It’s only in the last decade or so that I feel that both the writing and the story narratives found in gaming have matured to a place where they can compete with the very best in theatre, film, and television. There are games like Red Dead Redemption 2, The Last of Us or Life is Strange – games that get to grips with characterisation, story, and dialogue in a way that awakens the whole debate about whether or not this is art. Adios is another of those games, one that tells a tale that will explore the mundane while presenting a story of death, regret, and morality. It’s a lovely piece of intelligent prose too, but is it a game?
Adios starts with you taking in the farm life, somewhere in the middle of America, beginning a tale that has been divided into chapters, each one signaled by huge titles like “THE GOATS” or “THE END”. The first scene sets the tone and scene of the piece. You play in the first person, as a farmer who is in the last act of his life. You are with another man – one dressed in a sharp suit – both happily feeding suspicious meat packages from a van to the pigs who are gleefully chowing down on the gifts. The visitor and the farmer chat fondly like two old friends talking about old times. It is here though where the farmer insists that he doesn’t want to work for the man anymore, only to be told not to be silly; that he has no choice, with many convincing words thereafter uttered. What happens next is a series of conversations play out between the two, as a tour of the farm is taken in. The thing is, at all times you need to remember one thing – Adios means goodbye in Spanish.
The story and writing are the heart and soul of Adios. Each scene between the two protagonists is beautifully written and composed. It tells a tale of two people who have known each other for a long time, as work colleagues do, but touches on how they never really know each other that well. We learn facts about the farmer through these conversations; we begin to understand what has happened to his wife, what his profession was before the farm took over, and how the two of them met. We learn about his hobbies, his love of the animals, and why he is who he is. It’s all done with a subtle touch, cleverly crafted to ensure that nothing is ever spoon-fed or becomes too crass. But then you have the endless threat of what will happen at the end of the day…
Gameplay-wise and this should definitely be thought of as another entry into the world of the walking sim; a game where the story and narrative are the main thrust of proceedings. However, apart from the occasional first ‘walk here’, and chance to ‘go there’, there are also minigames to take in. At one point you get to play a game of horseshoes while chatting with your colleague. There’s a clay pigeon shooting competition to keep you entertained as well. Other times will find you milking goats, cooking a meal to specific instructions or playing some music. There are also dialogue tree choices to take in, but I’m not sure that the choices you make ever directly affect the narrative.
Adios, as a game, will take you just over an hour to complete, yet there is a pretty hefty price tag attached; a price that might be slightly too heavy for the amount of content found within. That said, I found the game deeply moving and extremely well-crafted, but then I’m a sucker for these narrative-driven adventures and will totally understand if others find the lack of gameplay frustrating and the whole experience a bit too narrative-heavy. I’m not that person and I love the way the developers at Mischief have dealt with storytelling both maturely and brilliantly.
In terms of how things work and Adios has an animation quality that reminds of a great graphic novel. Its colour composition is superbly chosen and wonderfully drawn. I have personally loved the design of the farm and the opportunity to take in the tiny world of someone’s life within. Sometimes the physics are a bit off though, and there are a few strange visual oddities that pop up, but these are nothing that really affected my enjoyment of the game.
Further to that, the soundtrack is moving, bare and elegant. It knows when to build and how to add to the story, and when it needs to be silent and let the words do the work. The voice-over and performance of the two leads are excellent, up there with the best pieces of voice work I’ve heard in a game. They deliver every section of dialogue like it’s an awarding winning West End play; doing such an amazing job that a couple of sections brought a tear to my eye. Hell, even the minor characters nail it too.
I’ve found Adios on Xbox to be moving and profound. If you are a fan of games like Everyone’s Gone to Rapture or Firewatch then I think this is probably up there as a must-buy game. But on the other side of the coin, if you are not one who is particularly interested in narrative or storytelling, preferring gameplay to run your games, then you may well have a bit of an issue with what it delivers. On the whole though, Adios is an important piece of work and I personally had a lot of trouble saying goodbye to it.