have figured this one out on my own if I hadn't solved it accidentally. But don't worry, it's nothing like the infamous Mosley mustache puzzle, the one I mean in A New Beginning actually makes sense but it's a big stretch.
By the way, all the puzzles in this game are item/logic based, there are no conversational puzzles like in e.g. Monkey Island. In a way, this adds to the serious atmosphere of A New Beginning because dialogue puzzles are by nature rather bonkers, it breaks immersion if you have to go through dialogue trees repeatedly and only works in funny games like Monkey Island, other than that it's just plain awkward. In some rare cases it works with more serious games, the word battles in The Shivah being a good example.
Last but not least, a comment about the game's length
. It took me about 16 hours to finish and I was surprised to see that most people finished this game in plus/minus 10 hours. Not sure if I'm just slow and possibly not as smart as I'd like or if people don't savor the experience enough, or if they are just BSing about the time. I thought it was a long and satisfying game, very long and full of actual content for a point & click. Must add that once I progress in-game, I like to save often and reload to try doing things in all the wrong ways to see if there is a way to break the game and find dead ends. It's also fun to purposely try wrong item combinations etc just to hear the comments from the characters. This extra diddling around extends playtime in a fun way, for me at least. Plus I don't have to replay adventure games that way because I try out all the different things during my first playthrough, and it also helps with reviewing.