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Solace State: Emotional Cyberpunk Stories Review - Emotionally Draining


Who is ready for over eight hours of drama, science fiction and general distrust of the government? Well, when I put it that way it probably doesn't sound great. Is Solace State: Emotional Cyberpunk Story culturally relevant or does it end up hitting a bit TOO close to home? Let's discuss.


In Solace State, you view the world through the eyes of Iconohacker Chloe. Iconohackers are people with the other-worldly ability to hack into the biology or physiology of other humans without the aid of any sort of external devices. These special skills could be anything from reading adrenaline levels, masking themselves with "fake IDs" or reading minds like Professor Charles Xavier himself. Chloe typically uses her hacking abilities to gather information on those around her and manipulate them or the situation at hand-- an important skill when you are involved in any kind of political unrest.


solace state game
Do you like politics in your games? Solace State doesn't shy away from them.

Chloe and Rebecka, a fellow Iconohacker, are longtime friends that are separated after a move. When Rebecka and her girlfriend suddenly disappear, it serves as a catalyst to bring Chloe back into her life as she searches for her missing friend and uncovers a corrupt government in the process. Meanwhile, a fog puts the city of Abraxa on lockdown, placing Chloe and her new acquaintances smack dab in the middle of a steamy political shitstorm.


What we have here is the basis of a really interesting science fiction adventure that quickly becomes weighed down by heavy handed political topics that are just a smidge too deeply grounded in reality to serve as functional entertainment. If you're anything like me, you play your video games to escape reality and Solace State seems to do everything in its power to bring you back to earth. Is it fiction? Sure, but something about this fiction feels far too familiar.


Some of the characters have interesting backstories that are revealed as the story unfolds and the world itself, while not the most compelling, does present the reader with some intriguing environments and scenarios. There is a romance element to the game as well, but it's not as prominent as I would have liked it to be. There are three dateable characters in total, though the game does have a whopping 38 different endings, which is sure to give you some replay value.


Perhaps my biggest gripe with the writing in Solace State was the language choices. There were times that the colorful vocabulary didn't match the situation. The writer has a tremendous flair to their writing style and, while I deeply appreciated the mood-setting narration, the actual character conversations didn't feel casual enough to seem plausible. If someone is shot in front of me or I've just unearthed some serious corruption within the government, you best believe I will not be consulting my internal thesaurus to find the most poignant words to describe the situation at hand. There will be expletives and simple, direct terms. Not so in Solace State. It's beautifully written to a fault.


solace state visual novel
The game is beautifully written to a fault

Gameplay-wise, Solace State doesn't stray too far from other visual novel games, but it does feature a fairly unique text layout. Players will spend most of their time reading and making decisions, many of which are a one-shot deal. This probably goes without saying but the game moves at a bit of a slow pace, though there are some more action-packed segments where Chloe can hack into the minds of other characters to manipulate them. Here you'll read through emails or past conversations from those characters in order to decide how to proceed or what to say. This doesn't happen nearly enough to keep the game engaging throughout and, since the story didn't quite get its claws in me, I honestly just found myself wanting to ship all the characters together. I don't even like dating sims, but I found myself needing a break from the heavy topics at times and just wanted to spark some *romance*. BUT NOOOOOO, this game wanted me to use my brain to make decisions with heavy consequences and read through pages of world-building text. I don't wanna use my brain all the time, ok? Sometimes I just want to use my cool, supernatural abilities and watch two pretty people fall in love.


Jokes aside, what I can say is that the visual presentation of Solace State is distinctly lovely. When there is more than one character on screen the game does a good job of highlighting the speaker using a halo glow effect, which is helpful when you can't place your full attention on the art. The graphical style is quite striking, and the transitions between scenes felt really smooth. The way the game folds images in on itself almost makes it feel like you are turning pages or enjoying a pop-up book.


One thing I will say is that it was difficult to determine the age of characters in this art style. Rebecka appeared older than her stated age, while adult Safore's parents looked like they could be in high school.


solace state gameplay
A little less conversation a little more action please?

While there is no voice acting, Solace State does feature quality sound effects and a fittingly ambient, futuristic soundtrack. Unfortunately, there are a few too many moments when the soundtrack and effects drop out completely, leaving me alone with my thoughts and, let me tell you, it is DARK in there. Still, the musical pieces have a lo-fi, sci-fi vibe with persistent synths and lovely piano sprinkled throughout. Nothing really hard hitting here outside of the vocal intro track, which goes harder than it has to. Overall, pretty chill vibes.


Solace State: Emotional Cyberpunk Story was not for me, but it might be for you if you love politics in your games with a touch of science fiction. For me, I would prefer that ratio reversed, but I am but one, simple woman. This is a functional visual novel with great stylistic flair and a story that failed to grab me.


Pros

+ Nice visual style

+ Unique text formatting

+ Chill beats


Cons

- Heavy handed political themes

- Unapproachable writing style

- Dating is limited

- Drags on at times



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