As a child I was fascinated by the works of Jules Verne, especially Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea. It brought to words a vivid image of 19th century America, but with a twist of its own: Captain Nemo’s Nautilus was several decades ahead of its time, a capable submarine that would go on to view undersea wonders such as wrecks from naval battles and the fictional submerged land of Atlantis. The exploration motif that is prevalent throughout Twenty Thousand would be further explored in Around the World in Eighty Days, although the previous’ science fiction elements were amiss. Inkle Studios said bollocks to that and introduced these elements and much more in its upcoming (on Steam) game, 80 days.
It’s a stretch to think Verne would explore a theme that wasn’t used until the 1950’s, Steampunk, in his novel about the travels of gentleman Fogg and his valet, Passepartout, but I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t more drawn in by Inkle Studios’ rendition of the fictional 19th century journey than I was by the original. It is crafty in its approach: you’ll grasp very quickly that things are different in this alternate world, but the scope of this difference is something that will sink in as the days go by and you see more of the world and its oddities. This gradual insertion also means something else: the world doesn’t feel as if it were 19th century gone Steampunk, but rather as a new world where science has progressed in different, but moderate ways. Egypt, India and Hong Kong may have been curious places indeed for London-based Fogg to explore, and perhaps the only way to make them even stranger was to add mysterious guilds, steampunk automatons and the overhanging tension of bordering rivals.
80 days will have you caring about your master’s health, finances and itinerary as you decide on which route is the best to take, and the decisions you make, actions you take and things you say will affect how your master sees you – and all caution is not enough with a man who fired his previous servant for bringing shaving water that was 2 °F off the mark. Managing these resources is second only to decision-making in the game, the most important and interesting element in the game. Storylines branch off in unexpected ways and there are plenty of them for you to see, enhanced in the computer edition with 30 new cities, different storylines and over 150,000 new words, all there for your imagination to paint with the aid of vivid monochrome backgrounds representing landmarks, vehicles and people.
I regret missing it on my phone, as it would have been a good companion for the longer, night-time commutes where a book or kindle made poor reading options, and am glad to have the opportunity to play it on my computer. There’s only a few more days until release, and by then I’ll have more information and a detailed review.