Originally published on Steam

I feel a bit churlish criticizing Nina Freeman's passion project, but I'm afraid I can't recommend Cibele. It's an autobiography told with three techniques: live-action video, documents on the protagonist's desktop, and a simplified, simulated MMO. Watching the videos, which are mostly shot in what looks like a teenage girl's bedroom, feels unconfortably voyeristic to me. Just as creepy is sorting through the images, documents, chat logs, and emails. I don't enjoy prying into someone else's life, so I probably missed a fair amount of content. A fully written or cinematic version of the story might have appealed more.

However, playing the imagined MMO fills in a piece of the story that can't easily be replicated some other way. Don't suppose the game to be particularly complicated; the only action is clicking on enemies to attack them. As you play, the main characters talk the way people (presumably) talk over in-game voice chat. Other characters interrupt with emails and typed chat messages. The stress of managing the demands of the game and multiple conversations must be experienced to be felt. This section of the game is very effective.

As the story progresses, the game-within-a-game's art style foreshadows and mirrors the emotions characters feel. But it's not at all clear why they are playing. Perhaps because I've never played much of this sort of game myself, but the gameplay does not strike a chord of recognition for me. Aren't there strategies besides rapid clicking? Even a few fake mechanics such as added equipment, leveling, and special attacks would sustain the illusion of an online game that would entertain players for several years.

I can't bear the game any ill-will. It's kinda interesting as an experiment. But the story just did not grab me and there's very little else.