Reflections is a first person narrative exploration game with an ambitious concept. The game boasts that everything can be interacted with and whatever players choose to pick up, view, and move around will affect the outcome of the story. Not only does player choice decide what the character does with their life, but also what happens in their relationships.
Players begin the game ready to leave home to go to college, and must pack the last of their things into a box by the front door. This is where the most interesting mechanic in Reflections becomes clear, as the world in which the player is dropped into is grey and colourless. Anything picked up, read or played with, is then filled with bright colour, showing what choices have been made.
Players know when they’ve done everything in a room as a little guitar strum plays and the entire room is decorated. This mechanic is cute, pretty and highly satisfying. It’s like the game is reminding the player to appreciate all of the small things in life. Everything will always be there around you, but unless you stop to notice them, the world might as well be in black and white.
After around half-an-hour, the game moves on ten years. Section two is about exploring where you have led the character, from the choices made in the first section. The new areas change up the gameplay a bit, with new environments and characters to interact with. As player exploration and discovery is tantamount to the experience of Reflections, you’ll have to find out exactly what these places are for yourself. Another half-hour goes by before the final section gives a text summary of the characters life, based on whether or not you picked up a photo, or if you played darts instead.
Despite each playthrough being short, clocking in at around an hour, the Path Progress, showing what outcomes have been achieved, tempts further exploration into the game. Unfortunately, players must always traverse the beginning environment in order to reach the different story branches. This repetition can make Reflections feel slow and a little monotonous after a couple of playthroughs, particularly if you can’t find the one thing you should have done differently to change the story. The game might benefit from the option to start in the different locations to stop the first level from becoming too dry.
Another problem is that other characters that you can interact with have only a few lines of text, at specific story moments. Meanwhile, the player character apparently just stares at them until they’re finished, before walking away, which feels awkward. There is no way of starting a conversation or keeping one going, an odd choice for a game based entirely on interaction.
The game is currently in Early Access, and it appears that the developers have lots of plans for what they are going to be adding to the game, which makes it a little hard to judge at this stage. If all goes to plan, then there will be more story sections, characters to interact with, and things to do in general, which will give extra breadth to the game and its story. The ending will also be changed from a few paragraphs of text to a new interactive environment, which will add more player agency.
Interestingly, Reflections has Oculus Rift compatibility. Although I could not test this, due to not owning the hardware, I imagine the game to be a great setting for the technology. The Oculus would allow for a more realistic and engaging experience with the world that you have to interact with.
Reflections currently has a lot of potential. The experience could become something very personal and special from additions content, and giving more obvious signs as to what interactions lead to specific life choices from the character. If the developers work hard and fulfil that potential, then it will definitely be worth checking out on its release. However, if little changes, then it’ll simply be stuck as an attempt at an ambitious concept.
Reflections is currently available in Early Access on Steam, with the full version coming in the next few months for PC, PS4 and Xbox One.
This preview was originally part of the GamersFTW site (and went up on the 03th July 2015), the servers of which have been taken down. It now appears on GabsTannerReviews out of respect for the developers/publishers that gave me a copy to preview.