Of Sense and Soul, the debut game from Forsythia Productions, is a Victorian slice-of-life story featuring two male romantic leads. Told, so far, from the perspective of Hugo Brooks, join him as he endeavors to take the first few bold steps to changing his life and coming out of his shell.
The demo for Of Sense and Soul covers less than ten percent of the planned final game, and an extended demo is planned for the beginning of 2021. The full game’s release date has not yet been announced.
An Intriguing Catalyst for Character Growth
When we begin the story, we do so in the shoes of Hugo Brooks, a mild-mannered news writer for a Victorian newspaper. He’s a simple man in his late 20s who isn’t particularly remarkable. This is a positive thing for player experience. As a player, it’s easy to latch onto Hugo. He’s sensible, anxious, and struggles with interpersonal communication. If you aren’t Hugo, you know someone who is. He is the everyman.
His instigation into action, pressure from his family into marriage, is both timeless and refreshing. It’s something even modern young people face when they’re of a certain age, either through direct pressure from family and friends, or the more vague expectations set but media both traditional and social. From a metatextual perspective, this is often the conflict of female protagonists, especially in stories set during the time period in question. It’s interesting, then, to see these same conflicts play out from a male perspective, especially considering the strange circumstances they devolve into by the end of the demo. The object of affection also being a man, Seamus Charkham, promises to open an interesting avenue for discussion of classic Victorian-style courtship.
To create an aesthetic that’s both accessible yet well-structured (as befitting the setting), Of Sense and Soul relies on deep earthy tones that are both friendly and tinged with antiquity. There are subtle textures that give things like clothing and furniture and even skin an extra layer of depth and subsurface luminescence. With this there’s an immaculate attention to detail, particularly in the historical accuracy. The table settings in the tea house reveal themselves to be era-realistic, as do the swivel chairs and coal-burning fireplaces. All these details firmly cement the time period in perfectly subtle ways.
Despite their intricacies, however, one does feel like some of the set pieces feel a bit impersonal. Hugo’s foyer is an example. He himself reads as a very strong character, yet his home doesn’t feel like he lives there. It’s not what I’d expect from an absent-minded writer fellow who works more than the average man. It feels like it could belong to anyone. This may be a feeling that changes as more of the game is released, but for now feels like a disconnect between the writing and art as far as environmental storytelling goes.
A Living Victorian England
Through its more subtle and reserved character and narrative writing, Of Sense and Soul creates a depiction of the time period that feels real and lived-in. Matrimonial papers, a rarely talked about fascination of the era, make an important, story-driving appearance. Overall, the characters don’t feel Victorian in a way that’s inaccessible to a modern audience. There’s no melodrama or pearl-clutching. Reactions are measured and authentic without that inexplicable pretension that plagues other period pieces. This leans into that combination of timelessness and antiquity.
While the current demo really reveals very little of the final game, it gives an adequate picture of the story to come: a soft-romantic comedy that defies typical expectations.
Play the demo on itch.io.