Sentience: The Android’s Tale is a game made in the RPGMaker engine. I want to preface this review by stating that I typically avoid playing games made with this engine. This is because the engine was made widely available through indie bundles. This has resulted in a lot of wannabe game makers releasing titles that should never be on steam.
However, Pilgrim Adventures, have worked tirelessly to change that reputation. They now have ten games on Steam including their popular Space Pilgrim franchise. To their credit all of their releases have positive review scores. This is no mean feat on a platform where users can be hypercritical and subpar games are common.
What is Sentience?
This time around the Pilgrim Adventures team have presented us with a serious, story-rich, tale about the existence of an android. Without spoiling the plot, Wikipedia provides the following meaning for sentience:
Sentience is the capacity to feel, perceive or experience subjectively. Eighteenth-century philosophers used the concept to distinguish the ability to think (reason) from the ability to feel (sentience). In modern Western philosophy, sentience is the ability to experience sensations. In Eastern philosophy, sentience is a metaphysical quality of all things that require respect and care. The concept is central to the philosophy of animal rights because sentience is necessary for the ability to suffer, and thus is held to confer certain rights.
However, rather than the central tenet of the game being animal rights, it is instead artificial intelligence. The developers make a significant political statement on the topic. This is obvious from the very beginning of the game. Consequently, much of your purchase decision should be based upon your interest in this topic.
A strong advantage of the game is the amount of research that has gone into the game. This isn’t just an uneducated opinion. Rather, there is a lot of real-world science in the game. Players who possess knowledge of the topic will be able to appreciate its presentation. On the other hand, newcomers will find the game to be a rich learning experience.
RPGMaker games are straightforward affairs. Gameplay is generally always basic. This enables anyone to play them. The focus is on storytelling rather than on difficult gameplay mechanics. It is no different here.
A strength in the gameplay is that there are multiple endings. This means that your decisions matter. Therefore, the game opens itself up to multiple playthroughs. Thus, replayability is increased. The decisions that are most consequential come through dialogue choices.
Given the significance of dialogue, players should prepare for a lot of it. The game is driven by it. There is no voiceover work in the game meaning that you will do a lot of reading. I want to emphasize this because of how influential your choices come. Although you may be tempted to skip some text I would advise against it. This is because if you’re not prepared to read then you may as well not play the game.
Players can either play with mouse and keyboard or through a controller. There’s no difference in the quality of gameplay so I recommend using the one you are most comfortable with.
After you play a few games made in the RPGMaker engine you know what to expect visually. That is to say that the engine is limited. The engine is unable to produce state of the art visuals. Therefore, you need to look deeper to appreciate the developer’s artistic flair.
Consequently, I believe the developers achieve a great result here. The color palette and the aesthetics chosen are in line with the telling of the story. The visuals aid the storytelling which is exactly what they need to do in this type of game.
A touch that I appreciate is that the player gets to choose which android they control at the beginning of the game. This is as simple as picking one of a number of choices. However, it encourages the player to claim ownership of the android as being representative of them. Given the story that follows building this connection from the beginning makes it easier for the player to move into the story.
At one point I allowed the game to stay open when I needed a break from the computer. That meant that the backing soundtrack remained open. This was for a period of a couple of hours. At one point my housemate suggested that the neighbor was being meticulous about mowing their lawns. I had no idea what she was talking about. However, it soon became evident that it was the game making those sounds. I found it to be humorous more than anything. As a result, the best way to describe the sound of the game is basic.
In all, the presentation meets and surpasses expectations. It’s basic but well chosen and implemented. There isn’t a significant contrast between presentation and story. Consequently, the presentation aids the player’s level of immersion.
Sentience: The Android’s Tale comes with 36 Steam achievements for players to successfully unlock. There is also a set of trading cards for players to collect. There is nothing beyond that and there needn’t be. This isn’t the type of game that opens itself up to a collector’s edition artbook and there is no need for a soundtrack. Nor is there a real need for future DLC.
Sentience: The Android’s Tale has given me an appreciation for RPGMaker games. After attempting to play so many poor quality titles this was a breath of fresh air. The way in which the game tells its story and reveals its research is fantastic. Although it is a niche title I do believe that those within its niche have a lot to garner from a playthrough. Now I need to find the time to enjoy Pilgrim Adventures other games and hope that they’re of a similar standard!