You can keep your big-budget games with their roomfuls of writers sweating to replicate the beats and drama of Hollywood blockbusters; some of the best writing in videogames has come from some of its smallest studios, and this isn’t the first time I’m highlighting the brilliance of Dave Gilbert and Wadjet Eye Studios. The developer behind wonderful point-and-click games like the Blackwell series and Unavowed has a knack for mature, nuanced storytelling, exploring serious philosophical and psychological topics through the filter of modern-day ghost stories.
The studio has long been at work on a new game called Old Skies, and now that game has a trailer to go with it, giving us a much better idea of what we’re in for.
The story follows Fia Quinn, who works for a time-travelling agency that transports rich folk into the past—whether for mere curiosity or unfinished business. Throughout the game, you escort seven such travellers through various time periods, set mostly around what seems to be Gilbert’s eternal setting of choice, New York City (which, I might add, he’s always done an incredible job of capturing in all its gritty eccentricity). Judging by the trailer, things go wrong, shots get fired, and the space-time continuum gets screwed up.
The most notable departure from previous Wadjet games is that Old Skies has a hand-painted art style. It looks fluid and polished, with some lovely animations, though as a fan of the nostalgia-plucking pixel art of Unavowed, it’ll take a little getting used to for me. Amazingly, Old Skies is being made using the same open-source AGS engine used to make the studio’s previous games.
No release date has been set yet, but that leaves plenty of time to explore the studio’s older work if you haven’t already. Interestingly, three years ago Gilbert made a free Old Skies short game for a Game Jam, seemingly with the same premise as this one. It was made in Unity in two weeks, and is fully 3D and everything! You can download it here (opens in new tab) if you’re curious.