“One Spirit” by VOYVOD ARTS (Marc Camañes, Kate Lovell, Alexander Rogovskyy, Alan Graham, Carlos Cara & Álvaro Portabales).
“[This game is a] coming-of-age visual novel set in an alternate timeline where the Cold War drags on into the [twenty-first] century. Exploring various political, cultural, and philosophical themes, [it] presents an engaging, thought-provoking thriller through the eyes of its everyday characters, their struggles, and hopes.”
Not only by the self-description, but also by the opening sequence of “One Spirit”, it becomes clear very quickly that the developers have big plans for it and want to tackle many serious issues. However, the publicly available demo version of the visual novel, which is also the basis of this article, serves more as a narrative and atmospheric attunement. The story is as follows: Yuri, our main character is moving back in with his sister, Lada. As a result, he returns to his old town Nevilyovsk and reminisces about how little it has changed since he last visited. We as players have to guide him through and experience the world as well as its political history of origin.
This is not only done on a purely textual level, but is additionally supported by the point-and-click interface. You can interact with the environment to trigger memories and unlock additional conversation branches, which is pretty neat. Also, the music is wonderful, and gave me “Life Is Strange” vibes. My favorite part of the game, though, is seeing Yuri and Lada together. We get a front row seat to their sibling dynamic as they banter back and forth, which is wonderful. There is such a familiarity to their interactions that I really enjoyed.
There is also some interesting supplementary reading material, telling you of the world’s history, that is worth checking out, though I wish it played a more central role. Personally, I like the alternate history angle a lot, as it fascinates me to fantasize about the possible consequences and other outcomes of choices. That is why I would have liked to see it incorporated more into the game. But ultimately, “One Spirit” is a very homely game, and I am glad I got to experience it. I am eager to see what comes from the finished product and to get the answers to the one question I am asking myself: “What conflicts will arise for these characters?” I cannot wait. [PLAY]