Monday, 5 October 2009

FATALE - Released, Pseudo-Review

Very last on Monday night, FATALE (creators' capitalisation) was released to a small but expectant audience. It is the third commercial release from Belgian developers Tale of Tales who you might remember for delivering Red Riding Hood tale The Path. It is an 'interactive vignette' based around the Biblical tale of the young dancing girl who called for the head of John the Baptist and jumping off from Oscar Wilde's interpration, the play Salome.

Where to begin? How to describe in familiar, mediocre terms that the world of games and even interactive entertainment has no experience of or reference points for what Fatale is.

First let me examine Fatale as a game. There is very little to it in this respect - first you explore a barren cell and are presented with extracts of dialogue from Wilde's work, all the time peculiar and halting music weaves its way through your head. In the next scene you are a disembodied force and are tasked with putting out a series of light sources. This takes quite some time and the controls are languid: easy to work out and accessible to non-game players but they feel unresponsive to experienced hands. By a third of the way through this scene I had gotten restless, though regular intrigued and confused by certain intentionally incongruous elements of the setting. And that is it, the extent of the 'game'. You must quit and reload the program in order to view the final non-interactive reward scene.

But Tale of Tales do not claim that this is a game - it is described as a 'vignette' or a 'tableau'. It is an abstract piece with silent actors and whispering voice overs with symbolism the creators do not and likely would not explain or even define in strong terms amongst themselves. Fatale is the music, the dance, the location and the people within, even the blowing of veils in the wind. It is far more art than game and I do not know even if it passes or fails in that respect. I don't even know if I like it myself.

A friend asked 'is it fun'. I have to reply that no, it is not fun. Watching a Beckett play is not fun, walking a gallery of paintings and sculpture is not fun. These are stimulating, thought-provoking pursuits and so is experiencing Fatale.

For everything else that might and most likely shall be said about Fatale, it is ToT's most polished and professional work to date and their most graphically ambitious. Besides occasional clipping errors with fluttering fabric, the palace of King Herod looks beautiful in day or night. The few people that inhabit it are imbued with life despite their stillness, thanks to the ministrations of Takayoshi Sato of Silent Hill fame.

Reviews are to a greater or lesser degree a buyer's guide. My recommendation is, whether the sound Fatale appeals to you or not, buy it. You may buy it because you appreciate the work, the novelty, the wonderful music and spoken word, or you may buy it because of what it means: that games or things that look like games can ride closer and closer to being pure art. If nothing else, so that Tale of Tales might have the funding to produce more such experiences and challenge our preconceptions once again.

FATALE, now available direct from ToT for $7 - Buy it HERE.


  1. Just snapped this up. Was waiting but it hit at midnight in Belgium (4am here) installed now though ready for when I get back from work.

  2. I missed the release yesterday night, and now I have to wait a couple of days before to try it... Thank you very much for this fuzzy, but quiet honest review about Fatale. I don't think it is easy to describe our playing experience in front of this kind of "games".

    You've played The Path if I read your post on the prologue of this one. How about your feeling and experience when you play to The Path comparing to FATALE ?

  3. @DoFuss - Yes, I stayed up rather late myself. Nearest thing to attending a launch event that I've done before. I hope you enj... that you derive... good luck with Fatale.

    @Simon B. - Yes, I have played The Path. I think I'd like to come back to comparing and contrasting the two experiences in a later article, but in short Fatale is very much less of a game than The Path was and even less clear as to its meaning or intent.

    I felt with The Path that I was on the cusp of understanding the world around me and theories came fairly readily, with the old tales of Red Riding Hood and my own leaps of intuition filling in some gaps. I'm still musing on the tale of Salome and think I'll have to find Wilde's full work before I get the full benefit of the work.

  4. So, If I understand your thought about it, Fatale is less accessible to a wide public than The Path considering its references (Tale of Salome & Oscar Wilde's writing VS Red Riding Hood story) ?

    If we leave the atmosphere & environment for a moment in order to only focus on the gameplay of both games (The Path & Fatale). What are the differences and experiences you felt during your play ?

    (I think I really need to test it, and I will try it this week-end to get my own experience about it ! But your feedback are more than welcome)

  5. @ Simon B.:

    While I'm not the reviewer, I have played both The Path and FATALE. I'll just take a leap in pretentiousness and give my opinion:

    WARNING: some may consider the below spoilers.

    The gameplay aspects of The Path and FATALE are very, very different. Here's to assuming you've played The Path: Fatale is always from a first person perspective. The camera can only be turned when you're moving (I believe this is one of the steps they took to try and prevent motion sickness that some get from the first-person view). The first act involves walking about on the ground, but the second has you floating around with semi-unweildy and intentionally unresponsive (compared to most 'real' games) controls. The second act also have a goal you're supposed to accomplish, as Kast mentioned: putting out light sources as they appear.

    Hope I helped!

  6. @Emriss - Thank for sharing, it's always nice to have different reviews in this kind of "game". I think I will definitely buy FATALE and try it this sunday. Then I hope I could give my feedback about it !