Following its release on itch.io earlier this year and a successful Greenlight campaign, indie visual novel Along the Edge is now set to for release on Steam October 12th. The creation of French indie developer Nova-box – originally a contract house for larger studios who has recently branched out into interactive fiction – Along the Edge follows Daphné, a young woman stuck in a rut, as she attempts to restart her life after inheriting a remote country house.
Along the Edge’s most defining feature is its implementation of player choice. As you progress and make decisions Daphné’s physical appearance will begin to change, creating an outward reflection of your choices to better visualize the ways in which seemingly innocuous choices can so dramatically affect a person’s life. “Along the Edge is really about a character going through a transformative experience,” said Geoffroy Vincens, lead writer at Nova-box. “[Daphné is] ‘shedding her old skin’ and we wanted that to have a visual impact.”
Compared to the binary and, frankly, silly ways in which other games have chosen to visually represent player choice (from Shepard’s renegade scars in Mass Effect 3 to the devil horns of the Fable series), Along the Edge’s approach is both more nuanced and significant to the game itself. A large part of this is that Along the Edge has no internal morality system. It tracks your decisions and assigns them to various on-screen indicators to help guide you toward different narrative branches, but none of these are explicitly “good” or “bad.” This allows Nova-box to tackle challenging subject matter and pose difficult questions without imposing an external morality and influencing how the player responds to them.
“I feel that interactive stories can really shine when they don’t shy away from asking tough questions,” Vincens replied, when asked how Along the Edge’s use of choice differs from similar games. “We wanted to confront the reader with a character who went through a personal crisis and is trying to rebuild, to reinvent, herself.” He pointed out that in many ways Along the Edge is not unlike a personality test, with the decisions you make shaping not only how Daphné looks but also how other characters respond to her, potentially opening up or closing off large portions of the game. “If you’ve strongly voiced yourself against something at one point, we won’t let you abruptly decide to do the exact contrary on the next chapter.”
In a sea of visual novels adhering all too closely to dull tropes and uninteresting conventions, Along the Edge is part of a new breed of interactive fiction rethinking what can be done with the genre. Through the combination of organic decision making and adult subject matter, Nova-box is seeking to create a game that captivates players even as it challenges them with decisions that they have to live with. “We noticed most players don’t really believe us when we say that there’s no ‘good’ or ‘bad’ choices in the game. They have to go through the story once to realize we weren’t kidding.”