There are few times when I jump at the chance to try a demo quite as readily as I did for A Long Journey to an Uncertain End. Yet when I saw the words LGBTQIA+ and space opera, I knew this was one that I had to play – and you can too.
Before we get into the nitty gritty details of this game, it’s important to emphasise that this is only a demo and a very brief one at that. Crispy Creative – a crew of former Telltale and Obsidian devs – are bringing this space age romp to life, and are still in the early stages of getting this title up and running, this short 20 minute demo helping them to cross the line when seeking crowdfunding last month.
Even with this brevity, A Long Journey to an Uncertain End delivers a demo with substance and bodes well for a planned release in November 2021. We’re not just given a little peek, we’re thrown into the story and given the wheel to our own destiny, whatever that might end up being… After all, we do start the game without any memory.
It’s a trope you’ll love or hate, but amnesia is the plot device that drives us deeper into the recesses of space. Personally, I quite like how this game does it. Not because it’s unique, but rather because it provides a good foundation for us to build our main character on, and when I say build, I do quite literally mean just that.
Struggling to find words to speak, we’re brought back into the world of the living by C.O.R.G.I., a cute and fluffy hologram. After they explain to us what’s going on (anyone else gets Cowboy Bebop vibes here?), we’re able to “remember” our name, pronouns, and our appearance. Arguably, the most innovative and impressive part of the character customisation is being able to select pronouns. Few games do this – in fact, I can’t name any off the top of my head – but this goes further, letting you choose from a list of presets like he, she, they, xe, or inputting your own custom pronouns.
Alongside choosing your own pronouns, you’re also asked about your ex’s pronouns, thus giving you the chance to create an experience true to your own identity. Then, naturally, comes the chance to finetune your looks — eye colour, build, style, even facial hair is up for grabs, and for those playing as AFAB characters too. The options are limited when compared to big name RPGs, however, that doesn’t make the options any less satisfying. In fact, I’d argue they’re more enjoyable here because I genuinely wasn’t expecting them.
Once you’re all done familiarising yourself with who you are, you then get to meet your crew, who are just as eclectic as you are. There’s amputees, wheelchair users, drag queens, non-binary, old and young, different ethnicities — honestly, I had the biggest grin on my face looking at the crew roster. There’s been a real effort to make this a diverse game that represents as many people as possible, both with the crew members and the NPCs too.
Even if simulation narratives aren’t your thing, just play this demo for the queerness that exudes from every pore. It’s pure bliss.
As for the gameplay, it’s a 2D ride all the way, a lot of which is driven by text-based interactions. The action won’t have you gripping the edge of your seat, yet it offers this hook that keeps you wanting to find out more — why are you there, what happened to you, what’s up with your ex, and what are you running from? There’s so many questions, all of which are left unanswered in the demo. As expected.
Completing missions when docked on a planet, I generally found the gameplay okay if not a little clunky. There’s also the times where I deliberately picked a specific crew member to carry out a mission because they should complete it to a good rating… only for them to fail miserably. There’s always a “call for a favour” option to try, which is meant to help the odds go in your favour, but I found it was very hit and miss whether it worked or not.
I also found the travelling between worlds tedious. Don’t get me wrong, the visuals of watching the ship race across the galaxy as a planet looms closer is an enjoyable one. Nonetheless, when your decision to increase/decrease speed can make the journey longer, it soon loses its appeal.
However, the plus of a long journey is that random events can happen, such as getting ticketed for speeding, or finding some lost supplies. All these random events come with a morale impact, meaning sometimes your crew will be elated while other times they’ll feel down in the dumps; the trick is to keep their morale as balanced as possible. Due to A Long Journey to an Uncertain End still being a demo, you don’t have to panic about their morale too much right now, however, I suspect it’ll play a role in the full game.
Even with its flaws, I really, really liked A Long Journey to an Uncertain End’s demo. It has potential and with the Kickstarter behind them, Crispy Creative can really get to work realising it. The cast is diverse, it has a rich story to reveal to us, and it offers an immersive ride that hinges on the decisions you make. That being said, I found that it wasn’t as stimulating as it could be, due to a lot of the action being driven by text-based experiences. If the devs could balance that out more with some animated cutscenes, the game could really come into its own.