If there’s anything humans love, it’s words. The earliest steps towards society were made through writing, and it’s what separates us from the animals. The stupid, stupid animals. Society allowed fat bastards to sit and write all day, which gave us written fiction. Thousands of years later, computers let us write words very fast. What I’m getting at is that Supposedly Wonderful Future has 125 thousand words in it. It’s no Subspace Emissary’s Worlds Conquest but it’s still an impressive amount. Words, however, are like bombs; they must be used wisely.
Supposedly Wonderful Future is the handiwork of Russian developer Dmitry Zagumennov, and his first game. It’s a visual novel about a man named Michael who gets his small business-owning middle-class life turned upside down. A stranger from the future arrives with a proposition: come to the future with us to help us with a secret project and you might not die. Who could say no? The game is split into five chapters, set 30 years in the future. Each chapter provides a different dilemma to solve, but not all drama is created equal.
To illustrate, let’s compare the first and second chapters. Naturally, spoilers ahoy!
Still no flying cars
This is where the (worldbuilding) magic happens
The prologue left me with feelings of mild disappointment. The writing had been far too wordy so far, but the variety of responses had stopped me from dropping the game prematurely. By the end of it, you head off to the future with your new pal and find yourself in a seemingly abandoned room. You discover a little girl and who seems to be her mother, in different rooms. But what ho, a twist! The little girl is actually an old woman who’s jacked up on future meds and has advanced Alzheimer’s to the point of having delusions of being a child, and the mother is in actual fact the daughter who’s being driven insane by having to take care of her crazy mother. You find a pill on the table helpfully companioned with a leaflet about euthanasia.
Supposedly Wonderful Future gives you much to think about in its first chapter. Is it morally right for you to euthanise a person who is in no mental state to give consent to allow the people caring for them to live their own lives? How will man-made immortality affect the minds of its benefactors? Should we cure death? This indie visual novel with a potential budget in two digits gives you a moral choice that’s more compelling than anything the AAA space has offered in decades…then throws it away in the next chapter.
Chapter two is about a girl who might, might not, stop making funny videos online with her friends. I appreciate Zagumennov’s attempts to turn this scenario into a commentary about the importance of the Social Contract, but the subject matter isn’t compelling enough. The rest of the game does pick up the pace later on, but it doesn’t pack nearly as much punch as the first scenario. These arcs aren’t all there is to the game, though.
there’s plenty of philosophical worldbuilding to be found
Supposedly Wonderful Future’s 125 thousand words don’t go to making Tim Buckley levels of word stuffing; there’s plenty of philosophical worldbuilding to be found. You find it through accessible content like opinion pieces and academically-written articles. These lay the groundwork for the near future’s zeitgeist, bringing the game’s world to life. Unfortunately, this is also where most of the good writing went. The entire game’s script is drenched in metaphysics to the point of head-scratching, but the more structured nature of these worldbuilding devices appeals to Zagumennov’s writing style quite a bit more. Except for the online comment sections in the second chapter. I’ve read all of Homestuck (twice) and these much shorter segments proved dull and uninteresting. Thankfully, most of the game’s content is optional and can be skipped if the player isn’t up to it.
If you’re looking for a visual novel that isn’t tied down to its gimmick (at least, not in the fun way), Supposedly Wonderful Future is worth a shot. If you’re looking for a future scenario that isn’t dystopian…much, then it’s your cup of tea. Despite my criticisms of the game here, I did thoroughly enjoy my time with it. That fantastic first chapter had me sold, even if the rest of the game didn’t quite reach the same heights.