VN Game Den received a request from the developer to look at Deep Awareness of the Universe.
Deep Awareness of the Universe is an upcoming science fantasy adventure visual novel, and the start of the game is available now as a free demo. It follows Zie, a teenage boy who happens to find the key to his father’s locked study and takes advantage of the opportunity to sneak inside. There he finds many mysterious things, including a briefcase that causes a strange tremor… and soon he finds himself on the run from unknown pursuers.
The art is crisp and the backgrounds well-detailed, and although the character sprites felt a little off to me at first, I got used to them after a while. It also has a stylish UI design with a purple flair I particularly liked. Most of the game is told through a typical ADV format, written from a third-person perspective. However, there are also light adventure game elements where you can inspect objects in the environment.
In the demo, this only occurs once. When Zie first enters the study, you need to inspect various things in the room to learn more about them before the story proceeds. Right now, it largely feels just like a way to add a bit of interaction. You need to inspect everything before the story continues, so it could easily have been presented through the regular visual novel format. However, since it occurs so early, it’s not clear if these point-and-click sections will become more important later on or not.
There are some other light gameplay elements as well, such as dragging key items to Zie when they’re given to you by another character. More clearly important to the gameplay experience, however, are the choices. At certain points you’re given multiple options to pick from. The demo doesn’t have any branching paths; instead, wrong choices either loop back to the question until you pick the correct one or give you an immediate game over.
I have mixed feelings about the game over scenarios in the demo. On one hand, they add a nice bit of tension to Zie’s situation, because choosing incorrectly has dire consequences. On the other hand, they’re rather abrupt, so instead of feeling like you see the result of a bad choice, it’s a matter of reading a few lines of dialogue and reloading to try again. In addition, one of the choices was so vague it came down to guesswork, even though later dialogue revealed there was context that could have hinted at the correct option.
Fortunately, the skip feature lets you quickly skip through read dialogue if you need to reload. The demo is fairly short, covering the story’s first chapter and the very start of the second, but that’s enough time to reveal magic, a conspiracy, and deadly enemies. In fact, everything develops almost too quickly. I felt like I had little time to get to know Zie or take in the game’s mysteries, because it almost immediately pushes the player into the story of Zie running for his life and accepting the mysteries presented to him without time to ask for explanations.
At the same time, Deep Awareness of the Universe does seem to be building up an interesting world. I want to know about the briefcase and the secret work done by Zie’s father. I want to see these elements developed and presented with more context. More than anything, I’m curious about the strange organization that is on Zie’s trail the moment they detect that a magical artifact is nearby.
A secret world of magic and organizations fighting to hide it are nothing new for the fantasy genre, but I’m curious to see where this visual novel takes it. The demo shows promise, with many interesting ideas, so hopefully the full game will be able to give them the time they deserve.
You can download the Deep Awareness of the Universe demo from itch.io.