On most days, Neil Conrad, Lacuna‘s protagonist, would likely have no qualms with his gig at the CDI (Central Department of Investigation), ensuring law and order remain intact. Today is not most days, as his latest case could easily plunge the entire solar system into war… and the clock’s ticking.
So, exactly how is one person supposed to solve that kind of conundrum? Well, in spite of the sci-fi setting and perhaps because of the noir aspect, unless I am mistaken, it seems a lot of the information gathering and clue acquisitions boil down to old-school detective work. What isn’t old-school, however, is the gameplay itself: no pixel hunting thanks to an optional outline system, inventory management has gone out the window, and the choices you make actually matter. A lot. As in, this tale will wrap up differently, depending on your actions, and there are no do-overs. The path you’ve started down is the one you’ll be on for the remainder of that playthrough.
Will you sell out a friend to protect your family?
Will you endanger a loved one in exchange for public safety?
Will you keep the peace or reveal the horrible, world-shattering truth?
It is quite fortunate then that conversations never repeat themselves – the classic ‘keep clicking on NPC until dialogue options have been exhausted’ nonsense? Also gone. Some might say it’s a genre staple, although, in a game like Lucana, I feel it would likely feel out of place at best, and immersion-breaking at worst. Which is a good reason to ditch it in favor of time-sensitive dialogue choices as these do undeniably help maintain a steady pace. That also applies to replacing pointing and clicking with WASD or a gamepad for navigation – especially with the 2D aspect in mind.
Now, I don’t know about you, but I’m more than ready to pick up a copy of Lacuna and take a swing at cracking its big mystery wide open – or maybe do my darndest to ensure no one comes out of it in one piece. Could be fun. Maybe not for Neil Conrad or everyone else in the game, but what’s the point in a choice-driven narrative if you always listen to the angel on your shoulder instead of the devil?