Detective games

I don’t mean the DF comparison in terms of gameplay, but the world simulation. Without any input from the player, characters in DF are capable of complex interactions, with motivations and memories. For example, characters can pull off a heist by pressuring/blackmailing citizens to let down their guard or betray their job and allow a robbery to be committed.

Right, but I mean it in the types of stories that are told. Complicated world simulation is much more likely to result in interesting outcomes in a kingdom survival scenario than interesting crimes to solve. IMO, anyway.

A little off topic, but while I think Wildermyth is a neat game, this frankly isn’t its strong suit, even if it is supposed to be. The main stories in each ‘written’ campaign are linear and even the more properly emergent stuff—the events while traveling and the decisions they require which can lead to character development, side-story development, etc.—get very repetitive the second time through (in terms of both seeing the same events and leading to similar/known outcomes). But, that’s the hand-crafted stuff that I’d argue is actually what it is best at.

The ‘random’ generic campaigns—which is what you are referring to—are frankly not very good, having kind of a mad libs quality to them with the same drawback of the events and story elements getting repetitive, and ultimately the combat is not quite good enough to hold my attention through them beyond the first run after shelving it for a period of time (the combat gets quite repetitive as well). It might have potential in this area, but I reckon it will be unrealized based on how it has developed so far. It’s essentially the video game equivalent of rolling on an RPG table but without a human hand to guide the result to an interesting or even a merely sensible place.

Someone on RPS compared this game to Westerado, and I think that’s not a bad comparison.

Fair. The sorts of “stories” here tend to be more prosaic “private investigator” fiction stuff–murder, surveillance, tracking down individuals, etc… The “why” of the crime won’t ever be super complex.

But, just personally speaking, I find the mechanics of the detective work super satisfying. It’s maybe the best detective game I’ve played in terms of investigating the environment and then tracking down leads. Finger prints, foot prints, handwriting, medication history, phone logs, CCTV footage, and so on and so forth. I can pursue an investigation so many ways based on what I notice and my own thought process.

I’m really looking forward to Shadows Of Doubt, but so far all I’ve done is roam the tutorial apartment and fiddle with settings.

I’m finding the text too small and there’s some hideous projection going on with the camera so looking up and down has some grotesque shearing. I’ve never been motion sick in a game before but I feel like this one might induce it

I was hoping to play Shadows on the Steam deck but the way the controls were implemented is kinda driving me nuts, and the text is indeed small.

The Blade Runner-esque rainy, dystopian city atmosphere is great though, so hopefully the developer can flesh things out and make this game a bit more Deck-friendly.

Wow, that’s a lot of interest in Shadows of Doubt, and @anonymgeist’s description sounds pretty compelling.

Seems like it deserves its own thread:

I know people in this thread will probably be really excited with this news.

Oh hell yes.

Day one! Absolutely loved that game.

Honestly, I’m kinda tempted to take the day off work.

The Painscreek Killings is the kind of game that makes me wish I’d read a few of the negative Steam reviews just in case.

You’re a journalist tasked with seeing if you can dig up some new dirt on an unsolved murder in a small village, since the village is about to be “auctioned off” and whatever evidence remains will be lost. The premise is absurd, it’s basically just used to justify why there’s an empty village to investigate with no NPCs. Though why nobody actually finished moving out, and packed only half their house and then left the packing boxes in the house is harder to explain…

Anyway, it turns out that this village has a very bloody history, and what you’re doing is figuring out how a bunch of cold cases linked together, and what really happened there. The story is pretty good by detective game standards. (Except for the most modern events, where nothing makes sense; there’s so many situations where a lot of problems would have been prevented if these people had just been talking to each other). I have a dozen pages of notes from the first couple of hours of playing the game, to make sure I was properly keeping track of things.

Then I realized that there was no point in me keeping track of the story. The story is totally irrelevant to progressing in the game. There’s no point in figuring out what’s going on, because the game will resolve every ambiguity as long as you solve the logic puzzles, and there’s never a point where solving a puzzle requires understanding the story. Instead what you need detailed notes for is “where have I seen locks” vs. “what keys haven’t I yet used” and “what plausible number sequences have I seen somewhere, but not opened a lock with”.

In theory you should be able to set some longer term goals like “I’d like to get the tools, which I know are in the photo shop, and I know Mrs. Patterson has the spare key to the photo shop, so I need to figure out where Mrs. Patterson lives and get a key to her house”, but in practice that too was pointless. There’s just no way you can guide the investigation meaningfully toward those goals. You’ll find that key when you’re meant to find it.

The gameplay is pretty miserable. Most of my 8 hour playtime was spent trundling through the village with a far too slow walk speed and pixel-hunting for interaction points. A lot of the combination locks are derived from dates, but there’s no consistency to how the dates are formatted. There’s puzzles where interaction points for a waist-high thing only appear when you’re crouching. For the proper ending of the game, what had so far been a slow-paced badly controlling walking simulator turns into a horribly-controlling fast-paced chase sequence fps. It’s ridiculous.

It’s a shame, because the underlying story really was solid. It just needed to be used in a totally different kind of game.

That’s disappointing. I’ve had this in my backlog and thought the concept looked cool. And the Steam reviews are Very Positive!

Steam ratings have become, in my opinion, very unreliable. The vast majority of “reviews” are totally worthless, which makes their rating (up or down) likewise worthless, in my opinion. I really want to be able to filter out any review shorter than, say, 500 characters, and also have those ratings removed from the ratio calculation, and also have a quick and easy way to remove a given user’s reviews from all future rating calculations in perpetuity. Then maybe I’d find steam overall ratings useful again. As it is, I need to dig to find individual user reviews that are any good to have some idea what I’m getting into.

I enjoyed my time with Painscreek, but it’s less a game and more of a walking simulator\novel. It’s fun to piece things together for yourself, but there’s no need to actually do any of that - if you are, you’re doing it because you’re appreciating the story and characters, not for any gameplay purposes.

Like @jsnell I think I would’ve appreciated it more if you were forced to actually pay attention and link things together to progress the story in some way. Even if it was just sorting clues and activating triggers to get your next interaction unlocked by piecing things together.

I use them differently than that, I guess. I use the “Mostly/Very/Overwhelmingly Positive” tag as a kind of filter for whether I should pay some attention to a game. And “Very” is usually the cutoff. Now, there are games that have some controversy or release a bad patch or something like that where the ratings tank temporarily, but I feel like I can usually tell those special cases (the recent vs all reviews helps).

Anyway, if I like the concept and look of a game and the reviews are trending high, I’ll wishlist it. And if I want to understand more about the game, I’ll look at a sampling of the longer written reviews, both positive and negative, and that usually gives me a sense of what the wedge issues are. From that I usually have a good idea on what side I’ll fall.

As much as I hate giving games that happen to get a Mostly Positive from the chuckleheads giving their opinions on Steam, I’ve gotta say I think it’s a decently reliable system for me. Or maybe it’s the worst system–except for all the alternatives.

It’s not bottomless but this is a wonderful and welcome start!


I’ve been looking for some detective games I could cast up on my big screen TV from my laptop and play together with my wife. Picked up Shadow of Doubt, and after reading this thread just purchased The Case of the Golden Idol. Hoping these are games we can sit on the sofa and play together. She’s pretty awesome when we’re watching TV shows or movies and figuring out the “whodunnit” very quickly. A funny aside, she has the “extraneous character” test on TV shows; the detectives are interviewing the wife of a guy who just got killed and there is her sister in the room also - a character that is totally extraneous and thus is probably the killer.