Introducing: Gnosia Switch Review
Before jumping into my review of Gnosia on the Switch, I want look back. Long before I began writing video game reviews, I played board games with friends at a local game store. One night in between bigger games, someone pushed in front of us a small red box. The game was “The resistance” and it described itself as a social deduction game. Since then I have uncovered a number of similar games, including the genre’s nickname-sake “werewolf”.
Now in 2021, a game originally made for the PSVita in 2019 has finally been localised for the west. Just in time to be called a clone of the highly successful “Among us”. Whilst there are some very similar themes that the games share, Gnosia certainly has enough to set it apart from it’s counterpart. So with that in mind, lets take a look at Gnosia.
First lets get the difficult issue dealt with…
The premise of Gnosia (G-nosia, Genosia, (g)nosia? – I’m going with Gnosia!) is that you awake on a starship travelling between drop offs. You are quickly brought into the fold. The shop has an infected crew member. The infection renders them “non-human” empowering them to “remove” humans as an offering to their deity “Gnos”. The infection cannot be identified by simply looking, nor can a blood test (apparently) be conducted. The only way to prevent the infected from picking off your fellow humans is to place them in deep sleep.
You are thrown into the voting aspect of the game fairly quickly. But any attempt to identify anyone as “sus” will most likely have the finger pointed at you. And here lies one of the biggest differences between Gnosia and its more well known counterpart. The game’s story puts you in some kind of Quantum Leap / Groundhog Day by creating a time loop mechanic. At the end of each loop you gain EXP which can be used to aid you during the discussions. You also get the opportunity to talk to characters allowing you to help pick out their unique tells later on.
During each loop there are a number of roles, increasingly added as you progress until all the mechanics are revealed. Engineers and Doctors are able to sniff out infected crew. This is either while still alive, or confirming the status of those you send to deep sleep. The guardian angel is able to protect one crewman each evening and prevent an infected from achieving their goal. Of course, you could also end up being infected yourself, in which your goals change. Forcing you to stay alive long enough to pick off your friends in an offering to Gnos!
More complicated than it first appears
The sheer number of roles for each character is something that makes this game increasingly difficult. Aside from the previously mentioned roles there are also people who did not leave the ship, so couldn’t be infected. These guard duty characters will often vouch for each other, but in theory, narrow down the list of potential candidates. There are also people who are sympathetic to the Gnosian cause, and as such will try and disrupt the vote in order to protect the alien species trying to wipe out humanity? But there are even more distractions to talk about…
The final role that can be played is the “bug”. This is essentially someone who is outside the loops, like yourself, but with the final caveat of, “If they are still around at the end, the universe is destroyed.” No pressure! The problem is that identifying the various roles is made even more complicated. Gnosians are able to lie about their role, adding yet more complexity to the round. Bugs are also able to lie about being the engineer in order to prolong their own lifespan. Even if I didn’t bring up the fact that some humans don’t even look human, it creates an incredibly complex and deep game.
Between rounds you can talk to crew or upgrade your stats. There are six areas to develop your skills; Charisma, Charm, Intuition, Stealth, Logic and Performance. Each stat gives you increased abilities during the voting rounds, but increasing certain stats will also unlock commands that can be used. These can help worm out that suspicious character, which is useful for reasons we will get to later.
Elementary my dear space dolphin
The gameplay is very similar in some aspects to other social deduction games. Identifying the genosia and removing them obviously being the key. But underpinning this is an underlying story taking place throughout each round. With the start of each round you are, usually, able to select the number of enemies and even choose your own role. Sometimes this can be overturned but having certain scenarios set up can also unlock story elements that help to progress your understanding of the wider world. However, this is entirely a trial and error exercise, and considering the voting element is beyond your control, it’s entirely possible to remove a character who needs to survive in order to trigger said event. This creates a need to grind and replay in order to encounter all elements of the story.
The main issues with the gameplay come through repetition. Each round often meets with the same dialogue from characters, which can make it hard to resist button mashing to speed through. Considering how much the voting takes up of the game itself, it would have been nice to see more dialogue and more reactive dialogue in certain situations. That being said, outside of the voting is where character’s personalities can really shine.
How does it look?
Gnosia employs a visual novel art style. Using anime characters alongside a futuristic overlay which gives a clean, clinical look to the whole game. The art style is beautiful to look at, but this definitely earns it’s “PEGI 12” (Don’t lie you did the voice) rating. There are plenty of scenes where nudity is implied, if not actually shown during shower scenes. There are also plenty of sexual innuendos and a lot of adult situations / humour make this a title not for the younger audience.
Musically, the game adds a lot to the atmosphere with a wide range of tracks that often feature very simple synth beats combined with flowing ethereal melodies. It can feel a little muzak like at times, but usually this changes up before you think to replace it with something more memorable. It’s not entirely bad though and there are certainly times where the music does compliment the atmosphere and promotes the desired response.
Aesthetically, where Gnosia shines is in (some) of the writing. Particularly in getting the personalities of the characters to match with their art styles. While the art at times reminds you of typical stereotypes (and indeed those are here) there is a wild group of characters, each with their own personality.
Under the Hood
Technically, the game is not taxing. When you also consider this was originally designed as a Vita title, it is no surprise that the hardware can cope with the port. The up-scaling for both docked and handheld mode seems to be flawless, with no drops in frame rate noticed. There were no real bugs and the game worked both with Joy-Con and Pro Controller. With a file size of just under 0.5GB it wont take up much space on your hard drive for those of the digital persuasion.
The only real issue from a technical standpoint is the lack of a multiplayer mode. Granted it is designed as a single player experience, and adding in another player would create a whole heap of extra code to cover things like keeping identities secret or including all players in the interactions. But taking the time to add this would have turned what is a compelling single player game into “werewolf on the switch” which I feel would have opened it up to a much wider audience.
Gnosia is a really fun game. In fact, I would go so far as to say it is, at times, a better experience than games like “Among Us.” With a quirky mix of characters and with less reliance on what is often a random player base to provide your experience the game draws you in. Each tiny round pushes you deeper down the rabbit hole of “just one more game” while there is plenty of depth in the story and unlockables to encourage further playthroughs.
My main complaints are that the dialogue seemed rushed to the point of repetitive. This often caused me to miss tells in frustrated mashing. Also, I wasn’t a fan on missing an event because a character was removed, forcing me to play the round and repeat it. Finally, having no way to play in multiplayer limits the games appeal a little. By including some form of multiplayer, whether couch or online would help maximise it’s full potential.
All of this would be quite minor until you also take into account the game’s price point. At almost ten times the price of it’s more popular competitor it is much easier to ask if the flaws really make it worth the added value. There’s no doubt that there is a fun game here with both initial draw and subsequent depth. But it asks for a lot of buy-in from the player, something that fans of the genre will happily give, but anyone else might want to wait for a sale before purchasing.
- Strong sense of “just one more level”
- Interesting and diverse characters you want to interact with
- A fantastic single player experience of a popular multiplayer format
- Repetition of shallow dialogue at times can be frustrating
- Grinding and repeating missed objectives are the worst way to increase life in a game
- Being able to play this with friends would expand the games potential