Far From Noise: review

  • Format: PS4 (version reviewed), PC
  • Unleashed: Out Now
  • Publisher: George Batchelor
  • Developer: George Batchelor
  • Players: 1
  • Site: https://www.farfromnoi.se/
  • Game code provided by the developer

In an industry crammed full of anime boobs, brutal killings, dudebro dialogue, and things exploding all over the place, it’s difficult to imagine a mainstream place for a transcendentalist anthem that draws from writings by the likes of Ralph Waldo Emerson. Look how long that sentence is it made us type, for example! Yet here we are. Far From Noise has a home not only on Steam, but also on the PlayStation Store as a PS4 game. Just as well, as this is a game that deserves to be played by as many people as possible… with one caveat we’ll get on to later.

Our use of the word “transcendentalist” may threaten to scare some of you off. There’s absolutely no denying that transcendentalism sits at the core of the game, something that developer George Batchelor is eager to express. If you don’t know, or even care, what that means – it doesn’t matter. After all, the Persona games are driven by Jungian philosophy and psychoanalytical theory; but you don’t need any knowledge of this to understand or enjoy the games.

The basic premise of Far From Noise is very simple. At the game’s opening, you find your unnamed female avatar trapped in a car teetering over the edge of a cliff (so it’s sort of like a sequel to The Italian Job. Sort of). You have no direct control whatsoever; FFN is 100% dialogue choices. Fundamentally, you choose how to react to each development and your overall situation. Do you get depressed, cynical, flippant, thoughtful… or perhaps flit between all four?

All you see throughout the game’s brief 1-2 hour running time (much closer to one hour than two) is the single scene of the car on the clifftop. A good script is vital, and we’re happy to report that this one is absolutely superb. Don’t worry for a second about pretentiousness. There are moments of subtle poetry in there, but Batchelor understands something that is very much a transferable life skill; people are a hundred times more likely to pay attention and listen to you if you can make them laugh. There are a great many jokes here, and every single one works. The balance of philosophical contemplation and realistically human disbelief/cynicism is perfect.

The game’s brevity is offset somewhat by the fact that there are multiple endings, and different dialogue and events to experience depending on your choices. Some lines are set in stone no matter what you choose, and most of what ultimately happens is a constant. Nonetheless we’ve played it through three times (so far), with each playthrough being just different enough, and each had a unique ending.

If you’re going to take a reductive approach to transcendentalism (and we certainly are here, so deal with it), a lot of it can be boiled down to meditation, and accepting your place in the world without having to measure yourself against others. FFN is a purposely slow-paced experience, and even now and again gently leads you towards elements of meditation. Indeed, we found ourselves serenely and willingly sacrificing thirty seconds or so to concentrate on a piece of the lovely art. Sound design is fantastic, with music and sound effects alike used sparingly but effectively. This is most definitely something to play free from other distractions.

Although there are no defined objectives or, in theory, wrong choices or answers, the aim is clearly to have the player embrace transcendentalist values. This leads to what is, really, our only criticism of the game. Why? The game isn’t at all preachy (we wouldn’t love it so if it were), but there’s an unintended side effect. We encourage you to play this game if you have a loved one that suffers from depression, and you find yourself struggling to understand the condition. Intentionally or otherwise, the car serves as an excellent metaphor. However, if the answers that you give are consistently defeatist – if you prove difficult to encourage, and you reject the transcendentalist lures – the game effectively gives up on you, and you get given a very depressing ending. Do not play this if you suffer from severe depression yourself; or at the very least, do so forewarned.

That very specific warning aside, Far From Noise is an impressive project that deserves your time and money. It’s so much more than proof of concept. It achieves an astounding amount with very little, and proves to be an experience that will not be easily forgotten.

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Written by Luke K

Luke plays lots of videogames, now and again stopping to write about them. He's the editor in chief at Critical Gamer, which fools him into thinking his life has some kind of value. Chances are, if you pick up a copy of the latest Official PlayStation Magazine or GamesMaster, you'll find something he's written in there. Luke doesn't have a short temper. If you suggest otherwise, he will punch you in the face.

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