Where the Water Tastes Like Wine is all about collecting stories. You wander across the United States collecting and trading stories from people all around the country. The best way to explain the game is as a collection of short stories that you discover while exploring and stories you convince other characters to tell you along the way. I had the opportunity to check out the game at PAX West this year, so here’s some details on the game and my thoughts on what I saw.
Before getting in to how the game itself works, Where the Water Tastes Like Wine can be more specifically described as an anthology. There are 16 characters in the game and each are written by a different person. Some of those include Anne Toole of Horizon Zero Dawn, Jolie Menzel who worked on several games at Telltale, and several video game journalists you may know.
You wander the United States gathering stories that you use to then uncover the stories of the sixteen characters you’ll interact with over the course of the game. The large 3D map you walk along, as a giant skeleton, will have little houses or other markers on the map that may have a story contained there. That may be as simple as watching someone get robbed, coming across a dead body, or more. Each event is its own little story. The game will keep a short, one sentence description of what it was, but it’s up to you to remember the details. The more of those stories you collect, the more choices you’ll have when coming across one of the characters in the game.
When you come across camp fires you’ll sit down to talk with one of the many characters in the game on a wide variety of topics. Eventually they’ll ask you for a story, a specific type of story. They may want something scary or something funny, but it’s up to you to remember the stories you’ve collected so far to then tell the character. If you do it correctly, they’ll open up to you over time after you tell them stories and give you their own.
The stories you tell evolve over time, coming in three iterations. The way it was described to me was that the stories can get a little more exaggerated over time the more often you tell them. It reminded me of how the fish always gets bigger every time you hear someone tell the story of how they caught the “big one.”
The game works just as described above and is mostly a narrative experience with just a few mechanics. Where the Water Tastes Like Wine really shines in the concept and construct of the narrative, weaving together the 16 characters with a bunch of different writers in a sort of gaming anthology. That many writers means a lot of different messages they are trying to get out there, with of course an overarching theme that is trying to explore America and the idea of manifest destiny.
A strong art style, great music that changes based on what region of the U.S. you are currently in, excellent voice acting, and an intriguing concept in the narrative make Where the Water Tastes Like Wine something to keep an eye on.
Where the Water Tastes Like Wine is set to release early next year on PC and Mac.