Note: This piece was originally published in 2017 on now defunct game publication Two Credits.
Inverness Nights is a visual novel that takes place in the early modern period (1750~). You follow the story of Tristram Rose, an immortal tailor with a talent for repairing clothes.. and people. For the most part, Tristram just moves around from town to town and tries to avoid drawing attention to himself or causing trouble. Unfortunately, an incident with his powers occurs, causing somebody he once deeply loved and trusted to threaten reporting him to the authorities, putting his very life at risk.
The idea of an immortal being choosing to become a tailor is a bit of an odd one, and is something that at times I found a little hard to swallow. I suppose one could make an argument (and the game does) that it’s something he finds fulfilling or practical, but I find it and some of Tristram’s decisions related to his trade to be a little too fantastical for my tastes. Willing suspension of disbelief is a necessary step for enjoying any work of fiction, but there is a limit to which that extends. Oftentimes the characters would act very strangely, in ways that I found impossible to empathize with or relate to. Inverness Nights sometimes seems to cross the line from being somewhat unbelievable into completely nonsensical, and those moments detract significantly from what is otherwise a fairly interesting story.
Like many visual novels, Inverness Nights features a story with multiple branching paths you can take, which means the parts of the story that you will see will depend on the decisions that you make at certain points in the game. This method of delivering narrative is cool, but also a bit of a double-edged sword. The first couple of times through the novel I found myself asking ‘is that it?’ because the story on some of the possible paths becomes so disjointed, or ends abruptly.
Unlike some of the visual novels or text adventures you may have played, none of the endings are “failures”, per se, though some of them cut the story pretty short and aren’t particularly satisfying. A consequence of this is that you may come away from the experience feeling pretty confused and with a lot of unresolved questions. “Choose your own adventure” stories with branching paths are cool because they answer a lot of those “what if?” questions that you come up with while reading a story. However, some of the possible paths/endings in Inverness Nights feel really disjointed and uninteresting, and that significantly hurts the experience as a whole, especially if you don’t play through the game multiple times.
One of the biggest criticisms that I have with Inverness Nights is that the decisions the game forces you to make often seem inconsequential when in reality the consequences are sometimes incredibly severe. If you are going to introduce decision-making into your game or visual novel, the decisions should be clearly presented and the consequences clearly visible. The choices available in Inverness Nights are incredibly unpredictable to the point of frustration, and that’s a major issue that I found myself grappling with throughout my entire experience with the game.
The most unfortunate part about the “branching path” system at play here is that you either have to save at every section of choice in the game, or replay quite a bit of content that you have already played. The game does a bit to mitigate this by offering you the ability to rewind to a previous part in the story with the mouse wheel and by allowing you to fast-forward through content that you have already seen, but these things only reduce the tedium of replaying content, not eliminate it.
Surprisingly, the sound effects and music are pretty darn good. The sound effects sound really snappy and true to life.The crack of Alasdair’s cane, the sound of beads hitting the floor as a jar was tipped over, the sound of a door slammed too hard against its frail wooden frame- all of these things contribute hugely to immersing you within the story. It’s clear a lot of care and effort went into producing these effects. The sound effects and music are both tied to certain points of text appearing on the screen, which means that rewinding to earlier in the story will replay the same music and sounds, which is really nice.
Unfortunately, as seems is often the case with visual novels, the game does not have proper widescreen support or resolution support. It’s a shame, really, because the art is fairly good, but the black bars around the sides of the screen detract from the experience a bit. We at least have the option of fullscreen or windowed mode, but that seems like a pretty paltry selection for a game released in 2017.
Overall, Inverness Nights ends up being a bit of a mixed bag. For seasoned visual novel players, the unique (and sometimes tragic) story and engaging sound design might be enough for you to come away feeling satisfied with the novel, especially if you’re willing to play through multiple times to see all the possibilities it has to offer. Otherwise, the confusing dialogue choices with wildly unpredictable consequences and somewhat fantastical story will probably be too much of a hindrance for you to enjoy what Inverness Nights has to offer.