The elevator pitch for Divination is a cracking one. We’re surprised that there’s no game – that we’re aware of – that’s gone in a similar direction. It’s a fortune-teller sim; an opportunity to sit across the table from a customer and read the runes. Whatever you see in their future, happens.
That was enough for us to jump in. The opportunity to go all Mystic Meg was a strong one. Knowing the future of a character by looking into the bottom of a tea cup, and then revealing it to their shocked faces has a certain allure.
But what surprises most about Divination is that the developers, Mojikin, have side-stepped the expected ‘Tarot cards in a caravan’ approach to the concept. Instead, they’ve fast-forwarded to a hyper-futuristic setting where robots and humans live together, and a ruling AI called ‘Mother’ has recently committed cyber-suicide, leaving a note that seems to suggest that everyone else does the same. It’s a tense and confused moment, with suicide rates sharply rising.
It wouldn’t have been our first choice for a fortune-telling game, but it’s independently brilliant. You can sense the uncertainty in everyone who comes to your table, as they wonder what the future holds, which makes for a perfect moment to be a prophet. They’ve got questions, and you’re the only person around who can offer answers.
Not that you are the average person. In another of Divination’s deft choices, you’re a pair of arms. Yep, you’re a couple of robotic limbs, anchored to a table. Aside from being a fun stylistic choice, it means that the customer does most of the talking, which is helpful for a visual novel like Divination. When you do ask a question – completely optional before a fortune – it flashes up on all the surrounding screens, making it clear that you are more than just the arms: you are the room.
And the customers state that you’re unparalleled when it comes to prophesies. You have a 100% hit rate, and it’s a neat nod that whatever you see in the stones will definitely, assuredly happen. It gives a solid weight to what you say. When you read the rune stones and the prediction flashes on all the surrounding TV screens, it almost feels like a Guilty/Not Guilty verdict.
All of this plays out as a visual novel, as the characters chat about their situation and reveal why they have come to you. As mentioned, you can ask questions to find out more (and you really should: the fortune is no fun if you don’t), and then it’s on to the one piece of real gameplay in Divination. The character passes you up to four rune stones, and it’s up to you which order you place them into the cup. The order determines the reading, which seems random at first, but on multiple playthroughs you realise that you are constructing an image with the placement of each stone. Place a cage rune down first and then follow it with a key, and the cage will open, denoting freedom. There’s a neat subtlety and a thin thread of logic if you pay attention.
Reveal the fortune, the character accepts their fate, and a day passes. Often you will see some newsreel footage, and that footage might relate to the divination you’ve just given. Perhaps you see the character meeting their fate, or reacting to it in explosive ways. In one particular sequence, two of your customers meet, and it’s the game’s finest moment.
There are four customers in total, which is the giant, neon sticker that should be placed on the game’s Xbox Store card. There are short games on the Xbox and there is Divination: this is roughly thirty minutes long, perhaps even shorter if you’re a fast reader who doesn’t care to ask questions before a fortune. That includes multiple playthroughs to get the best ending. The counterpoint is that Divination is only £4.19, so there’s a clear question to ask yourself: are you happy buying a visual novel that’s thirty minutes long, with very few – arguably no – moments of interaction? What if the quality of that thirty minutes is very high?
And there’s the rub, because this little demo, this incense-like waft of fantastic smells, is really rather good. From the ultra-stylish visuals to the precisely wrought world-building, this is superbly crafted. It’s the tiniest of Faberge eggs.
We’d have taken more interaction in Divination – greater control over the fortune telling, perhaps – and we’d have taken way, way more content, but we didn’t regret playing it. As a visual novel, it’s a superb aperitif. We were disappointed that there wasn’t more to this little fortune-telling game, but it was the nice kind of disappointed; the kind where you reach for the last Rolo and it’s gone.
You can buy Divination from the Xbox Store for Xbox One and Xbox Series X|S