It's the far future. You're a salvager, and you've been notified that a derelict, ancient 25th-century colony ship, one of the generation ships Earth sent out eons before you were born, has been found drifting aimlessly in space.
Your task is to dig through all of the log files you can turn up on board the long-abandoned Mugunghwa and find out just what happened to the ship, its passengers and its crew in centuries long gone, and why it never reached its destination. Welcome to Analogue: A Hate Story.
Designer Christine Love's third game, following Digital: A Love Story and Don't take it personally babe, it just ain't your story, takes her trademark puzzle of storytelling out of its roots in the almost-past and near-present, and brings it far into the future by plumbing humanity's past.
The game is a mystery, told in a series of one-sided point-and-click conversations with the ship-board AI personalities, Hyun-ae and Mute. Each will be happy to tell you more about certain persons, places or events you find mentioned in the ship's archived letters and logs, but both have their own agendas and neither is, on her own, entirely a reliable narrator. Only through talking with both can you begin to understand the intertwined story of the Smith and Kim families.
You'll access diaries, conversations and dramas out of sequence and can read them in whatever order you wish. The more you read, the more you can ask your AI companions about. And the more you ask your AI companions about, the more you unlock to read about. Eventually, the maelstrom of names begins to resolve, and the web of stories connecting the ship-bound empire begins to take its true form.
It's a visual novel, a game about thinking rather than about fighting or doing. You're here to read, to learn and to understand.
It's a family drama, a story of personal weakness, secrets and relationships. You're here to judge, to condemn and to pity.
It's a commentary on the very nature and structure of society, a "what-if" tale of speculative fiction drawn out to its nightmare conclusions. You're here to fear, to question and to take sides.
The future that Analogue brings us is straight out of humanity's history: a rigid, hierarchical, patriarchal society where men run public lives and women live in the shadows. The gender politics are one story; the lost lives of those who lived them are another. The two intertwine as the tale goes on. It was not always this way, Analogue tells us, nor does it have to be again. But here is the thought experiment: let us remove this society from the Earth, leave it on its own in a bottle and see what happens...
As a player, I love a good dystopia, and I love a good mystery; any chance to play through the mystery of a dystopia is one I'll always jump at. And the joy of playing through darkness of Analogue is in discovering the twists and turns yourself, so I'll say very little about them. The story pulled me in startlingly quickly, in the same way a good novel does, and I found myself flipping virtual pages as quickly as I could while still trying to be sure I caught all the details.
Analogue offers five divergent outcomes, and I know I haven't seen nearly all the game has to offer. I plan to go back and find out more. Because if I don't, I'll be up until the wee hours of the night, wondering. And that's the sign of a mystery well spun.