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Beautiful Desolation Gameplay – poignant, palatable, pandemonium

Post-apocalyptic safari

Beautiful Desolation released on the 26th of February 2020 and I was there waiting for Steam’s gates to open. Once they opened, I rushed into the unfamiliar familiarity of post-apocalyptic South Africa. I put in five hours of gameplay before the reality of having to work the next day prematurely ended my otherwise pleasant gaming session. The game is fantastic, and the gameplay is a pleasure for the senses balanced out with a panic inducing post-apocalyptic African landscape. In this article I look at the Beautiful Desolation gameplay and explore some elements that make it tick. Our full review of the game will be available soon, so keep your eyes open for that. So let’s get down to what makes this game a pleasant, panic-inducing experience.

Setting the scene
More panic-inducing than pleasant I would say. [Image: The Brotherhood]

Beautiful Desolation gameplay – navigating the world

We can divide the world of Beautiful Desolation into three distinct layers:

The overworld – this is the overarching navigational map of the entire game. While I haven’t unlocked all the areas, it looks like there are seven pieces that make up the world of Beautiful Desolation. Each of these seven areas are visually distinct and you navigate them by flying in your airship aptly named “Buffalo”. You unlock access to the Buffalo early in the game and from there you can access the overworld interface. Flying is as simple as left-clicking somewhere on the map or choosing one of the many locations from the navigation menu. If you use the navigation menu, the Buffalo uses auto-pilot to get you there and you can sit back and enjoy the ride.

Beautiful Desolation Gameplay
Flying around South Africa in the Buffalo. [Image: The Brotherhood]

The individual environments – each of the overworld areas have a spattering of individual environments that you can visit. The game locks many of these behind certain narrative elements or ship upgrades, but you can access them all at some or other point during the game. As with most of the game, these environments are visually stunning and truly a pleasant experience to explore. As we reported in our previous article about Beautiful Desolation, there are over 85 of these individual areas to explore. Based on the 30 I’ve seen, I am buzzing with excitement to see what the game has left to offer. As with the overworld you navigate these areas by left-clicking to move your character and the further you click away the faster the character moves. Each individual area is littered with things to interact with, ranging from static interactions that help with lore and world building to interactions that are critical to progress the game.

Beautiful Desolation Gameplay
Environments look fantastic. [Image: The Brotherhood]

Places of interest – within some of these individual environments there is another layer to explore. Some areas have shops, houses and other buildings that allow the player to enter. Other areas have more nefarious and mysterious places the player can explore but be warned, stuff gets pretty weird in some of these places.

Beautiful Desolation gameplay – interacting with the world

Luckily, Beautiful Desolation isn’t a walking or flying simulator, and you get to interact with its fascinating reimagining of post-apocalyptic South Africa. Interactions are not very complex in itself, the complexity is rather found in the context surrounding the interactions. As mentioned before, the individual environments have many elements that players can interact with and this includes:

  • Lore interactions – littered throughout the environments are points of interaction that you can hover over to learn more about the game and its world;
  • Game interactions – some of these interaction points are marked with an eye symbol showing that players can physically interact with this point. Mostly this requires you to use something from your inventory and drag it to the appropriate place for interaction. If we use the correct item, the game progresses. I must say that solving and interacting with some of the more complex puzzles is a gratifying experience;
  • Dialogue – some characters have dialogue boxes above their head showing that you can have a chat with them. Dialogue in Beautiful Desolation is engaging, and the different characters you meet are intriguing. Some of the best parts I have seen so far are the interactions with POOCH (your robo-dog) and the Mistress of Witherberg with whom things get very weird very quickly.
Beautiful Desolation Gameplay
An example of a scene with multiple possible interactions. [Image: The Brotherhood]

While the interactions boil down to left-clicking on things, it is the content of these interactions that give the game its substance. If it wasn’t clear before, the game has rich and engaging content leading to satisfying interactions.

Beautiful Desolation gameplay – fighting things in the world

As this is a story-driven game, combat is not the primary aim of the gameplay. During my time with the game, I have only had a few combat encounters. These encounters are simple but still effective in offering players a satisfying experience. It is important to know that this game is not an RPG. Around a year ago a player commented on the combat elements of Beautiful Desolation and the developer responded:

“Thanks for the message. The Arena is essentially a contained puzzle (mini game) in an area of the game. Don’t worry, we are not making an RPG :)”

The Beautiful Desolation gameplay is grounded in the adventure and point and click genre, so don’t expect anything else. Other elements are nice additions to the gameplay, but do not form part of the core.

What in the world?

Beautiful Desolation provides players with a stunning world to explore. [Image: The Brotherhood]

To summarize, Beautiful Desolation is a point and click adventure set in a fictional and post-apocalyptic South Africa. Gameplay includes what you would expect from this genre, lots of puzzles, fantastic dialogue, intriguing characters and beautiful environments to explore. I am enjoying my time with the game and hope to be back with a review in due time. In the meantime, support the work of an exciting indie gaming company!