With Elegy for a Dead World, Dejobaan Games and Pop Cannibal have created a very emotional experience. The game is driven entirely by narratives, which players create, detailing their experiences on various lost planets. Each letter has has a prompt for players who want some extra guidance, but Elegy is completely okay with you writing entirely in freeform. What this creates is something that dialogue options in RPGs can’t, a feeling that you are the character, as you’re creating your story instead of picking which path you’d like to go down. Putting your own voice, and even your own experiences in your letters makes it feel like it really could be you inside that spacesuit.
There are a number of different exercises across each of Elegy’s worlds, each establishing a vague backstory for the player character that players can expand upon through their writing. The emotional atmosphere of the game is at its best when players stay in character, responding to situations in ways that make sense to their character’s role. Some scenarios feel like fantasy role play, such as that of a colony leader exploring uninhabited planets to move to and colonize.
Other scenarios are more relatable. One such case puts the player in the role of an explorer writing to his or her spouse. Here, it’s much easier to put a bit of yourself into your character. As you play through this scenario, the serene images throughout the planet slowly become more menacing. This is where role playing becomes key. Your role in each scenario is only a part of what drives your letters. The other is the visuals. Responding to both these factors in ways that make sense will really make your experience feel more real, and give a chance to experience the full potential of the storytelling.
Letting the visuals and prompts assist the story is helpful, but the freeform storytelling leaves a lot of room for imagination. This is where Elegy for a Dead World might be limiting to some players. A lack of inspiration can leave you at a loss for words. Most importantly, if you’re not into writing, and have no desire to be, it’s likely the game isn’t for you. Even with the visual cues, a lack of interest or inspiration may leave you staring at the prompts dumbfounded.
Elegy for a Dead World’s storytelling style is great for players who want more control than many narrative games allow. That being said, if you’re the type of player who prefers picking paths from dialogue trees, you might find Elegy’s style just doesn’t fit your own. Certainly, though, anyone may find they have an interest in the craft they never knew existed. For those with writing in their blood, or who are looking to experiment with the medium, you can grab the game for $14.99 on Steam.