Lacuna Review: Freeze – CDI!

Changing up the rules a bit of the point and click, here's a Lacuna review - a story-driven adventure where your actions really do affect the outcome of the narrative.

This Lacuna review is an extension of the earlier Lacuna Prologue. Follow in the footsteps of Neil Conrad, CDI agent, as he attempts to solve the murder of a high profile official that could be the catalyst for war.

Tensions are already high in this sci-fi world of corruption and terrorist factions, and the underlying menace is throughout the storytelling. The focus in this game by DigiTales Interactive and Assemble Entertainment is the story over gameplay.

That doesn’t mean that Lacuna isn’t very enjoyable to play; it’s just that it’s about the story’s momentum and not hindering players with convoluted plot devices or puzzles.

Lacuna Review – PC Via Steam

Lacuna isn’t a complicated plot, but the choices you make mean something. That means paying attention to what is said, picking up on nuances, and making an educated decision to your problem-solving.

Lacuna Review - Bar fly
Bar fly. Source: Steam

On a personal note, and whether you’re interested or not, I love it when actions lead to consequences. How you approach the story will produce one of the multiple endings. There’s replay value here but bear in mind that you only really get one chance to play through due to the autosaves.

The save games during this Lacuna review process was a tad annoying as you can’t manually save. On a couple of occasions, I had to leave the game, and when returning, it was apparent that some scenes had to be repeated.

Sci-Fi Noir

Lacuna plays out like a noir in that it’s somewhat sleepy but in the positive sense. Aside from a few nudges from a timer for you to respond with an answer, you get to take your time. Perfect for a detective story. 

Lacuna review - You got mail
You got mail. Actually, you don’t. Source: Steam

This is very much like a point and click, only the rules have been rewritten, and there’s a little more at risk than a LucasArts type game. Not so much the loss of life, but your actions bring outcomes, and depending on the overall approach you take, your story may be different to others.

Do note that there isn’t a repeat cycle of dialogue – once it’s been said, you won’t be reliving it unless you look at your log via your cellphone (pressing C).

The cellphone is your Elon Musk AI interface as it’s an extension of your thinking process. For each ‘case’ you take on, you’ll be assigned sheets where you have to accumulate evidence then submit your answers. You won’t always know if you did the right thing, but the story advances and depending on your choice, the paths will open/close.

You Used To Call Me On My Cellphone

The cellphone stores all your conversations with NPCs that you can refer to with colour-coded text for clues, actual clues thus far, news (which helps you understand how the world is playing out during your investigation), plus a glossary of the terms in the game. It’s very accessible, but needs to be this way as you’re often tested on your general knowledge.

The game isn’t so much of an open-world experience, however, and during this Lacuna review, it did feel quite a linear experience jumping from case to case and filling in the blanks from the dropdown menus on the sheets. Again, as I covered in the Lacuna Prologue, having to recall your conversations and clues, makes this a very engaging experience that will keep you on your toes.

In a traditional point and click, you could aimlessly click all around the screen until you find a solution. Though there’s a colour-coded highlight mode to indicate points of interest, you seriously have to take notes – physical or mental ones, based on the clues you find rather than hope for the best by clicking something that stands out.

I Got Your Number

One example that comes to mind was locating the records for a boat. In fear of sounding cocky, it was clear what time the boat sailed out, and I made a note of the boat ID. However, revisiting the NPCs didn’t bring up any new dialogue, nor could I submit any new sheets. So, I aimlessly paced up and down, then clicked on areas on the terminal used to access the shipping logs.

Lacuna Review - It's going down
It’s going down. Source: Steam

In short, you need to punch in the number manually, and this automatically sends it to your co-worker. In the bottom right of the screen are clickable icons such as the investigation mode and highlight options, but I didn’t pay attention as I used the respective hotkeys. Reviewing the dialogue logs, my colleague Saito says, “Send it to me via number pad”. 

Clicking on this icon then entering the number unlocked my exit route and was the answer I knew all along. Perhaps this came up in the Lacuna Prologue, and I either forgot it or didn’t pay attention. Either way, it’s a minor frustration and further evidence that you need to be attentive, observant and a non-moron.

But in fear of being a broken record in this Lacuna review: this is why it proves to be such an engaging game as you need to exercise awareness, and before you know it, you care what will happen to Neil as the story unfolds and want to do the best job possible unless you’re a nihilist and could care less about Ghara, Drovia and New Joran. Great band, by the way.

Lacuna Review Summary

Lacuna isn’t groundbreaking in its approach, breaking the shackles of the classic point and click, but it is a meaningful experience. The storytelling is brilliant, with a solid protagonist with a personal story interwoven for good measure. For me, thinking about actions before jumping in was a focal point, while reading through logs and making mental notes of clues made this feel as close to an interactive noir as one could hope. Translation? Highly recommended.