Where The Wa­ter Tastes Like Wine

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What is life but an end­less col­lec­tion of sto­ries? We are, af­ter all, all sto­ry­tellers at heart. We fun­nel the wealth of ex­pe­ri­ence, in­ter­ac­tions, mem­o­ries and sec­ond-hand anec­dotes we ac­cu­mu­late on a daily ba­sis and trans­late them all into re­lat­able tales. As a species, it’s our way of com­mu­ni­cat­ing to those that ex­ist in or­bit of us, a suc­cinct way of pass­ing on knowl­edge and in­for­ma­tion with our peers and per­fect strangers alike. that is to say that telling sto­ries is an in­sep­a­ra­ble part of the hu­man con­di­tion, per­haps the sole ele­ment of our lives that has re­mained con­sis­tent through­out his­tory. it’s here where dim Bulb Games is look­ing to play, and where its de­but ad­ven­ture game Where The Wa­ter Tastes Like Wine is look­ing to ex­ploit our af­fec­tion to­wards sto­ries of both the fac­tual and fic­tional per­sua­sion.

this is what Where The Wa­ter Tastes Like Wine has to of­fer. it’s a game about ev­ery­thing and noth­ing at all; it thrives as it lets you ex­plore the el­e­ments that helped es­tab­lish fa­mous folk­lore, let­ting you wan­der the great Amer­i­can planes col­lect­ing tales from its dis­parate peo­ples to help a devil in dis­guise spread twisted tales around the West­ern world. We don’t mean that ob­tusely, ei­ther. the game lit­er­ally opens as you’re forced to make a deal with devil, sac­ri­fic­ing your life to aid the crea­ture by im­part­ing tall tales to a pop­u­lous that is strug­gling with the re­al­i­ties of a crum­bling Amer­i­can dream – few games have cap­tured the down­trod­den feel­ing of de­pres­sion-era Amer­ica quite as well as this one.

And so you walk. You spend your time walk­ing from state to state, vis­it­ing cities, meet­ing its peo­ple and shar­ing your ex­pe­ri­ences. Where The Wa­ter Tastes Like Wine sets a slow tempo to its play and em­braces it whole­heart­edly – it’s dif­fi­cult to es­cape the over­whelm­ing sense of lone­li­ness as you ram­ble from place to place, a state of pen­sive ap­pre­hen­sion wash­ing over you as you hap­pen across an­other char­ac­ter with a story to tell.

it’s in these in­ter­ac­tions where you’ll find the sub­stance of the ex­pe­ri­ence, short sto­ries pre­sented as beau­ti­fully il­lus­trated, vi­gnette text ad­ven­tures. each of the sto­ries in the game takes just a few min­utes to com­plete, many are mun­dane or fairly nor­mal – though that’s en­tirely by de­sign. the longer you spend in the com­pany of Where The Wa­ter Tastes Like Wine, the more you’ll be­gin to find the rel­a­tively nor­mal sto­ries tak­ing on an air of the un­known. You’ll see it in real-time, as the sub­ject and em­pha­sis of tales once told twist and con­tort – their mean­ing and me­taphors merg­ing and melt­ing away with each sub­se­quent retelling.

From its be­gin­ning to its end, Where The Wa­ter Tastes Like Wine is about the folk­lore em­a­nat­ing out across the land. As you en­counter other wan­der­ers, despots and trav­ellers in the dead of night, you’ll be able to

Where The Wa­ter TASTES Like Wine SETS a SLOW Tempo To ITS play and em­braces IT Whole­heart­edly

sit by the fire­side and ex­change your sto­ries. here, much like in real life, we sup­pose, sto­ries trans­form into a cur­rency of sorts. each has some­thing they would like to hear, fit­ting a par­tic­u­lar tone or nar­ra­tive beat, and it’s your job to as­sem­ble the re­quired pieces to tell it.

each of the sto­ries you col­lect fits a par­tic­u­lar the­matic style, pre­sented gor­geously as tarot cards within the beau­ti­ful, painterly game world. You can have three ac­tive sto­ries in your hand at any one time, split be­tween suits, and once one is used in a conversation it is locked away for the re­main­der of that par­tic­u­lar ses­sion. these are equipped ahead of time, used to de­light and en­gage your lis­tener. Should you fail, they will con­tinue on with their jour­ney, giv­ing you an op­por­tu­nity to ex­plore new lands and add more sto­ries to your ar­se­nal be­fore you en­counter them again in some later chap­ter. Should you suc­ceed in earn­ing their trust – achieved by blur­ring the lines be­tween re­al­ity and fan­tasy with your tales to fit a suc­cinct nar­ra­tive – they will ex­change a story of their own, a tool you can later add to your ar­se­nal to im­press a stranger you’ll en­counter later down the beaten track.

Where The Wa­ter Tastes Like Wine is a won­der­ful nar­ra­tive-driven ex­pe­ri­ence. it’s unique and rather beau­ti­ful, soft­en­ing the

di­vide be­tween a vis­ual novel and what would tra­di­tion­ally be con­sid­ered a ‘game’. that isn’t to say that it isn’t with­out its prob­lems though. With over 200 sto­ries to be col­lected it shouldn’t sur­prise you to learn that a hand­ful don’t res­onate as strongly as oth­ers – though the di­verse and wide-rang­ing bank of writ­ers the stu­dio brought on to the project is cer­tainly im­pres­sive and well worth cel­e­brat­ing, if only for the au­dac­ity of it all. Some will likely push back against the light sur­vival me­chan­ics that dip into over­world walk­ing sec­tions, where ex­haus­tion and overex­er­tion can tem­po­rar­ily stop you in your tracks; some sto­ries may even phys­i­cally in­jure you, lead­ing to fur­ther com­pli­ca­tions later down the road.

over the 20 hours of game time and sto­ry­telling pre­sented here though, the vast ma­jor­ity of it is heart­felt and en­gag­ing. dim Bulb Games has done an ex­cep­tional job of bring­ing it all to­gether, de­liv­er­ing an ad­ven­ture game quite un­like any other. it’s of­ten cap­ti­vat­ing and in­cred­i­bly em­pow­er­ing, a fan­tas­tic op­por­tu­nity to ex­plore the magic of sto­ry­telling in a world whose in­hab­i­tants hang on your ev­ery word.

above: You can ex­pect to find plenty of fa­mil­iar voices in the game, though the best is un­doubt­edly that of Sting, who takes on the lead nar­ra­tion. It’s su­per awe­some. Right: While the game has a beau­ti­ful and ethe­real vis­ual style, its au­dio is also in­cred­i­ble. It’s easy to lose hours to this game with­out re­al­is­ing it.

above: Where The Wa­ter Tastes Like Wine is a unique ex­pe­ri­ence. It teeters on the edge of be­ing a vis­ual novel, of­fer­ing just enough by the way of agency and in­ter­ac­tion to help breathe life into its strange set-up.

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