The full range of elderly people, all the way from nice grandma to very angry grandma.
Wayward Strand first caught my eye in a Wholesome Direct, and if you know anything about those presentations, then you pretty much know what kind of game to expect. Something about the idea of a laid back game where you just talked to the elderly was weirdly interesting to me. My first job as a teenager was as a server at a retirement home’s in-house restaurant; this is where I interacted with a huge number of retirees with all sorts of stories and life experiences to share (sometimes whether you wanted it or not). A game written around this concept was intriguing, and so I have been eagerly awaiting the release of Wayward Strand. I am happy to say that overall I think Wayward Strand managed to deliver on its concept.
In Wayward Strand, you take control of a young fourteen-year-old girl in Australia named Casey, whose three day weekend is thrown to the wind when her mother recruits her to help at work. Casey’s mom is the head nurse at a hospital that has been built inside a decommissioned airship, and not much about the ship is public knowledge. Casey, an aspiring journalist writing for her school newspaper, decides that if she’s going to be losing her holiday she may as well get a story out of it. She is assigned to the elderly ward and asked to simply spend time with the various patients there, so she begins to hang out with people like the kind and gentle Ida, the pompous Mr. Avery, and the nonverbal Tomi. All the while she works to get to know their stories and personalities, while also trying to sneak in a bit of digging for information on the facility itself.
Gameplay is about as simple as you can get: Casey can walk around the elderly ward and speak to the characters around her. If a conversation is already happening between characters where you are, you have the option to listen in. Information gained during these conversations will be added to Casey’s notebook, and responses chosen during conversations will affect how other characters feel about interacting with her. There aren’t really any set-in-stone goals in Wayward Strand, you can pick and choose what you do and who you hang out with. The more you get to know characters, the more events you can witness, but be warned that a VIP guest is set to visit at the end of the week and tensions are high as a result. Not everybody is going to be so open to socializing with a fourteen-year-old , and it’s up to you whether or not you want to try and break their hard candy shell or leave them to their own devices in order to not rock the boat.
There are a few issues with Wayward Strand as a whole, the most prevalent of which is some unfortunate visual bugs. None of them are completely immersion breaking, but it is hard not to notice Casey’s mom levitating a clipboard two feet in front of her. Overall this game has a nice distinct visual style, but seeing Ida miss her bowl with her spoon to scoop up the table has a way of slightly ruining the effect. Some voice lines bugged out and either played in the wrong place or on top of each other, but this only happened once or twice near the very end of the game. There is also the small issue that loading times, while only happening every hour or so, are still rather long. Otherwise, I didn’t notice any large scale problems with the way the game ran or looked, just these small things here and there.
Overall, Wayward Strand is not going to be for everybody; it’s a game that runs at a very relaxed pace that some may find too slow. For me and people who enjoy more narrative-focused games, however, you might find it to be a pleasant experience. It’s not always happy, for some of these patients the past is sad to look back on, and the present might not be the most delightful subject, either. Regardless, these stories are well fleshed out and memorable and a hospital inside of an airship is an incredibly interesting place to learn about. The game is fully voice acted, adding quite a bit of personality to the cast. If you enjoy a laid back experience that just has you talking to people, Wayward Strand is worth a look. Old people have some pretty neat stories, and the ones on this airship are no exception.