The most important part of that clip is probably the following quote, which applies to me as well so I’m going to steal it:
“I cannot recommend it highly enough, and I mean that in a literal sense because I don’t think it will be for everybody and I really cannot recommend it as much as I do sometimes.”
Check out what they have to say as they do a good job of capturing what exactly the game is and some of the major cautions to keep in mind. I basically agree with everything they say except regarding the drink mixing system. It’s better as it is, using fake ingredients, than using real ingredients and his opinion is colored by previously having been an actual bartender.
VA-11 HALL-A is a visual novel (don’t let any pedants convince you otherwise) about bartending in a dystopian cyberpunk future. The worldbuilding is influenced by Blade Runner, Ghost in the Shell, dozens of other cyberpunk works and, most interestingly, the developers’ own recent experiences as real-life Venezuelans (with the game taking place in not-Venezuela in the year 207X).
Obligatory note: this game is crass as hell. Some characters curse non-stop and conversations frequently turn to sex. If either one of those are deal breakers, then you’re best served moving on.
Structurally, the game is telling a fixed story that the player has only very limited influence over. Your character, Jill, has a pre-established personality and you are not making typical visual novel-style choices. Your sole agency with regard to the plot line is with making drinks. During the game, as you might expect when your player character is a bartender, you are expected to make drinks for patrons. You do this by mixing five different ingredients according to a recipe book, adding ice, aging and blending the ingredients as needed to get the drink the customer requested. There is an interface to search but the game starts throwing wrenches into the works after a few in-game days.
Your agency is how well you do this. There is a loose time constraint that affects your tips. Some characters do not tell you what drink they want by name, but rather by type (something “strong”, for example). One character orders in riddles. Starting around halfway through the game, characters will start asking for one thing when they really an entirely different drink, and you as the player have served them enough times to know their actual preferences and have to make the call (with story ramifications for success/failure).
There’s a lot of reading. It has a specific sense of visual style targeting 80’s and 90’s-era Japanese adventure games, the soundtrack is superb and the game is crude as all get-out (did I mention that yet?) There’s a mountain of references to internet, game and especially otaku sub-culture that you’ll either appreciate or never notice.
A single playthrough seems to be about 8 hours, and I think there are six endings or so. I’ve enjoyed it so far (2/3 of the way through) but I expect I would end up in the small minority of Qt3 members in that regard. I might be wrong about that but won’t hold my breath.