Highlands, Deep Waters

by Fernando B. Neves and Lucas Zaper

Horror
2017

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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
A satisfying lovecraftian adventure. , September 13, 2019

This is the first choicescript game I have played all the way through and it has set a high bar.

In this game, you play as an investigator (you can choose between three base archetypes: a scholar, a criminal, or a detective) trying to solve a murder in Invernock, a fictitional small town in Scotland. The game includes some light RPG elements where stats and preferences can be assigned or influenced. It includes some light puzzles that require the player to make deductions based on clues and dialogue with NPCs. Those familiar with IF shouldn't find the puzzles much of a challenge, but it is the set-up and story that really shine in this game.

The authors (who are Brazilian) plainly state their inspiration for the story (they include H.P. Lovecraft (The Shadow over Innsmouth, The Horror at Red Hook), Alan Moore (From Hell, Neonomicon, The Courtyard), as well as American television series Twin Peaks and True Detective). Anyone familiar with these influences will see early on the direction where the story is headed, but it is a compelling ride.

There is some purple prose, but it is effective in creating a gradual and growing sense of dread, and showing the mental toll the case wrecks on your character. There is the option to take a breather and read some optional in-game folktales and a couple of actual HP Lovecraft stories, which I found to be a nice touch.

The game does confront some of the more troubling aspect's of Lovecraft's legacy (racism, xenophobia, etc.) but largely sticks to a story steeped in Scottish mythology and occult mystery.

Although this is the first Choicescript game* I have played all the way through, my sense is that authors have tried to push and innovate with the language to tell their story. There are a few graphics that help add atmosphere and assist with deductions. The "show stats" page allows you to see an in-game map, read case notes (which are very helpful as the story gets more complicated and remembering who is who and what your objective is), and read the above-mentioned stories.

I felt I got my money's worth and there is enough variance between archetypes and choices to allow for at least 2-3 satisfying playthroughs. I'll be looking out for any new games from these authors. I think it will be tough for other Choicescript games to match this one in terms of quality and immersive story telling.

*My understanding is that Choicescript games emphasize being able to play characters of different gender identities and sexual orientations. Those options exist in this game but from my playthroughs they seemed to have little influence on the story. I'll be curious to see if others have the same or a different experience.