Last year, I attended EGX for the first time. Alone.
Despite being among tens of thousands of other gamers all sharing my passion and excitement for the industry, I learned one very important lesson that weekend: you don’t have to be alone to feel lonely – a truth that the makers of Mosaic bring to life in their bleak but beautiful game.
Mosaic is a narrative adventure created by the Norwegian developer Krillbite Studio and published by Raw Fury. Players take on the role of an unnamed office worker living in a society in which the advance of technology has seemingly served to sever connections rather than build them. At first, urban isolation appears to be the main focus of the game. But as well as a commentary on the loneliness of modern life, we quickly realise that this is game about something equally worrisome – the danger of losing one’s sense of self.
You begin each day the same way. Wake, check your phone, ready yourself for work and then join hordes of identical workers all heading for the offices of a nameless mega-corporation. Along the way, you’re bombarded by adverts for the latest apps, news stories that reinforce the status quo and notifications from your employer letting you know that your current pace is insufficient to arrive on time.
Slowly, this monotony becomes wearing and your protagonist develops a dangerous affliction – curiosity. As the days pass, this new-found inquisitiveness leads you to discover that just beyond the edges of your world lies not only beauty and meaningful connection, but also hints that there could be more to life than the daily grind.
Every aspect of Mosaic is designed to reinforce this bleak, conformist existence; from news stories criticising those who stray from the norm and a dating app that encourages ‘traditional’ heteronormative dating to the restricted colour palette and fixed camera angle that literally dictates your viewpoint. In fact, you quickly realise that our protagonist’s only real choice in life is whether to brush his teeth before straightening his tie or vice versa.
In particular, the game’s visual storytelling is outstanding. In terms of aesthetics, Mosaic’s simplistic low-polygon art style is a wonderful choice as it serves to reduce the environment and characters to their bare minimum, echoing the narrative itself. What’s more, the environmental design subtlety conveys much about the world. For example, as you leave the apartment complex players pass a long corridor of mailboxes, implying the vastness of the building through visuals alone.
Sadly though, the port is plagued by a few performance issues. From significant lag at times to a progress-prohibiting bug that called for a restart of the game, these glitches had a noticeable impact on immersion. What’s more, on the Lite, the small on-screen text made the new stories almost impossible to read – a real shame, given that so much of the game’s experience is enhanced through reading these optional extras.
Many of us play games to escape everyday life, so you may wonder what Mosaic has to offer in that regard. But although Mosaic’s themes feel familiar, the story’s emphasis on rediscovering what brings us joy feels timely – especially at this time of year. And while Mosaic may not be the most ‘fun’ game you play this month, it might be the one that leaves the most lasting impression – an impression that, like real-life mosaics, may only reveal itself after you finally step away.
Mosaic is a narrative adventure which tells a striking critique and leaves a lasting impression, but which is plagued by a few performance issues. It’s certainly worth a look, though.