Coming up with a lead character is not an easy task. Finding someone who is relatable and likable is far easier said than done. This remains true when basing a game on something that already exists, whether it be a novel, a play, or a film. Characters are known and loved, so players are often left utilizing someone who never existed before. Elsinore is a game that tackles this dilemma, and it does so in a way that is both intriguing and exciting.
Elsinore is the story of Hamlet, the Shakespearean play about family, revenge, and a lot of other really deep things. But key to that story at least for Elsinore, is Ophelia. Anyone who is a fan of the play will know that she isn’t exactly important. Ophelia, the former love interest of the play’s lead, is pretty inconsequential to the unfolding plot. She exists as little more than background dressing, unable to bring about change to the looming landscape, or to alter Hamlet’s path as he aimlessly wandered about with no real focus.
But it’s that very “uselessness” that helped the developers create the mechanics that drive this new game, and to set it apart from other adventure games while also placing some meaningful changes into the classic script. Ophelia’s existence as a background character means she can move about unnoticed by all of the major players in the grand scheme of things. She can walk anywhere she pleases, even as major plot points are occurring, and soak in information. What you decide to do with that information is entirely up to you, but it can have great ramifications.
The same way that Ophelia is able to eavesdrop on everything in Elsinore, she is also able to share what she learns at any given time. That aspect of time proves to be important, because depending on what’s going on with a particular character, they may respond differently. For example Claudius, the main antagonist of the play, reveals his sins later on in the story (Act III), but you can actually hear him dwell on his sins much earlier on. If you decide to inform him that you know his secrets, he may not act as strategically as he does later on in Hamlet. It can spell an advantage for Ophelia or her demise.
This becomes much more important when you realize that you don’t always have to wait. Unlike many games that give you choices, you don’t have to wait until a particular point or after a certain level to see the fruits of your labor. The characters in Elsinore react differently to your meddling. Some may wait for a day or two before making their move, others may panic and do something about it immediately.
This ability to control knowledge as a character who many have glanced over in the past is quite engaging. It provides an interesting behind the scenes view to a play that is very well known, but the player choices add a hefty amount of replayability for those who already know the original story. For those who’ve never had the pleasure of reading or seeing Hamlet, they get to meet the characters and discover the intricacies of their personalities through interaction.
The characters aren’t the only interesting element to this upcoming adventure game, though. The story, outside of the narrative of the classic play, is intriguing as well. Ophelia is thrust into the position of the protagonist after receiving information that everyone in Elsinore Castle will die in four days. This creates a sort of Shakespearean Groundhog Day that has players constantly repeat the four-day period as they endeavor to change the events. The time loop adds an extra layer of supernatural intervention to the experience which helps to make Elsinore something more than just a game based on a famous play.
Elsinore is shaping up to be something very unique. Playing as someone so known yet at the same time so mysterious, is an interesting mechanic that allows players to explore deeper into this world. As you move, learn, and share, the world will bend to your will in interesting ways. It’s an experience that truly puts you in control as you rewrite a classic.