Follow Genre: Point-and-click adventure game
Publisher: Untold Tales S.A., Brotherhood Games
Platform: Switch, PC, PS4
Tested on: Switch


Site Score
Good: Fantastic worldbuilding
Bad: Gameplay feels a bit clunky
User Score
(2 votes)
Click to vote
VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: 8.5/10 (2 votes cast)

BEAUTIFUL DESOLATION is an oddity in more ways than one. At first glance, the game looks like a ripoff of the first Fallout game, offering up an isometric adventure set in a post-apocalyptic wasteland. However, with its outlandish setting of South Africa, more pacifist approach than other titles in the point-and-click adventure genre and fantastic characters, BEAUTIFUL DESOLATION is actually quite unique. (For the record: yes, the title is supposed to be in all caps and so is the name of the studio that brought us the game.) The game has been out for quite some time on Steam but is only now making its way to PS4 and Switch. The console arrival provided us with the perfect opportunity to take the game for a spin.


The game opens in 1976, with a dialogue between protagonist Mark Lesley and his wife as they discuss the mental issues of Mark’s brother Don. The couple is driving through a freak storm, which is caused by the arrival of a mysterious object known as the Penrose, which will become the source of a tremendous amount of technological advancement for South Africa over the coming decade. For now, though, the storm created by the Penrose is the cause of a car accident that kills Mark’s wife. Traumatized by his wife’s death, Mark dedicates his life to researching the Penrose, and ten years after the accident, he enlists the help of his brother to fly to the Penrose himself. At this point, you might expect the two men to encounter a Wakanda-like environment, because of the premise of an African country making incredible technological progress, but things couldn’t be any more different from what follows. When the brothers arrive inside the massive structure, they are catapulted forward through time into a post-apocalyptic future where they witness how the Penrose has dramatically changed the world and its people. Now stranded in this alien world, Mark and his brother need to adjust to their new life and find ways to survive in their new and hostile environment.


Apart from the gorgeous opening credits, which wouldn’t seem out of place as the intro to a gritty sci-fi series on HBO, and the CGI cutscenes scattered throughout the story, BEAUTIFUL DESOLATION’s visual style is reminiscent of PC adventure games of the late ’90s and the early 2000s. We mean that in the best way possible, as we were instantly hit by nostalgia by the game’s graphics. The way BEAUTIFUL DESOLATION’s intricate future world was crafted is perhaps the game’s best feature. Exploration is key here, with varied environments ranging from dirty villages to ancient forests and even a dried-up ocean. The game’s environments are gorgeous, even in a morbid way, and the character designs for the various NPCs you encounter really make you wonder what the hell happened to this world. The 2D isometric view takes up the majority of the game, but during dialogue scenes, the isometric perspective changes to portraits of conversation partners presented on a monitor.


The standout audio feature here is the voice acting. The game is set in South Africa, and the voice cast hails from the country themselves. Hearing the cast talk in the South African accent, interspersed with the occasional word of Afrikaans adds another layer of immersion to the game, something that couldn’t have been achieved with a non-native voice cast. Every character is fully voiced, and the entire voice cast does an excellent job. The music featured in BEAUTIFUL DESOLATION is high quality and sounds like something you’d hear in a TV show rather than an indie game. Given composer Mick Gordon’s track record, which includes Doom Eternal and several titles in the Wolfenstein series, this shouldn’t come as a surprise. The game’s audio quality is crisp, but we really recommend playing this title with headphones to get the most out of the sound experience, as this helps in creating the claustrophobic atmosphere that is sometimes present during the game’s dialogue scenes.


At the core of BEAUTIFUL DESOLATION lies a classic point-and-click adventure title, presented from an isometric perspective. Players directly take control of Mark and must play through a semi-linear adventure. We say semi-linear, as the title follows a set narrative, but there are branching paths that are determined by the choices made throughout the game. Anyone that is familiar with old-school point-and-click adventure games knows the drill: progressing through the game generally involves solving puzzles by making clever use of your inventory and interacting with characters you encounter. Despite what you might think based on the gritty atmosphere that surrounds BEAUTIFUL DESOLATION, the game can be played through as a relatively peaceful affair. Depending on your choices, combat can be a rare occurrence, although it still happens. The game instead relies on you negotiating your way through and a pacifist run is certainly possible. It’s a fresh breath of air for a genre that can feel somewhat stale.

Contrasting with this is the point-and-click gameplay, which occasionally feels dated and clunky. This could be intentional though, as it accurately replicates the conventions of the point-and-click adventure genre of the late ’90s and early 2000s, similar to the visual style also employed here. Unfortunately, this does mean that some of the inventory-based puzzles can be quite obtuse and that it’s easy to miss a key item, only to find yourself forced to do a serious amount of backtracking in order to be able to progress. We imagine a significant part of the game’s potential audience will have to resort to an online walkthrough to ensure that they’ll be able to finish the game in the first place. BEAUTIFUL DESOLATION can be a difficult and frustrating experience for newcomers and even genre aficionados might find that they bite off more than they can chew going in blind. Thankfully, there is an incentive to revisit BEAUTIFUL DESOLATION after the credits roll, as there are some changes that are dependent on player choices, so if you want to see everything, you’ll need to play through the game more than once.

This adds some longevity to a relatively short game. Playing through BEAUTIFUL DESOLATION once will take you roughly 10 hours, and subsequent runs will be significantly shorter as you already know the solutions to some of the game’s puzzles, but even factoring in this prior knowledge, completionists will still roughly double their time with the game if they want to see and do everything. Add to this that there are also a few mini-games scattered across the game, and you’re looking at a title that is definitely going worth the price of entry for the amount of quality content that you are getting here. Ultimately, the game is more about exploration and feeling lost and isolated in this alien world, rather than rushing through the story and make it to the end as quickly as possible. In this regard, the game certainly is a success.


BEAUTIFUL DESOLATION offers up a futuristic world that feels equally familiar and alien. The focus is clearly on the world itself rather than on the story, but thankfully, it is a joy to explore these isometric 2D environments. The game manages to accurately capture the feeling of getting lost in a strange and unknown place, and it also feels like a love letter to the point-and-click adventure games of yesteryear. Gameplay is occasionally clunky and dated, which can be partially explained by design choices that are exemplary of the genre. BEAUTIFUL DESOLATION might not be the most welcoming title for newcomers, but if you feel like you’re up to the challenge, then the game will not disappoint you.

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Rating: 8.5/10 (2 votes cast)
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Rating: -1 (from 1 vote)
BEAUTIFUL DESOLATION - Review, 8.5 out of 10 based on 2 ratings

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