Combine the strategy of Werewolf, the constant tension and suspicion of Among Us, and the wild character personalities of Danganronpa, and you just might get something along the lines of Gnosia. This latest entry into the increasingly popular "social deduction" game genre sets one player against up to fourteen AI-controlled characters as they struggle to discover the traitors in their ranks before it's too late.
The player character of Gnosia is stuck in a time loop aboard a spaceship packed with refugees from a planet infected by the titular Gnosia, an alien species capable of mimicking human behavior. Unfortunately, the ship's AI has detected Gnosia presence aboard the ship. Each time the ship warps, the Gnosia will kill one person. The crew's only hope of fighting back is by voting each day to put one of their own into cold sleep, hoping to eliminate the Gnosia for good. As the player experiences these horrific events over and over, they begin to learn the stories and secrets of the fourteen others trapped alongside them.
Who are the Gnosia? Why have they come aboard? Can they be defeated for good? Who knows...
A Little Bit of Everything
Gnosia's gameplay is reminiscent of the party game Werewolf (also known as Mafia) interspersed with dialogue-heavy visual novel scenes. Characters are assigned to different roles in each loop. The Engineer, Doctor, and Guardian Angel attempt to find the Gnosia and save the crew, while the AC Follower works with the Gnosia and the Bug is simply a chaotic agent who wishes to destroy the entire ship and all of its occupants.
Each role is different and brings with it its own strengths and weaknesses. For example, the Engineer is a powerful position that tends to be trusted by the crew, while playing as Guard Duty often represents a harder difficulty as the player can prove their own humanity but have no special skills to protect themselves once revealed. The wide range of roles available makes the game fun and eliminates some of the risks of repetitiveness that come with a "time loop" style plot.
I was also pleased by the addition of skills, which allow the player to grow stronger and more able to participate in debates as the loops go on. The first few loops, which serve as the game's tutorial, can be extremely frustrating, as the player will have lower stats than every other crew member and will frequently be eliminated early. However, this frustration leads to a greater feeling of satisfaction once you yourself learn skills that were previously used against you and are able to turn the tide of debates all on your own.
Time After Time
The heart of the game is without a doubt the time loop system. Only the player and one other character, Setsu, are aware of the loops, which allows the two to collaborate and share data (although they are often placed on opposite sides of the conflict). A single loop takes only a few minutes to complete, which makes Gnosia a great game to pick up, play for a bit, and set down until later. However, the short length of the loops makes them rather addicting, and it's very easy to say "just one more loop and THEN I'll stop." (Don't ask me how many loops I completed between paragraphs of this review. Just don't.) If you're looking for a game that works both during quick breaks and all-day marathons, then Gnosia is definitely it.
Unfortunately, the loops can become repetitive and frustrating at times. Gnosia is easily a twenty-plus hour game, and most players report requiring between 120 and 150 loops to reach the true ending. While gaining new skills and new pieces of information is rewarding, there will inevitably be loops where you learn nothing new or are sent to cold sleep on the very first day. These "filler loops" can quickly get annoying, especially if you encounter several in a row.
However, the loop-based story remains engaging because the characters and the central mystery are so compelling. The primary means of progressing through the loops, other than gaining skills and leveling up, is learning pieces of data about each crew member. These range from personality quirks and backstory information to deep reveals which fundamentally alter your perception of the character from then on. There are definitely a few secrets hiding among these seemingly friendly faces that will shock players to the core. But regardless of what secrets they might hold, they're an engaging cast - from the uplifted bottlenose dolphin Otome to the literal "space cowboy" Jonas and even the smug, intellect-obsessed Raqio, I rarely found myself getting bored of spending tens of loops with these characters.
Quality of (A Very Short) Life
I especially appreciated the many quality-of-life elements which helped prevent Gnosia from becoming boring or irritating, even as the loops continued. Even though in most loops you only have a few days left to live, the game is determined to make them good ones. For example, all Crew Data is saved between loops, and logs of voting, discussion, and special role reports are kept during each loop so you can keep track of who is suspecting whom.
In particular, after completing the tutorial loops, the player is granted the ability to adjust the settings of each loop before starting it. This allows them to select the number of crew members and Gnosia, which roles are present, and even their own role, which is useful as some Crew Data can only be uncovered when playing as a human or a Gnosia. Most useful of all, the player can allow the game to select settings which are more likely to result in new skills or information.
Finally, you can return to the beginning of a loop at any time if you feel you have failed to gather the correct information or see a necessary event. This can be extremely helpful for some difficult-to-achieve events, such as those which require protecting the headstrong, untrustworthy Comet from the vote or teaming up with the enigmatic and rude Yuriko.
However, despite all of these features, Gnosia is far from a perfect game. Its greatest flaw is the complete lack of hints regarding what you need to do to see character events and progress through the loops. This can result in you running the same loop over and over again without ever figuring out what it is you're supposed to see. As some conditions are extremely obscure, this quickly becomes annoying.
Another issue is that the process of leveling up your stats and skills is extremely grind-filled. In any given loop, you will almost never be able to level up your stats by more than one point. Often, you will gain access to a skill and not have the minimum stats needed to use it for another twenty or even thirty loops. This can result in a frustratingly high number of grinding or "filler" loops as discussed earlier.
A Note on Representation
Gnosia stands out when it comes to gender representation. The player is allowed to choose between a male, female and non-binary identity, and many characters tend to default to "they/them" pronouns when referring to crew members. Two characters, Setsu and Raqio, are also non-binary and use they/them pronouns. However, there is one character event which handles Raqio's identity in an indelicate manner, and peeping on Raqio to find out their so-called "biological sex" is necessary to complete their Crew Data. This event is poorly written and may make some players (including myself) uncomfortable.
Trust Nobody, Try Again, Or The Gnosia Win
Gnosia takes a premise which should by nature be mind-numbingly repetitive and successfully manages to make it not so. While it is not without its flaws, it is ultimately an extremely enjoyable social deduction game with a well-written central mystery with enough twists and turns to keep the player constantly guessing. It's got all the intrigue and tension of Werewolf or Among Us without the need to lie to your friends. Lovers of mystery, suspense and the occasional scare should definitely give Gnosia a try.
TechRaptor reviewed Gnosia on Nintendo Switch using a code provided by the publisher. The game is also available on the PlayStation Vita.
- Engaging and Well-Written Central Mystery
- Unique Cast of Characters With Strong Backstories and Memorable Personalities
- Quality of Life Elements Remove Much of the Potentially Repetitive Gameplay
- Satisfies Social Deduction Fans Without Needing to Organize a Group Game
- Gaining Skills Requires a Significant Amount of Grinding
- Some Plot-Relevant Scenarios are Extremely Difficult to Trigger