A Silent Statement

Originally posted on December 25th, 2019

Guilt is an interesting emotion to define. One could say the presence of Guilt is that of a mask, forced to be worn to provide what is needed of them. Guilt can personify one’s soul, and forcibly mold someone’s character into what they are expected as in the real world. Whether they choose to proudly wear it or not is what shows their true character.

For Anne Tarver, a promising FBI graduate, the future is bright. A promising career is in it’s baby steps, and her first case is upon her: a boy has mysteriously disappeared in the quiet town of Kingdom, Virginia. Anne is partnered with a seasoned investigator, Maria Halperin, to question and solve this case; but Anne is dealt a second hand when she is given a dossier pinning Maria to illicit activity that has the FBI’s higher ups asking questions. While Anne works with Maria to find the missing person, she must also retrieve information of her possible wrongdoings, and slowly unravel a twisting plot that has it’s flipping coin unsure of if heads or tails is the correct side.

Virginia provides a first-person walking simulator that has been crafted to duplicate such shows as Twin Peaks and True Detective, using jumps cuts and other cinematic edits to help narrate its plot. These are delivered with much more direction and weight, given there are no words spoken during the 2 hour campaign. Variable State provides an intimate look into Anne, Maria, and their counterparts by forcing the player to ingest each scene, cutting off senses to further punctuate the necessity of what’s seen front and center. Virginia paints these pictures with a subtle, almost painted-like low-poly art style that perfectly portrays the brevity what Anne is expected to accomplish: working on finding a missing person while secretly spying on a possible enemy of the state, slowly becoming closer to the person who may or may not be dangerous, realizing more mysteries as each day passes, questioning who’s side to take. Like swift, bold strokes upon a canvas that has no finish.

As each day progresses, Anne sinks deeper and deeper into the unknown. Black and White blur into a muddled Grey, the forks in the road become sharper with each turn, and what becomes right and wrong is ultimately decided by which person is asking. The ending becomes a twisting whirlwind of possibilities, with a punching, emphatic soundtrack built beautifully into each different scenario. These twists and turns provide a very Butterfly Effect, blink-and-you’ll-miss-it, rush of “what if” premonitions that really punch in how significant the options are for Anne.

Given how significant these options are, more so in the final act, I wish that more time was spent to take in these emotions. In what boiled down to either a shortened production time, or a want to keep Virginia in the “movie time” range: scenes that show different futures and outcomes blaze through, near incoherently at times, and will be hard to grasp the intensity of each scene. Virginia will require a couple playthroughs to grasp the seriousness of the plot, but more to make sure every part gets its needed time on stage, and not in a real rewarding way to the player.

But if the time is taken to investigate all these moving parts, and push through some design flaws, Virginia reveals itself as a visual tale of how the road to Hell is paved on good intentions, where the masks of our emotions can show who we are, and what we are willing to do to defend what we feel is right.

Reviewed on PC/Steam.