Stories Untold – Review
Stories Untold is an experimental, episodic text adventure developed by No Code and published by Devolver Digital. Actually, it’s more than that. At first, it is just a text-based adventure that presents an intriguing situation, but as the adventure progresses it reveals a few tricks up its sleeve.
I have to admit some bias though. I’m not a fan of text based adventures. I am, however, a fan of media set in the 80’s and Stories Untold did immediately pique my interest with its 80’s setting and music. Unfortunately, I soon myself was then typing different versions of phrases into a text parser to try progress the story. I also need to note that had my play-through on the initial version of Stories Untold released in early March, and so missed out on a number of fixes and improvements in the first patch.
The less you know about the details of Stories Untold narrative, the better. It’s split into four episodes that you access from the main screen, and you initially need to complete each one in turn. The story a nice little yarn, and while I didn’t feel it was that original, it tells a tragic tale and is wrapped in enough mystery that I did want to progress through the game to see how things turned out. I thought the ultimate ending was revealed a bit early though, and I found myself just wanting to push through the last sections just to finish. The first two chapters and part of the third do keep you guessing and mess with you enough to keep it entertaining.
I found the text adventure sections of the game a little trying for a few reasons. In some instances, the parser seemed to want really specific words or phrases, yet in others, it seemed to accept requests I didn’t think would work. The descriptive text also printed on my screen at a few characters a second and seemed horribly slow. I could not find a setting to modify the text speed, however the text seemed quicker on a Youtube video I checked out. Perhaps it’s my computer, but it did detract from my enjoyment. The patch lists parser fixes among its corrected items so this should be much better now.
I also had some camera and slowdown issues during the exploration sections, however, the patch notes list some fixes for this as well. The exploration areas were reasonably well done, apart from my issues with graphics and controls, and I thought No Code weaved some suitably creepy and tense atmospheres in these sections.
The game generally doesn’t hold your hand, which is cool. When there is help, you need to look for it and that adds to the exploration and puzzle solving elements. That design also encourages you to experiment, although some sections had voice queues that were rushing when I felt in game limits prevented me from moving any faster. This is not a big issue, as you can’t really fail. The game gives you all the time you need to work on the puzzles.
Overall, the pace of the game is quite slow. Intentionally so, though. The story is carefully revealed and weird sequences will make sense in retrospect as you progress, and perhaps reflect on completed episodes.
There is no saving during episodes, so you need to complete one per sitting. Unfortunately for me, the game locked up near the end of the last episode and I had to restart, and that did try my patience somewhat. The patch lists some crash fixes, so you should decide to play Untold Stories, you hopefully will not experience any crashes.
With all its elements combined, Untold Stories mixes nostalgia with a dramatic story and some varied gameplay styles. I unfortunately, found it a bit frustrating, but the developers seem committed to their product and the recent patch seems like it addresses some of the technical concerns I encountered. Still, I’m not sure I really have the patience for text adventures (if I ever had it all). I think this game is a gamble, but in some ways, that is what Indie Development is about.