Save the World in Eco-Thriller A New Beginning

Point-and-click adventure games pretty much come in two varieties: comedy or serious. There are exceptions of course, like The Longest Journey or Police Quest, but the two seldom mix. You either laugh your way through absurdity and silliness or puzzle out a story of mystery and intrigue where the only irony on show is of the dramatic variety.

A New Beginning – The Final Cut falls squarely into the latter camp. It has a few laughs and some clever witticisms, but its core plot points, characters, and underlying themes are deadly serious — concerned as they are with the very ground on which we walk. If you can see beyond some rough touches and needless melodrama, it convincingly portrays a world with a bleak future — our own — that needs radical action to save its inhabitants from devastating climate change. It’s a journey worth taking, but you’ll need a lot of patience to reach the end.

Could We Start Again, Please?

Human civilization several centuries into the future lies in utter ruin. Only a few hundred people remain, stuck living in uncomfortable conditions underground, and even they are set to be wiped out by an incoming solar flare. In a desperate act to save humanity, the world’s leaders send teams back in time to convince their predecessors to change their ways and switch to alternative energy sources.

Introduction cutscene

All is not fine in future Earth.

As radio-operator Fay, you soon learn that it’s not quite so simple and head off on a journey to find algae researcher Bent Svensson (also playable) and save the world. Across a several-hour odyssey, you’ll pick up strange objects; combine them in your inventory to solve puzzles; and talk to people for hints, general information, and backstory — all the standard point-and-click adventuring fare.

Aside from uneven voice acting and a poor interface (more on that shortly), the game is beautifully presented. Cutscenes have a graphic novel vibe to them, with luscious backgrounds and stylized panels that stamp onto the screen as the action plays out. They add a dynamism to what would otherwise be people standing around talking about backstory, and their little details serve as one of the highlights of the game.

Most of the story is told through animated cutscenes that borrow heavily from graphic novels.

Work, Darn You!

If you look at it strictly in terms of its game mechanics and puzzles, A New Beginning is a fairly mediocre point-and-click adventure. The puzzles actually make sense most of the time, which is a turn-up for the books, but they aren’t particularly inventive or challenging — except when you have to guess at the designers’ intentions.

I’d praise the puzzles more for being (mostly) logical — after the fact if not before — if they weren’t hamstrung by a poorly-implemented interface. Thankfully you can skip several of the more complex puzzles, should they prove too tough.

Complex puzzle

The more complex puzzles are skippable, although you can probably figure them out with a bit of thought.

There’s sadly no quick way to look at something or pick it up. After holding the mouse button down for a second or so, a rotary dial appears with your options. Most of the time these are Look and either Use or Talk, but occasionally there’s a third or fourth choice. I found switching from the default option to one of the alternatives frustratingly imprecise. Simply moving the mouse didn’t bring the desired change; I had to flick sideways, up, or down, and even then it didn’t work half the time. I’m baffled how such an unresponsive interface made it out the door.

Object interface

Shipping out.

You can’t make your character run, either, and can only double-click to skip the walk animation when leaving the current area. Otherwise you’re left twiddling your thumbs while they amble over. So much of A New Beginning is spent waiting that many players are likely to give up after a few chapters — and this appears to be the case, if Steam’s achievements are anything to go by.

Save The World, Or Destroy It Trying

A New Beginning doesn’t try to hide its agenda. The time to act on climate change is now, it argues, and the only way to spur people into action — breaking the inertia of fossil fuels, powerful lobbyists, and industrial development — is to do something big. Or is it?

Climate change speech

The future sure looks pretty grim.

The conflict between the three principle characters suggests there’s more to the story. Gruff and grizzled retired scientist Bent Svensson stopped thinking he could save the world years ago, leaving his research to his son Duve, while time-travelling do-gooder Fay has a troublesome over-sincerity and absolute faith in Svensson’s algae research, and her colleague Salvador will do whatever it takes to force a major change — even if that involves destroying most of South America in a humungous nuclear reactor explosion.

This conflict drives the story in unexpected directions at times, and the tension between the ideas that science can change the world and only mass-scale disaster can shake us from our false sense of security plays off in interesting ways. A New Beginning doesn’t have the answers, but it wants you to think about them, and it wants you to act — before somebody more radical (on either side of the battle) does.

Some would go to any means necessary to make their point.

Let Down By Its Flaws

But clearly something is lost in translation. Its conversion from German is made rougher for the bland voice acting — which seems to lack any situational awareness whatsoever — and awful interface, and I was left wondering if subtleties in the original script were also left by the wayside.

Both the characters and story manage to be simultaneously dull and intriguing, as not even the dynamic graphic novel cutscenes fully avoid a sense that a mature theme like climate change — or the sub-theme of self-neglect — does not have to be portrayed so dryly.

A New Beginning could have been magnificent, had it been blessed with better actors, more polish, and a sense of humor. Instead, it’s only elevated above decent by gorgeous visuals, an enjoyably-varied soundtrack, a compelling premise, and a few killer twists.


Summary

With a mature story rooted in the dangers of climate change, coupled with a brilliant graphic novel presentation, point-and-click adventure A New Beginning - The Final Cut takes you on a thrilling ride. But its poor interface and other shortfalls nearly derail it completely.

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