As some of you might already know, walking simulators are a genre I particularly enjoy. I noticed The Fidelio Incident recently and was stoked when Act 3 Games decided to slide a copy across the ethereal surface of my existential wooden desk. There were a lot of things in the game’s description that seemed like they would elevate the walking simulator experience to a new level. A dramatic story isn’t necessarily a revelation, but a walking simulator where you hope to be rescued at the same time that you are trying to avoid anybody knowing who you are is definitely a new twist in this genre, and having the professional voice acting talent to support the project is also a nice feature. Plus, walking simulators in an Arctic, or at least very cold setting aren’t exactly frequent either. So, how was The Fidelio Incident?
The story in The Fidelio Incident takes place in a remote island of Iceland. Based on Beethoven’s only opera (named Fidelio), you play as Stanley, who along with your wife Leonore, are flying to Iceland to start a new life together. A key aspect to the story is that they are actually fleeing from somewhere and hope to not only start a new life, but also with new identities. However, mid flight, a bird strikes their plane’s window and they end up crashing on a remote island. The plane is torn asunder during the descent and Stanley and Leonore end up separated as their parts of the plane crash in separate areas. After you come to, you must try to find your wife while also surviving freezing temperatures in an unknown location.
The suspense of both the situation and the story as it unfolds makes for a compelling journey. As Stanley tries to find his way to where Leonore is, and as the elements become more extreme and daunting, Stanley starts to withdraw a bit into his mind and so the journey isn’t just to save Leonore, but indeed is also a journey of self discovery and awareness. He will also discover pages of Leonore’s diary that were strewn about, and which reveal a lot about both Stanley and Leonore, who they were, how their relationship developed, and how things led to where they are now.
I thought the story to be quite engaging and interesting with, at least in the video game world, and unusual twist to the approach the story takes. 8.5 out of 10
The gameplay in The Fidelio Incident, as with most walking simulators, is pretty straight-forward overall. You will largely walk around investigating parts of the plane’s wreckage while trying to find your way to your wife. Aside from walking, there are a couple climbing sequences, a couple swimming sequences, and your basic interaction with objects, primarily Leonore’s diary pages, but also other object needed to complete puzzles or simply needed to survive under certain circumstance.
Since you landed on a frozen island without the proper protection from the elements, you will need to figure out a way to survive sub freezing conditions. Standing near the fiery pieces of plane wreckage is one way, but you will also encounter steam vents that will warm you up as well. These also function as save points in the game, so if you die from exposure, you will end up at the last fire or steam vent you were standing at.
The puzzles in The Fidelio Incident are typically sequence puzzles, meaning you will have to do a sequence of events in a specific order to progress. Although not particular daunting, a couple of the puzzles will require a little bit of exploration to solve and simply require finding a specific object. The rest are as mentioned: perform actions in a specific sequence to unlock the your ability to progress. Although this can seem like it would get boring, the actual level design makes it never boring and in fact the puzzles allow you to partake a bit in the world around you making it a bit more engaging.
Speaking of level design, instead of random edges of the map, where the edges aren’t obvious, there are tons of stinging jellyfish on the shores that prevent you from just wandering off and make for some entertaining dialogue as well. That aside, although you can wander about a bit while outside, overall, this is a fairly linear experience that transitions seamlessly from one area to the next.
The gameplay in The Fidelio Incident was spot on. The controls were tight, performance never dipped under 60 FPS for me, and I encountered zero technical issues at all. I played with a gamepad without issue, and also set F12 to the reset button for easy screenshot taking.
9 out of 10
The graphics in The Fidelio Incident were flat out stunning where they weren’t designed to be gloomy, and where they were, the level of detail was spectacular regardless. This is a game that WILL capture your imagination, and the setting also lends itself to a bit of sight-seeing. You will almost definitely take screenshots galore while playing this.
The actual outdoors, in the arctic levels of the game, were simply spectacular. I especially was impressed with the little details, such as the mysterious blue ice known to appear in glaciers and such, the glow from the jellyfish, and the way in which ice, water, and snow interact with each other. The plane wreckage was very cool looking as well. Once you get indoors, the setting changes to exactly how you would think of an underground bunker or facility looking. Dark, grimy, and generally unpleasant as walking amidst tons of concrete slab could be.
Later, as you start to get into the world alteration sequences centered around your self discovery, the set pieces become even more amazing. From swarms of insects to an Irish pub, you will always feel like you are exactly where Stanley is in the game. The appearance really helps serve to transpose yourself into the experience yourself.
Finally, the way the diary sheets are presented also look great. They look like something you would find in a person’s diary and are very nicely detailed as well.
9.5 out of 10
As much as the other aspects of The Fidelio Incident shined, they simply could not outdo the amazing voice acting work by Glenn Keogh and Bess Harrison, who truly became their respective characters. Whether Leonore on the phone talking to Stanley while waiting for him to find her (she is trapped, immobile, freezing to death, and yet also at risk of burning to death btw….pretty grim) or reading Leonore’s diary sheets, Bess conveyed real emotion and a clear understanding for the depth of the character she was portraying. Likewise, Glenn as Stanley was so completely believable and effective that you really couldn’t help but hang on every word of dialogue and hope for a happy conclusion to this even. Basically, they humanized these characters in a way you rarely see in a game and really allowed for the player to connect with them on an emotional level as well.
The soundtrack was also phenomenal. Michael Krikorian did an amazing job of capturing the soul of the game in every moment, with a perfect soundtrack for the experience.
Beyond that, the other audio was also on point, but the voice acting and music put their stamp on The Fidelio Incident and elevated the game to a level that most contemporaries will find difficulty reaching.
10 out of 10
The Fidelio Incident ended up being one of the best experiences I have had with a walking simulator. I took me almost two and a half hours to complete and was, in my estimation, the perfect length for this game. This year has been great for standout titles in the genre, and The Fidelio Incident not only manages to nestle itself firmly into that greatness, but in fact comes out as one of the best of all time.