Throughout movies and culture, we often say we see our life flash before our eyes right before dying. It could be a highlight reel, a clip show, or just a bunch of jumbled memories together. Arise: A Simple Story is an entire game centered around those flashbacks. It starts with the cremation of a tribesman entering an emotional journey of memories.
What’s captivating about Arise is reflected quietly in its subtitle, “A Simple Story”. Developer Piccolo Studio chose to have no text or dialogue and instead focuses on a vague storyline. The plot follows the nameless tribesman the developer refers to as the Old Man. His simple story in Arise is vague so it’s relatable to everyone. All the emotions and memories the Old Man experiences aren’t exclusive to his life.
Alexis Corominas of Piccolo said, “The game is about very universal emotions like joy. The joy of being a child, running through the grass, being sad because you are separated from someone you love, your first kiss, etc. It’s not always bad memories or good memories.
“It’s these basic simple ideas that make for the journey. … That’s why we have this title, A Simple Story. Because it’s not the meaning of life or some ancient civilization that you have to understand. No, it’s just things that everyone can relate to.”
Explore a Colorful Happy Forest
Each of the ten chapters focuses on a specific emotion or memory. Joy is one of the two chapters I played and it revolves around vibrant colors and happy times. Despite a lack of dialogue, the environment meshes elegantly with the soundtrack and tells a story of its own. Falling into a bright green lush forest with welcoming flowers immediately emits a calming vibe.
Piccolo creates a story through reimaginations of old memories. The Old Man may have played in forests as a child, but the snails in his afterlife are nothing like the snails I know. They’re practically the size of elephants and knocked me over multiple times. This chapter reflects on a simpler time of children playing in the woods without a care in the world. When I was younger, a large part of my childhood was exactly that.
“Everything is out of scale because it’s as if the world is seen through the eyes of a child,” Corominas said. “And when you’re a child, you play with things that when you’re grown up you say, ‘That was huge when I was little.’”
Control Time in Arise
The background of the three developers that created Piccolo drives the main mechanic in Arise. Before video game development, Corominas was in the advertising industry for 20 years. It went from a fun career to losing the creativity that once drew him to it. He and his coworkers took a look back on their career and realized it isn’t what they want to do anymore.
Corominas spoke about working in advertising, “We were at this age and we just start to look back. You look ahead and you still think you have the same time ahead, you have behind. And we decided this job is not fulfilling anymore. We’re not enjoying it. We’re not being creative. So we decided to fulfill a childhood dream. Which was obviously, creating a video game company.
“It’s a lot more fulfilling to work in video games than in advertising. You’re doing something personal. I used to work for big brands. I didn’t always believe in what I was telling. With this game, we put our hearts into it. It’s our passion here. So it’s a very different thing. And when you’re working hard for something that you’re so passionate about, that you have invested so much emotionally, it feels really great. No matter what happens with the game, we are proud of it and we like the outcome”
Life Moves Pretty Fast
It’s not always easy to look back at the memories behind you and the future ahead. That’s where Arise’s main mechanic in controlling time comes in. The Old Man moves time forwards and backward with minor limits on how far for each chapter. This fuels the majority of puzzles in Arise such as hitching a ride on a giant snail.
Snails may be slow, but it’s not so bad when you can control time. The two chapters I played showed many unique ways of using that feature. I found myself riding a boulder at one point with extreme tension as I reversed time slowly. If I let go of the trigger on my controller for even a second, that boulder would tumble over me. This is one way the developer uses emotion to connect me to the Old Man.
I can already tell Arise has a sad story to tell and Piccolo sells it with the creativity behind their chapters. It’s almost as if they know something about advertising. Corominas emphasized how every chapter uses a vastly different environment than the last. I’m curious to see the whole story come together and how it resonates with me.
TechRaptor played Arise: A Simple Story at a preview event. The game releases on Dec. 3 on Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and PC via the Epic Games Store. The soundtrack by David Garcia, known for composing Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice and Rime is provided with pre-orders.