Project Pastorate Review
PsyRob tells a tale of crime, castes, and corruption in their new visual novel Project Pastorate. Covering some very heavy themes, does it succeed in building a new world?
Project Pastorate Review
From the very first moments, players are thrown into a heavy tale. A murdered Prefect has been found in the Phlox Slums, and it’s up to Vinnie Boyd and Leonard to figure out what is going on. These two serve the Pastor as Devoters, who set out to expose and trap perpetrators in order to bring them to the honest court. They certainly wield a lot of power, and their status is a stark contrast when compared to the poor masses that work the mines of the League.
Its dystopian setting certainly won’t bring a smile to your face, but its grittiness can be appreciated. During this initial episode, players will come across addicts of the drug Psylos, corrupt figures in the bureaucracy, gang leaders, and other characters. It’s a lot to keep track of, and though a “Velvet Book” can be pulled up at any given time that serves as a glossary, players are expected to know a lot of jargon from the get-go. Though it attempts to build its world, it does so without setting the stage first – good luck figuring out what the “Sixth Amendment” is without stopping the action to look it up first.
This disconnect extends to its “combat” as well. At certain moments during the game, players will engage in battle against enemy forces. Rather than use fisticuffs, however, a card system is in place. Enemies will choose an action like “Barricade” or “Throwing Knife,” and players must play one of five cards to counter that move. This requires a lot of trial and error, and though players are given some leeway, it is a guessing game that proves to be more frustrating than fun. When facing multiple opponents, this drags on that much more. Players can skip these moments if they want, but more guidance or some retooling could have gone a long way.
Much like Hideo Kojima’s Policenauts, players will click areas, read text, and then choose certain options to investigate further or make a final decision. These choices add some flavor to the game, but the script can change its tone quite a bit. For what is supposed to be a serious game, Vinnie Boyd will often drop curse words, talk about the overweight “Giggling Maggie,” or talk about how a trial is “shorter than a chick’s dick.” It comes across as crude, and though it might be done to establish the character, it comes off in poor taste.
Project Pastorate’s world is one full of character, but the execution of its story could have used some fine-tuning. Those looking for something different can certainly find it here, but don’t be surprised if you end up checking the Velvet Book for notes on more than one occasion.