Virginia follows Anne Tarver, a recent FBI graduate, and her partner Maria Halperin, as they head to the small town of Kingdom, Virginia in search of a young boy that’s mysteriously vanished. It fits into the kind of guided narrative that we’ve seen from Firewatch or The Vanishing of Ethan Carter while leaning heavily into a style of cinematic editing that makes Virginia feel far more like a ride that you’re on rather than something to take on at your own pace.
There’s a lot to like about Virginia, the minimalist art style works well and adds to the ‘dream like’ feel of the story, the soundtrack (composed by Lyndon Holland and recorded live by The Prague Philharmonic Orchestra) is particularly memorable, and the editing style makes for something that does genuinely feel pretty unique in the context of video games. Unfortunately, the story and characters in Virginia aren’t nearly as good as they could be, the emotional moments in the story tend to fall flat, there are seemingly random plot-lines and mysteries that never lead anywhere, and the choice to deliver a story without dialogue, while interesting, doesn’t serve to elevate the narrative in any way. It’s clear that Virginia is supposed to be mysterious, the absence of any dialog helps to keep things firmly planted in the unexplainable, but when there’s no payoff to any of the build up – it all starts to feel a bit meaningless.
Over the past few years we’ve seen a fair amount of these narrative heavy games, be it Gone Home or Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture, and I’ve really come to appreciate them for any number of different reasons. Despite my general disappointment with Rapture for instance, I really enjoyed the sense of presence that I felt in that small town. The same goes for The Vanishing of Ethan Carter, a game that also presents a really believable world and one that I was always free to explore at my own pace. In this respect Virginia is instead far more interested in giving you a very directed view of its story rather than slowing down and letting you just breathe for a second. There’s often glimpses at the citizens of Kingdom, Virginia and on occasion, there’s tiny bits of world building, but there’s never a good enough chance to just ‘be’ in this town and feel that sense of presence that other games of this style provide. I think Virginia loses out on a little something in that respect, there’s just so little connection to the town, its residents, or anything that’s going on during your stay. Instead the entire narrative feels like a really disjointed and ‘dream like’ ride that never really comes together in a way that’s truly satisfying.
A copy of this game was purchased for review purposes. For more info on our review policy click here.
What I Like:
- Great soundtrack
- Minimalist art style works well with the style of storytelling Virginia is going for
- "Press X to take a trip"
What I Dislike:
- Mysteries and plot points that never really get resolved in a meaningful way
- The final ten minutes
- I never felt any sort of connection to Kingdom, Virginia or its residents