Orwell is another game in the discrete-choices-over-time genre. In this case, you are an investigator, and choose which ‘datachunks’ to upload into the system. From there, others will take action.
Like other games in the genre, if you are going to play, play it blind.
I’d rank the game as lower Tier 3 – it’s good at its job, but not essential. It mostly does what it sets out to do, creating an experience and an atmosphere. It has some big frustrations along the way.
Orwell has three problems that prevent it from doing better. It’s also short.
You should play Orwell if and only if the concept of Orwell seems like something you want to experience.
Problem one, which is not in any way a spoiler, is that a lot of the game effectively involves finding the datachunks, or links on pages that lead to new pages that in turn contain datachunks. Several times I got frustratingly stuck trying to figure out where the game wanted me to click. Similarly, there is a star by things that are new, which leads to furious “make the star go away” actions to allow for better searching.
Problem two, which is a minor spoiler, is that the game often gives you less choices than it looks like it can, or than it easily could. Events mostly seem to proceed in order, so you don’t really have the option to withhold most datachunks. Several times I wanted to not upload something, but the game would simply not proceed if I didn’t do it. This leads to the problem of, if I don’t upload this, I could spend a long time not knowing if that’s the only way to advance the game while looking for some other way to advance it that might or might not exist. I would have appreciated a lot more flexibility. Mostly all the system gives you are some binary choices where two chunks conflict and you have to decide which one to go with.
Problem three requires spoiling the experience to talk about, so that would be a distinct post.
Which games in the genre would rank as Tier 1?
I haven't seen a game in this genre I'd put into Tier 1, but haven't played too extensively in the genre. Papers, Please has the best reputation. I tried to play once and got frustrated before getting to the part where it's interesting.