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At first glance, Beautiful Desolation looks like a game that’s akin to Wasteland or Fallout, a typical isometric, post-apocalyptic adventure game. However, the gameplay is much more similar to a point-and-click adventure game like Monkey Island. The game’s focus is on character interactions and exploration of the post-apocalyptic world. NPC dialogues are fully voiced, and the game offers a wide variety of biomes to explore.
The story starts off with the main character’s (Mac) wife getting killed in a car accident when a large alien object called the Penrose crashes into the ground. Fast forward ten years and Mac recruits his brother to fly him to the Penrose to investigate a hunch he has about the being secrets aboard the strange vessel. Since the game is predominantly story-driven, I don’t want to spoil anything for anyone reading this review, so I’ll focus mainly on other aspects of the game.
The main gameplay loop in Beautiful Desolation involves walking around, exploring the environment, and collecting items and intel. In the Switch version movement is controlled using the left joystick as compared to the PC version which was a classic point-and-click styled game. The control scheme change was a necessity for a console port, but it’s definitely easy to tell that the game was developed with mouse & keyboard in mind. The only real issues this presented was in navigating some of the environments as it wasn’t always clear where you could walk, nor where the pathing was. Another issue I encountered is the presence of invisible walls in the environments. Graphically it will look like you can travel down a certain pathway, but in reality you cannot. This leads to more backtracking and frustration.
The control scheme in the menus and UI also suffers on the Switch. Using a mouse, it is exceedingly easy to manipulate items and either combine them or use them to interact with the environment. However, on the Switch it’s not terrible, but it’s clunky and not optimized for the console experience.
For anyone familiar with this type of game, it is fairly hands-off as far as giving you direction or hints about puzzles. Throughout you will find clues and locations of items through the NPC interactions, and you must keep track of the information yourself. This makes it very easy to get lost, and requires a lot of back-tracking and scouring areas where you might’ve missed one item or an NPC to talk to. There are also no quest markers provided to assist either.
Thankfully, the world you explore is beautifully crafted. Similar to other games in this genre, the environments are largely static, but are gorgeous and detailed. The Switch version, especially in handheld mode, does lose some of the details, but nothing that ruins the experience. One change I would have liked to see was for the cut-scenes. In Beautiful Desolation cut-scenes are presented to look like they’re on an old-style television. This adds nicely to the ambiance of the game, but on a small screen like the handheld Switch, it would’ve been more enjoyable had they been full screen.
Overall, Beautiful Desolation is a very cool and enjoyable sci-fi story-based game that’s worth giving a look. That said, I would recommend playing this game on PC where it was originally released instead of the Nintendo Switch version. If the Switch is your only option, and you are a fan of the old school traditional sci-fi genre, the game will run you about 7-10 hours and you can still get some enjoyment out of it!