This point and click adventure is as unconventional as it is weird. In a good way, mostly. It has a relatively short playtime of around 6 hours, offers exploration, few puzzles and some story choices, although it is ultimately linear of course. It has few but interesting dialogues between Npc’s and characters that are in your little adventure group. It is also set in one of the weirdest time-travel stories with moral choices that I have encountered yet. I felt, in parts, reminded of Planescape Torment, but would not want to compare the two games directly, Planescape Torment is a genre breaking, storytelling masterpiece! Still, the alien but believable world design of Beautiful Desolation is something I felt was well done and also done outside of some genre conventions.
So how does it play? Sort of conventional really, but with a few twists that I found mostly great in my playthrough of Beautiful Desolation. The game consists of a number of larger areas or map tiles with numerous individual places to explore. You are traveling between these places and also discover new places during the course of the game. The exploration part however, is limited to finding out information about new places so you can travel to them, you cannot find new places ‘on your own’ with few exceptions. It still felt a lot like exploration was part of the game, so the world is opening up to you bit by bit and it was enjoyable for the short time it took.
Most of the gameplay consists of various dialogues and item combinations / acquisitions. Sometimes, dialogues give your moral choices (not directly pointed out as such, but rather obvious when you are in the actual dialogue). The item combinations are no puzzles and mostly make sense. They are also rather limited. The game does not focus on combining the rubber chicken with the pulley and a lever at all. Lucky us!
Instead it does create challenge out of the alien world you find yourself in and making sense of it. Meeting more characters, getting more information and background is what makes the world and the challenge in this game.One caveat that comes with the genre, quite some going back and forth between places is required sadly. So, ultimately, exploring each location in detail is necessary. At least the landscapes and scenes and places you discover are very interesting to check out and beautifully presented as well. Still, backtracking and taking items from a to b can feel sort of empty and boring.
As you have surely already noticed, I am very reluctant of giving you any information at all about the actual characters, places or the setting. I would most probably just ruin the experience for you! The games is, as I mentioned, rather short and the gameplay is relatively simple. So if you are into discovering strange and alien worlds, decent if eccentric world building and interesting dialogues I would recommend this little gem of an adventure game to those who bring the patience for the genre.
Adventure games rarely are this easy to recommend. Give it a go!