Picture this: A heartfelt narrative set upon an airborne hospital during 1970s Australia.
Need I say more? Because that’s all it took for me to go from having a curious glance at Wayward Strand’s PAX AUS booth to sitting down keen to play the title from Melbourne-based developer Ghost Pattern, a game which was one of the six titles to be part of the indie showcase at PAX Australia 2019.
Wayward Strand puts you in the teenage shoes of Casey Beaumaris, a budding journalist whose mother works aboard an airborne hospital where she’ll be spending the next three days getting to know the eclectic group of inhabitants for an article for her school newspaper.
The game plays somewhat like a point and click but without the puzzles – essentially it’s an interactive story. What makes Wayward Strand unique is the way the story is experienced. Much like real life, time in Wayward Strand waits for nobody, and the choices you make will affect what you glean from the patients in each playthrough.
Each character has their own timeline and can interact with one another, so if you choose to speak to a particular resident at 11 am then you’ll miss whatever else is happening at that time and the story threads that could unfold from that. Discussions will yield information regarding each character, their relationships with other residents, as well the history of the ship. Marigold Bartlett, the game’s art director, explains to me that Casey is free to wander the halls or shadow the nurses in search of stories should the player wish, but the risk is missing out on a conversation with one of the 12 characters that can only happen at a particular time.
According to Bartlett, a playthrough should last around two hours long, but despite the brevity the choice-driven nature of the story will allow for multiple playthroughs. The team at Ghost Pattern are focusing on quality over quantity, and feel that a shorter more emotional experience will have more of an impact with players.
But a story’s impact is really only as good as its writing and thankfully Wayward Strand is full of charm in this regard, making characters feel authentic and relatable. While the build on offer didn’t have every single line of dialogue voiced, what was recorded sounded spot on.
Even though my hands-on only lasted ten minutes, I got a sense of the emotive storytelling that Ghost Pattern are hoping to deliver with Wayward Strand. Supported by an incredibly gorgeous art style and simple yet apt soundtrack, Wayward Strand is shaping up to be one to watch out for in 2020, and it was easily my indie game of PAX Australia 2019.
Wayward Strand is launching in 2020 on PC, Mac, iOS and Android.