The late autumn season can be a busy period for videogame releases. Every week, a series of fast-paced, spectacularly bombastic games release, all competing for your attention. Far From Noise however, offers the inverse to these.
Far From Noise asks its player to take a step back, to take a deep breath, and to think about what really matters.
The game is a conversation. Perched on the edge of a cliff, the protagonist finds themselves in a car, unable to reverse away from the edge, seemingly facing the prospect of slipping off into the abyss. A metaphor for the existential dread the character finds themselves in, as well as a physical jail forcing stillness.
Over the next couple of hours, your character will contemplate death. They will speculate on the meaning of life alongside a speaking deer. They will look at the stars, and use them to tell stories. They may not ever leave the car, but they will go on a journey regardless.
Far From Noise builds a tension through its disconnection of gameplay mechanics and story. Your character is precariously balanced on the edge of a cliff, her car slowly rocking back and forth, threatening to fall. In most videogames, this would be a challenge to heroically leap out the back window, clinging on to the cliff as the car crashes down below. Perhaps via a QTE. But not in Far From Noise.
The only gameplay mechanic here is dialogue (or perhaps monologue). The game entirely consists of deciding what to say by clicking on different dialogue options appearing above the car itself. It’s a choose-your-own-adventure game, but with the adventure being an introspective, emotional one.
‘Far From Noise doesn’t compromise its message with an abundance of gameplay mechanics, and is all the better experience for it.’
At first, your character is brash, naturally cynical of herself and the situation that she’s found herself in. But as the game progresses, the character slowly develops a sense of perspective; one of solace and enlightenment, enabled by the single location the game takes place in. Before long, she is joined by a wise old Deer, here to assist on this emotional voyage.
A game such as this hinges on the quality and pacing of its writing, and thankfully Far From Noise delivers. The dialogue is consistently witty, and I found myself relating to the metaphysical plight of this flawed, but sympathetic, character.
This is particularly vital, as if it were to fail, there would be little to engage the player here. The aesthetic is simple, with the perspective rarely switching from a view of the car and deer overlooking the sunset. At various points the game may switch perspective to highlight a key story development, however it soon reverts back.
The art design in Far From Noise is striking, taking cues from the shaded visuals of Firewatch and Journey, although slightly more subdued. The animation is muted, but offers a cinematic experience in keeping with the introspective nature of the game. There is little to distract the player from the horizon, but subtle changes in the sorroundings never allow it to become too repetitive.
The sound design is impressive. There is a calmness, often with little to hear aside from the trees rustling in the wind, and the waves lapping against the rocks. As the story-beats hit, the composed soundtrack builds, adding a sense of frisson to the experience. None of the tracks particularly stood out, but all were effective in reinforcing the emotional overtones.
The story rounds off nicely, with an ending that feels necessarily vague – a literal and metaphorical cliffhanger. It doesn’t outstay its welcome either; each playthrough running at around 90 minutes. Upon repeated playthroughs, I found there to be real deviation in the conversations had, although little affected the overall story trajectory. Perhaps disappointing in its replayability then, but I enjoyed my time in these subsequent playthroughs regardless.
Far From Noise was created by a single developer; George Batchelor. Others have assisted in the design and testing of the game, however it’s clear that this is a singular vision. Far From Noise doesn’t compromise it’s message with an abundance of gameplay mechanics, and is all the better experience for it. This is a simple game, but one with complicated implications.
Most importantly, I found my experience of Far From Noise a meditative one. Through its visuals, sound design and writing, I was able to immerse myself in the relaxed setting and thoughtful writing.
And as I did so, the outside world – that sometimes stressful, anxiety filled surrounding – drifted away.
This game was purchased for PC via Steam. Reviewer Conor Clarke played the game multiple times over 5 hours, before spending much longer than that pondering over its messages and meanings.
Far From Noise is now available on PS4 and PC via Steam and Itch.io.