Friday, July 19, 2024

A Long Journey to an Uncertain End Conveys a Campy, Queer Future Set in Space

One of my biggest beefs with space games is that the people all look the same. You’ve got your rugged, white hero or heroine that goes forth into the future and travels alongside the stars, and sometimes there’s some homophobia and racism for ‘grit’ and ‘integrity.’ In A Long Journey to an Uncertain End, the future is queer, campy and full of gay, sentient spaceships.

Developer and publisher behind A Long Journey to an Uncertain End. Crispy Creative, have positioned themselves as radically inclusive – and not just with their characters and the world and intricacies of the narrative that’s weaved into it… But the team behind the game, too. And it shows.

During my time with the game’s demo, I was shown what the world, the future, of A Long Journey to an Uncertain End looks like – campy and queer in the most positive way imaginable. You have non-binary heartbreakers, space corgi’s, a drag queen, and once again…you can be a queer, sentient spaceship. Did I mention you also have an ex who kinda blew up your memory, somehow? Yeah, it’s a lot.

The first character you’re introduced to is, well, you. It seems that, being a sentient spaceship and all, your appearance doesn’t exactly need to stay as a ship meaning that yes, you get to go through a character creator scene. Who doesn’t love those?

A Long Journey to an Uncertain End queer
Body selection finally let me create someone who looked like me!

I’ve talked time and time again how damaging it can be for queer people to not have the option to be themselves, which is why A Long Journey to an Uncertain End’s character creator is such a sweet, unexpected delight. From what I can tell it is far from finished, with hair and face options sorely lacking, but it includes enough to show players that this story is theirs. You can be fat, skinny, have facial hair on a typical ‘feminine’ body, and there’s no constant need to focus on your genitals because you’re a goddamn sentient spaceship, alright?

As you can see from above, players are also able to choose their pronouns – very nice. You get your typical she/her, he/him, and then the offer of using they/them and, incredibly enough, the use of custom pronouns. I’ve yet to see another game – though I’m sure they exist – that offers players the chance to use custom pronouns that they can put in. It’s an incredible first step of allowing people to be their genuine selves, even if it is – at first – just by playing it in a quirky, sci-fi game. It means a lot.

I’m happy to say that it isn’t just your character that has these pronouns, or whose gender doesn’t fall into the cis, heteronormative norm. As a narrative, space management game that has you taking on a load of jobs, you and your crew meet a ton of different people and they too have their own pronouns, some that are also custom. It may seem small, but it’s a way to make the future look, well, like the future we hope for it to be – inclusive and unique. It’s rewarding then that your crew is both of those things.

Once you return to consciousness after a beating from your ex – also a sentient spaceship, by the way – you slowly regain your memory and get to talk to the rest of your crew. They are all, for the most part, completely absurd one moment, and then totally humbling and human the next. It makes for an almost whiplash experience, but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t enjoy it. For example, you meet one character named Truly Dashum, a loveable pilot who is practically cruising alongside you and your crew for no real reason, until they aren’t and you can pretend to be having a love affair with them so the local guards don’t rip you apart for being an AI. It makes Truly look like a complete idiot, but it made me howl with laughter at how, in being a spaceship that does canonically fuck, the encounter is seen as perfectly normal. It’s completely silly. I absolutely adore it.

For each place you land, there are a number of jobs to complete

Outside of being an absurdist wet dream, A Long Journey to an Uncertain End is a space management game. You’ve got a rag-tag bunch of people as your crew and you’re technically on the run, so you’ll have to do menial jobs to scrape by and survive. It’s not just money that you’re after though, but fuel and supplies. Without fuel, you can barely get to the other planets you visit, and you’ll hit a GAME OVER screen when both supplies and fuel runs out.

You only have a select number of hours to complete these jobs too, so it matters who you send to do them. The game doesn’t leave you completely guessing though, it will tell you just which characters will do good, okay, or just terrible. Sometimes though, you’ll need to decide whether to send someone who is bad at the job in order to at least get a chance of more supplies. Of course, you could also just keep people behind but that means you’ll miss out on rewards. It’s a hard thing to balance, and as the game is right now, I found myself struggling to decide the pros and cons. It may just be a 20-minute demo, but god does it make you think! Especially when you consider that a lack of fuel and supplies means your abusive ex will catch up with you and blow you to pieces…

There are thrills, secrets, love, and the never-ending question of where to go next that makes A Long Journey to an Uncertain End so captivating to me. Sure you have your Mass Effects, and your Destiny’s, and even Star Wars. But none have managed to convey a future that isn’t cis and heterosexual in the same way as Crispy Creative has done with this game.

In A Long Journey to an Uncertain End, the future is queer, strange, and beautiful.

If you wish to support Crispy Creative and A Long Journey to an Uncertain End, head on over to their Kickstarter!

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