Interactive stories, which feel more attached to the second part of that term, are on the rise and Postmortem: One Must Die seeks to cash in on it. This story is played out in words and all it offers is a series of conversations with just a select few people in only one location. Yet, it does manage to pique a peculiar interest, as this chatter all leads down to the endgame, where things may or may not drastically change past spoken intentions. Subtlety can be intriguing, when it leads to a butterfly effect sweeping across the land.
Set at a hoity-toity charity event, players embody the grim reaper, as he roams through the guests, addresses them and eventually makes the ultimate decision. One must die. Whoever that will be is a choice, but it is an action that is unavoidable. This party is seen from a top isometric perspective, with a select few rooms presented in a sobering drawn style. Mostly brownish color schemes are used to depict chambers, backrooms, hallways and so on. What’s there isn’t as important as who is in it, however, as the characters fluttering around are the points of interest here. This is going to be a text-heavy adventure regardless.
Approaching any one person starts a lengthy conversation. Form commoners to wealthy moguls, all classes are represented and each has their thoughts about the other. Outside of that, the game deals with serious topics, like a breaching revolutionary movement between conservative and progressive beliefs. That, in turn, trickles down to varying issues plaguing the land. All these matters are on the mind of the guests, which can be debated about their opinions. As death itself, it’s possible to get involved greatly, stay neutral or not even care a single bit about the details of this society. It’s possible to choose a target at random immediately and end the game. While getting that option is liberating towards users, for consistency’s sake, entertainment comes from trying to manipulate the outcome of an entire nation by talking aptly and choosing wisely.
Toying with expectations is this game’s strongest feature, above a strongly written context for its setting. While the end goal is usually vital for many games, this adventure bases pretty much all of its importance there. None of the prior actions really matter that much, since they are all optional. Only a given anticipation of how things should turn out changes this and that thought originates from its end, not its starting point. Puzzling the right pieces together is food for the burrowing megalomaniac, trying to unite or unravel the society hanging in the balance.
Since there are a ton of things that can get skewed in this landscape, there is a subtle progression to follow in the game. Figureheads for certain movements need to be swayed, others may need ulterior motives found from rummaging through closed quarters. Breaking rules comes at the cost of esteem amongst others when caught though, so being one step ahead of all involved parties can become its own challenge. A clever approach alone makes up for any lengthy text blocks, which may deter some. An interesting point of view sells its own story. It’s as simple as it is ingenious; a great combination to have on any project.
There won’t be a lot of time to get to know this peculiar universe, however, as any random playthrough won’t take up more than an hour. Enough subject matter is there to return at least once or twice, but all its assets are limited and that should be mentioned. In no way is this a downside for the small title; that’s just the tightness of the scope. It’s better to have this small, powerfully written universe, than a branching environment, where things are merely present to fit. No; if anything, this more intimate setting works in the plot’s favor, furthering the butterfly effect that rises from even the most confined element.
Despite being tiny, Postmortem: One Must Die manages to offer a more alluring premise than many other narrative games in its circles. Conversations were rarely as consequential as the fate of not only a living person hangs in the balance, but an entire nation may never be the same. Its only decisive element is that one critical action that must be taken. One small deed and yet the consequences are so vast. This is perfect fodder for those who always wanted to be part of the books they read.