Grace

PC, family friendly

I’ve wavered a little on writing about Grace, because it does one of those most awkward things lovely games can do: it just stops. Midway through its story, out of the blue, credits. However, since the game is free, and since it’s so lovely up until that point, it feels silly to hold a grudge, so let me tell you about Grace.

It’s about the plight of quail nesting as a result of unchecked cattle grazing.

I know the, “Oh no, not another one,” joke is grossly overused, but come on, allow me this one. No? OK, you’re right.

It really is about that! It’s also about identifying bird and plant species in the hills of Sierra Nevada, and the relationship between two biological researchers. It’s beautifully drawn, incredibly lovely to play, and then it stops.

See, this is the problem. I want to celebrate this gorgeous little vignette, but every line of praise ends up qualified with a “but”. See? End your games, people!

Built on a micro-budget from a Kickstarter, just $2,452 plus whatever they put in themselves, I really adore that this was created. It asks questions about the role of the researcher, and their involvement in the needs of the farmers versus the needs of the local tourism versus the needs of the birds themselves. It also lets you wander about the little area, spotting all the species and seeing them appear with lovely illustrations in your field guide.

And an open ending would have been appropriate in terms of the matters discussed. The issue is, the game doesn’t write its way toward one. Which is a significant failure of execution, but one I keep trying to forgive because the whole concept is so pleasant. And then I remember it’s free, so forgive it anyway.

You can run Grace in your browser via its Itch page, where you can also contribute to the studio for their efforts. Or you can download it for free on Steam, like some sort of mercenary monster might.

Acknowledge it’s going to jarringly stop, and then you can enjoy the process of pottering about in the woods, spotting birds, noting plants, and taking a diversion into town to get supplies. And of course, no one would care if it didn’t end well if it weren’t doing a great job of existing in the first place. Gosh I’d love to see this as a fully realised extended game, follow the story all the way through. Some indie publisher! Throw money at these two!

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