Road 96 does very well what games in which it is obviously inspired did not quite treat quite well. This single-player adventure offers us a journey of exile, leaving behind our tyrannical country and looking for a new life beyond the wall. Narrated in such a way that each adventure will be “unique”, Road 96 will generate our story according to our decisions and the conditions in which we find ourselves, making us feel that we have an important weight in the narrative at all times. If you want to know what we thought, keep reading the Road 96 review on SomosXbox.
More than one life on the road
The narrative of Road 96 seems excellent to me, not because of the complexity of its plot, but because of the way in which the stories of the protagonists, who obviously are not us, are told. As a player, we will carry several teenagers trying to cross the border of Petria, a tyrannical country governed by a president who has been in power for years, earning the favor of the people thanks to a media that whitewashes its image and knowingly manipulates.
The social criticism of Road 96 is enormous and it does well everything that in another game of the style, such as Life is Strange 2, was forced and too artificial. Here we sympathize with the struggle, whether it is by force (with the Brigades) or democratically. And it is that Petria is one of those countries where there is the false sense of democracy, with elections that can change the destiny of power, but its foundations are so rotten and the people so manipulated that it is impossible for that to happen. Or is there an option?
Our role as players is to control one of the many teenagers who have decided that their country has no future and, with the elections around the corner, it is better to flee to the neighboring country, a country separated by a wall. At the beginning of the game we will be asked several questions related to our way of being and how we would act in conditions similar to those in Petria, according to our answers, history will be generated one way or another.
The characters that we will meet and their plots will be -more or less- fixed. They have their reasons to escape or do something in Petria, but our actions on them can change their destiny. Thus, the player will live through their eyes the story of the other characters, a picturesque cast: a news presenter favorable to the regime, two thieves, a child programmer, a policewoman, a truck driver, a taxi driver with very bad drool and another teenager who embarks on our same path.
All of them have relevance in the main plot: the fate of Petria, but their stories also develop in parallel. That is why we could divide the game into 3 plots: that of each of our characters who must try to escape from the country, the individual plots of the protagonists and that of the country of Petria.
live your own adventure
The fact that the game procedurally generates the scenarios according to our conditions makes this road trip very different for each player. Even so, when carrying out this style of narrative there are times when consistency failures occur, where with the same adolescent we have met some character and if after a few days we cross paths with him it does not seem that our previous meeting had any repercussion.
In that sense, that makes me think that the stories of the characters are always the same, but not how we access them or the order. Even so, the feeling that you are weaving your own story is present.
As for the gameplay, Road 96 is not a revolution and most of the time we have to limit ourselves to selecting dialogue options and solving small puzzles, although the most common is the first. According to our interactions and decisions, our teenager will influence the world. In addition, since the objective is to reach and pass the wall at any cost, a “survival” component is added (very much in quotes) since we will have to eat and rest often if we do not want to faint.
Another element to consider is money. If we have money we can eat or pay for taxis/buses that unlock new stories for us and make us reach the wall sooner, tiring us less, if we don’t have money we will have to hitchhike or walk along the road. As teenagers on the run, you can imagine that we have little money, so it will have to be earned in any way, be it moral or immoral.
Beyond that, this first-person adventure lies mainly in its plot and its characters, since the gameplay can be considered basic and what will give us the most headaches will be health and money management. Regarding the flow of the game, each chapter consists of an escape attempt with a teenager, something that takes place over several days through the summer of 1996, ending on September 9, 1996. It is our duty to try to escape from the country and with it meeting and helping the other characters, as well as Petria.
In the purest Life is Strange style
I already told you before that the entire political and social background of Road 96 was treated much better than in Life is Strange 2, because another point in which this title stands out quite above is in the music. With very good songs on its soundtrack, Road 96 is a real joy. As for the technical section, it is true that the seams are more noticeable, especially in the quality of the graphics, their textures, lighting… I understand the Firewatch-style design decision, but it could still be better.
The performance, yes, is the most stable on Xbox Series X, with 60fps immovables that are appreciated in a game in first person. Road 96 comes to us with voices in English, but completely localized to Spanishboth in subtitles and in other ingame texts.
A unique and vibrant adventure
I liked Road 96 a lot, both for the approach in its plot as in the way it has to treat the secondary characters, which end up becoming main, making you a spectator. Being able to see in this kind of “third person” how our characters influence others and the future of the entire country is a success because of the way it is done.
Although the gameplay is nothing to write home about, manage to vary it from time to time or introduce temporary elements so that you don’t end up getting tired of the same thing. Even so, there are several phases that I have found that reminded me of others, only with different characters. I guess it’s one of the drawbacks of that procedural generation.
In any case, Road 96 is a very interesting game, with a story that deals well with issues of oppression and social injustice, mirroring countries like the United States, North Korea or the USSR back in the day, something that the creator studio DigixArt already knew how to do with 11-11 Memories Retold. If you’re looking for a cinematic narrative game that doesn’t last more than 7-8 hours (in a single game), Road 96 is going to surprise you.