I wanted to write down some thoughts about the different “routes” in The Novelist as well as their outcomes. The game had 3 chapters per month and 3 months in total. In each chapter a wish can be granted, so it makes 9 choices altogether. All except the last choice could be compromised with another wish. This made it impossible to aim for 3 main wishes and 3 compromises for all characters. Smart – or annoying?
In any case, incoming my playthroughs and their outcomes. So spoilers, spoilers ahead – in case someone missed it in the title there.
So, on my first playthrough I tried to balance things out, working so that every character gets their share of wishes fulfilled and compromised, but I didn’t do any math – or notes even. I probably ended up favouring Tommy slightly over Linda, as in the end Dan’s career was great, Tommy was happy and successful, and even Linda made it with her paintings. But the marriage of Dan and Linda was pretty bad. It all started very nicely with date nights and romance but plummeted into loveless shambles in the last month. Oh dear.
Though as I said in my review, I just really didn’t care about their sucky marriage to begin with. They don’t have a healthy relationship. Dan makes all the decisions and Linda accepts it or broods. They divorce, live an unhappy and unfaithful marriage or end up being some kind of silly lovebirds obviously blind to the fact that their relationship is not really equal, their happiness being completely dependent on how much Dan pleases Linda with random things – at the cost of everything else. /end feminist rant /enter the strategies.
The game had the two modes of playing, stealth and story. While I kinda enjoyed haunting some light-bulbs, I just decided to use story mode for my test runs and crawl through the options fast. No savegames, sheesh. I can kinda understand it in this type of game – and a short one at that – but it can be a bit frustrating to play it through every single time when, for example, just wanting to try out the very last choice differently.
Already during the first playthrough I had ideas about some future strategies. The first ones I came up with were ‘Ditch the Bitch’, ‘Please the Kid’ and ‘Selfish Prick’. Later on I thought I could try to completely tank the game too. Just ignoring compromises, and picking up the least important wishes (being unsure if that would actually matter) going back to stealth mode to spook the people and see how bad everything can turn out.
Ditch the Bitch
Plan: Ignore Linda’s needs continuously, switching between Dan’s and Tommy’s ambitions. The goal is for Linda to walk out.
Result: Linda ditched the guys before the end of the second month, leaving only the option to call her or continue writing. If you call her back, they have a crappy marriage, otherwise they divorce. Tommy ends up unhappy either way, and Dan wasn’t super either.
Thoughts: Boohoo, both Dan and Tommy’s happiness is dependent of Linda being there? What a load of poppycock. (Would you have guessed it’s the first time I’ve used the term?)
Please the Kid
Plan: To choose Tommy’s ambition as a main goal every time to see if he turns into Superman. From previous playthroughs I learned that ignoring others completely gives game over before the end, so I kept compromising with Linda and Dan.
Result: Tommy is overjoyed all the time. The marriage between Dan and Linda starts cracking already on the first month. The book progress is from slow to non-existent. In the end Dan ends up a loser who gives up writing and has a loveless marriage. Tommy is successful but no more than in my original balanced playthrough.
Thoughts: All that effort for nothing? So pampering your kids doesn’t actually turn them into superheroes? Well, I can accept that one.
Plan: Just pick Dan every time, no compromise. Watch the family suffer.
Result: Unsurprisingly, at the magical point of nearing the end of the second month, Linda got fed up, and this time took Tommy with her. Being the prick he was, Dan continued to work on the book becoming a success but never finding happiness in a relationship. Tommy ended up a wreck.
Thoughts: Ignoring Tommy was painful. I don’t want to try a route where I just neglect him though I’d be a little bit interested what Linda would say or do there. A picture is worth more than a thousand words:
Crash and Burn
Plan: Spook the people. Pick always the most irrelevant wish to fulfill, no compromises. Watch suffering ensue.
Result: Spooking did nothing. Nothing. Except for a couple of semi-delicious OHMYGODWHATISTHATs I just ended up in the starting screen and couldn’t use the compromise in the chapter (which I wasn’t going to anyway). Tommy’s reaction to the ghost was pretty neat though, kids can be cool.
When I noticed spooking did nothing I decided to adjust the tactic and instead of just picking the most irrelevant wish, I aimed to tank Dan’s career intentionally and just pick up the less relevant wish of Linda or Tommy. But that did nothing either. Linda was all love bird in the end even though Dan kept drinking, ditched her grandma’s funeral, didn’t pay for her art pursuits or help with her show. Ha.
Thoughts: I was severely disappointed I couldn’t make the whole house go mad. I was almost as disappointed about the fact that the choices seem to be purely math and what wish you fulfill just doesn’t matter. Tanking Dan’s novel was pretty fun though.
Plan: Fulfill 3 main wishes for everyone with Dan’s final wish. 3 compromises to Linda and Tommy, 2 compromises to Dan. Aiming for disgustingly happy family with soaring careers and picket fences so bright my eyes will hurt.
Result: I only got a couple of Tommy compromises in the first month so he had a bit of a rocky start but I got a confirmation that there’s no need to keep the guys happy each month, only the eventual score matters. Everyone was indeed happy, and disgustingly so. Dan’s book wasn’t a huge hit but he made it as a novelist and as a professor. Score. I don’t know if I still could’ve snatched a compromise from blissful Linda or Tommy to make Dan’s novel a real best seller, but I won’t go back to that anymore.
Thoughts: This playthrough revealed another silly thing. Choosing Dan’s professorship in the end made Linda “feel like her husband didn’t support her career”. Pfft, woman! In this play I intentionally picked every and each one of the choices supporting Linda’s painting career. Just screw you saying Dan wasn’t supportive.
Also, I didn’t like the happy ending. It was too much of a dream come true. I’d really wanted the people to learn and change, realise something else that was good, not just have a endless row of successes.
Sometimes it can be a small choice that really makes the difference, but I continue to be put off by the pure mathematical formula of happiness here. How missing one thing really makes the difference between a loveless marriage and decades of pure bliss. Life is not that simple.
Tommy was a cool kid but he either crumbles and suffers being bullied to bits, or he becomes a huge success, including popularity and being liked by everyone. Like what? Why? Why can’t Tommy be artistic, channel from his past of being bullied and do something creative and meaningful with that? Does he really have to become one of the popular kids to be happy? And if mommy divorces daddy he’s doomed to fail. Because, you know, divorce is bad. Linda at least can find a new love (since women are fickle like that?).
Oh how I wish I could’ve wrecked the house with my spooking abilities, maybe I would’ve paired up with Tommy and made the parents’ lives a living hell. And I so hope there would’ve been completely new twists and turns to be found when choosing a certain thing. Real consequences, not just plus and minus reputation with two people, and all of the three being in some kind of weird symbiotic relationship with each other so that it’s impossible for them to thrive on their own.
In the end I still have a couple of positive notes that didn’t have a proper place, or just got somehow left out of the review and this post. The game had some great small details like Linda’s paintings or family members keeping their doors closed when they were unhappy about Dan’s choices. Tom’s drawings also rocked. What’s missing now is the drawing of Tommy and me – the ghost – hovering over the dead parents.