Lacuna – A Sci-Fi Noir Adventure is, from what I can tell, DigiTales Interactive first game, and they couldn’t have possibly made a better debut. Lacuna is an adventure game through and through. At first glance, it might look like a point & click adventure game, but the game plays nothing like it.
As someone who tends to avoid point & click adventure games, I found that Lacuna is probably the closest thing to what I’d consider being the perfect adventure game for people who don’t have the patience for point & click adventure games. Usually, I tend to avoid that type of games because I just don’t enjoy having to hunt for interactable things and attempting different combinations with a myriad of items that end up in my inventory just to solve a few puzzles.
I kind of hate being unable to sit through an entire game like that, because there are a lot of them with pretty compelling universes and stories. Thankfully, Lacuna has none of that, as it takes a different approach to problem-solving, which is the perfect fit for people who are solely interested in experiencing a great story. We’ll talk more about that soon enough.
In Lacuna, you play as Neil, an agent of the Gharian Central Department of Investigation (CDI). The game takes place in an alternate universe during the mid-1800s, where Humanity has already colonized a few planets and moons in its solar system. Unfortunately, humans are still human, and so, despite having spread across the stars and being much more technologically advanced than us, they’re still plagued by greed, prejudice, and a great deal of social inequalities.
On the surface, Lacuna’s story revolves around an ongoing political struggle for the independence of Drovia, a Gharian colony. However, as an agent of the CDI, you find yourself involved in a much deeper plot that’s tangled in a series of conspiracy theories and which implicates a multitude of persons of interest, each with their own agenda. I feel like if I was to be more specific, I’d probably end up spoiling part of the game for you, should you decide to play it, so I’ll say is that you can rest assured that there’s plenty of detective work to be done, crimes to solve, investigations to be conducted, and choices to be made.
Speaking of detective work, this is where Lacuna differs the most from other adventure games. Instead of relying on puzzle-solving that is done through actual in-game puzzles involving different items and combinations like a lot of games, Lacuna’s problem-solving is directly tied to the game’s narrative. In essence, you’ll find yourself investigating different situations and trying to learn more about certain individuals and cases. At the end of these investigations, you’ll eventually have to submit a report about your findings, where you have to pick a series of options according to what you learned. However, while the game does provide enough clues for you to learn what really happened, you have to piece things together by yourself by studying the evidence, which makes the game much more engaging because you can completely come to the wrong conclusion and you’ll have to deal with the consequences.
Nonetheless, these reports aren’t the only choices that you’ll be making as you play the game. You’ll also run into people who are facing their own troubles. They might be able and willing to help in your investigation or not, depending on what you decide to do for them. Will you follow the law, stick to protocol, and ignore their pleas for help, or will you turn a blind eye and do a good deed? If so, did you help them just to get access to the information that they had, or did you do it as an unreciprocated act of kindness? These are all questions that I asked myself while playing the game.
The writing and the unfolding of the narrative are the starts of the show in Lacuna. The game really gets you thinking. You know that a game is really good and compelling when it makes you think hard about the choices that you’re about to make. Some of these choices are even on a timer, so you have to make up your mind fast. Obviously, these dialogue choices aren’t just for show. They affect how the story plays out and, to some degree, this does leave room for at least a second playthrough.
Now, to be honest, there are a few things that I don’t particularly like about Lacuna. For example, although the game does give the player freedom in terms of dialogue choices, everything else about the game is pretty linear. Each level is essentially just a series of corridors that you traverse as you progress, so there is barely any exploration. Furthermore, even though the controls aren’t bad, I feel like the game could’ve used a simpler control scheme. Instead of having to use the WASD keys to move around, using the mouse to click to move would probably feel much better. On top of that, holding the Shift key allows you to sprint, and I honestly can’t tell why you’d ever want to walk in this game, so why not just make it default instead of forcing players to hold down that key the entire time?
In any case, every complaint that I can think of is just way too small and nearly insignificant when you compare it to the game as a whole. I found myself completely immersed in the game’s narrative to the point where I completely lost track of time as I was playing the game. It took me about 5.5 hours to beat the game, and I thoroughly enjoyed every single moment of it.
I highly recommend Lacuna if you’re into narrative-driven games, and if you aren’t, then I’d still recommend that you at least check the free Prologue. Between your entire arc of Neil, the characters that you meet throughout your journey, the intrigue surrounding the world, the city views, or even the news reports that you can read on your cell (smartphone), there’s just so much good stuff in here to take in and appreciate.