Visiting the border lands.
A narrative management space opera. That’s almost as much of a mouthful as the game’s title, but it’s the way developer crispy creative describes its game A Long Journey To An Uncertain End, currently running a Kickstarter campaign until March 4.
The concept behind it really makes you wonder why no one has made a game like it before – the ideas are familiar, but not the tone. In the demo I played as part of a preview event, you, the captain of a spaceship, come to, only to realise you are the spaceship, a fully sentient AI only represented through a human, which you then get to design yourself in a character creator. The best thing: the assistant guiding you through this creation process and the first steps in the game is C.O.R.G.I., a holographic… well, you guessed it.
For the most part, your goal in Journey to An Uncertain End is to survive on the run from… your ex. Your ex is hellbent on pinning you down in an abusive relationship, so you better put as much space between them and yourself as possible.
But being on the run takes resources, so sometimes you have to land and take a job or two. You select a planet to land on, and then choose from a number of available jobs with different rewards. With an eye to your supplies, you decide whether you should earn provisions, fuel or favours, because out there in space you’ll never know when you might need a favour.
You’re captain to a crew of people with distinct characters and visual identities, and each of them has a specialty – Aylah for example is a talented mechanic, while ace pilot Truly is a real charmer. The better each is suited to a job, the better the results can be, but how well you do seems to at least partly be down to a dice roll, a tabletop roleplaying mechanic that keeps things interesting. I also like that jobs consist of more than you assigning someone to something and then letting time pass. Each client has a short story to tell, and the game narrates the job progress for you, too, so that, again much like in a tabletop game, I got invested even in relatively simple tasks such as helping a farmer with their crop.
A Long Journey To An Uncertain End was easy to pick up, and already has a great atmosphere. I’ve long been on the lookout for a game that would give me a detailed spacepunk vision of our future without the overripe humour of a Borderlands or Joss Whedon’s Serenity. Instead, Journey To An Uncertain End reminds me of the Wayfarer series of books by Becky Chambers, which chronicle a future in which we’ve simply come to accept one another for who we are. (The books are an actual inspiration for the game, as is Serenity.) This is an LGBTQ+ positive game, and it displays each character’s pronouns, which is such a simple but important signal that in this galaxy, everyone is welcome, and one of the reasons I dearly hope this game gets made.