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Looking back at 10 years of… Lost: Via Domus

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Lost will forever hold a place in TV history. Regarded as one of the greatest shows of all-time, it boasted the most expensive pilot episode ever and had a main cast of 14 characters, which was unheard of at the time it first aired back in 2004 – and a year later on British shores.

It was bold and daring at the time and despite drawing to a conclusion nearly 8 years ago, nothing in my eyes has come close since. Naturally then, there were to be other forms of media for fans to engross themselves further in the mythology, and in 2008, at the height of the TV show’s popularity, Lost: Via Domus was released on Xbox 360 on the 28th February in Europe.

In the week that was its release, the UK felt its largest earthquake since 1984 and second largest overall since records began – one that measured 5.2 on the Richter scale. It was enough to wake me up thinking someone was shaking the end of my bed!

Penelope, the film with Christina Ricci having the ears and nose of a pig, released in the US, but there were no other major releases in the gaming or music world to accompany the launch of Lost: Via Domus.

The basic premise of Lost featured a group of castaways on an island after a plane crash, but it was so much more than that at the same time as well. Polar bears, smoke monsters, island ‘natives’, electromagnetism, time travel and shipwrecked 19th century trading vessels were just a few of the more unusual elements of Lost. Throughout its six seasons and 121 episodes, Lost left fans with more questions than answers, but despite all the sci-fi and supernatural twists and turns to it, the ensemble cast were always front and centre. They still remain such a brilliantly written group of characters.

Via Domus introduced another character not featured in the TV show called Elliot Maslow, who also crash landed on the island. Elliot’s story comes with very much the same vein of that of the rest of the survivors in that he has something to hide, but in his case, he is suffering from amnesia and unable to recall exactly what he is hiding.

Gameplay takes place across seven different episodes that all run around 40 minutes in length, much like the TV show. It would be possible to slot these in with the TV episodes and watch/play them all sequentially within the first three seasons. Throughout, there were a few different puzzles that needed solving and photography plays a major part in moving the plot forward. Occasionally, there were chase sections where Elliot had to run away from various things, in particular the smoke monster. One section, in the very last episode of the game, saw Elliot having to run towards something whilst making sure that he beats the Others who are also in pursuit; through jungle and steep cliffs, this is easily the best section of the game.

Each game episode follows much the same structure of the TV show, featuring Elliot in a few flashbacks in order to piece together his mystery. Also featured are locations direct from the show including the Hatch (or Dharma Station 3: The Swan), the Black Rock and the beach camp. Here, Elliot interacts with many of the characters from the show. Some have their original actors voicing them but many have stand-ins, and certainly some of the magic of playing a Lost game was ‘lost’ when hearing completely different voices come out of these characters’ mouths. There was seemingly barely an attempt to get folk who sounded similar.

As Elliot was a photojournalist before the crash, photography plays an important part in the game. Each flashback would see him taking pictures of objects and even when he finds his camera in the jungle again, many opportunities present themselves as photography spots – such as the numbers “4 8 15 16 23 42” imprinted on the side of the Hatch that Hurley sees just before Locke and Jack blow the door off at the very end of season one. These also tied into a lot of the Achievements.

Away from this being a Lost game, many more people that weren’t necessarily fans of the TV show still played it due to the easy 1000G; myself included. This was my first 1000G on Xbox and even after finishing the main game I had 915G. My remaining four achievements were all photo opportunities I had missed, simply requiring a pop back to the relevant story chapters and snapping away at what I had missed before. Easy Gamerscore wasn’t my primary reason for playing this game though.

When Lost was first advertised on Channel 4 in the UK, we saw the Cinematic Orchestra playing over an advert involving all characters slow dancing together, commenting on their personalities. I was instantly hooked and never ever lost my excitement and enthusiasm for the show, even when it moved from Channel 4 to Sky One, which was a problem at the time as I didn’t have digital TV. Like many others, it just meant I had to buy the box sets when they released, and this kind of behaviour helped fuel the term and behaviour of binge-watching in so many people, even when this was in its infancy back then as people still had a reliance of TV scheduling.

My obsession reached its peak when I wrote my French GCSE essay on Evangeline Lilly, who played Kate Austen in the show. It didn’t help that I was completely infatuated with her!

There was a problem though with picking up Via Domus on release day though. At the time, I hadn’t watched all of the third season yet and I knew the game picked up on plot points throughout the first three seasons. I bided my time until I had devoured the last moments of the final episode ‘Through the Looking Glass’ (the single greatest episode of Lost) and instantly purchased it the day after. Nothing was then spoilt and I had all the knowledge to fully enjoy the game.

Via Domus, or ‘The Way Home’ roughly translated from Latin, currently sits at 55/100 on Metacritic. As a diehard Lost fan, I enjoyed the game a lot more than the score suggests, but the criticisms towards it cannot be ignored. It was a short experience clocking in at less than 7 hours to complete, and some of the voice-acting was hilariously bad. It’s also not a terribly pretty looking game. It was always difficult to design character models based off real-life characters as this game came out around the half way point for the 360, but still, it all felt a bit underpowered graphically.

My main reason for enjoying the game though was primarily because I had the knowledge from the TV show. I do however think Ubisoft did a good job of creating a self-contained story within the Lost universe that didn’t require the pre-requisite knowledge. And getting Michael Giacchino involved as the composer from the main TV show – who also has a back catalogue on games including Medal of Honor and the original Call of Duty games, not putting a foot wrong since Lost – made the experience all that more engaging for fans. For those gamers who were not fans, if nothing else it was easy Gamerscore.

On previous ‘Looking Back’ articles, Ive always looked ahead at the future of the series in question and I’ll do the same here. I fully believe Lost is not over yet; JJ Abrams may currently have his hand in about 20 different pies, but I feel like this is his magnum opus and he has more stories to tell in this world. There is unlikely to ever be another console release for a Lost game, but I still hold out for any small slender of news related to a TV comeback.

Live together, die alone.