Odd, unsettling, confused, and disjointed, Virginia is unlike anything else I have played in years. It's promise to weave together a complex, cinematic narrative without the use of any dialogue, is one that paves the way for innovative and creative story-telling techniques, while also ultimately handicapping its story from reaching it's full promise and potential.
Virginia is a game about the investigation into a missing person during the summer of 1992 in, you guessed it Virginia. But its twisty and mind-bending tale, just uses that as a back-drop to explore far more interesting and heady concepts. Those looking for an investigate centered tale are out of luck, rather quickly the game pivots from the search for the missing boy.
Yet, those other concepts it explores, take it down a dark, otherworldly path that will keep you both surprised and disappointed in the game. Virginia constantly played with downright fascinating themes and issues, yet the minute it did so it would suddenly and jarringly switch to a new topic. In many ways, Virginia seems like a story unsure of what it wants to be. A thriller, feminist drama, race focused tale, and a corruption story are just some of the hats Virginia wears during its two hour long experience.
This would be far easier to digest if there was a constant, something to hold onto during all of these changes. Most stories have this role filled by the protagonist, yet Virginia's choice to have no dialogue meant I never, with a few exceptions, felt close to the hero of the tale. Nor, did I really feel strong attachments to any of the other characters in the story. Whether it was the grieving parents of the missing child, your boss at the FBI, or random recurring characters who were never really explained at all, Virginia presented situations and tried to make you care deeply about its many characters, without giving you much of a reason why.
But damn, if there isn't something to this game. It's there in it's best moments, like the games stunning, bordering on over-whelming finale which jumps between different times, locations, characters, and possibly realities with little to no explanations. It was one of those rare and special breathtaking moments where you realized you've never played anything like this before. Unfortunately, this too ultimately ends on an unsatisfactory note and the game doesn't so much have a conclusion as simply fade away. Things are left largely unresolved in Virginia. Whereas thats understandable, even refreshing when it comes to the case, it leaves a lot to be desired after the games many promising looks into heavy and weighty topics.
That's arguably the point of the game though. Virginia is unashamedly not a game for everyone, hell it may not be a game for most people even. It's non-linear, non-sensical tale is one that leaves a lot to be desired for those looking for resolutions and a message to its story, but as an experience it perhaps succeeds. Or put better as a feeling it does. Virginia made me feel things and while quite a few of the things were negative emotions, I have never asked what is going on more then with Virginia, quite a few were also good emotions. I would never ever want all games to be like this, heck I'm still not quite sure what I entirely make of this game, its definitely deeply flawed and far from an amazing game, but in it's never-ending desire to push video games towards a more cinematic, artistic, and creative direction, Virginia became a game, a feeling I am unlikely to forget soon, and that's a pretty impressive accomplishment in it's own right.