2015 has been a crackerjack year for video games. Games like The Witcher 3, Metal Gear Solid 5, and Fallout 4 are giving us broader and more immersive experiences than we've ever had as gamers. Games today are graphically impressive and gameplay rich than they have ever been before. However, as games have been improving on both the quality and quantity of gameplay, 2015 has also been a great year for challenging our notion of what a game can be. Games like The Beginner's Guide and Her Story introduced new ideas about what gameplay can be and pushed games in novel, new directions. Cibele, likewise, challenges the notion of what video games are supposed to be by providing a novel and interesting game in which the experience is far more than the sum of its parts.
In Cibele, you play as a teenage girl who spends her time playing a simple RPG with her online friends. The gameplay is fairly basic. You can read through Cibele's online writings and look at her pictures, but once you log in to her RPG, the plot kicks into gear. In the RPG, you move around killing random monsters with your NPC love interest (that is, he's another gamer who also plays the RPG) until the boss monster eventually reveals itself. You can't die and the action is very elementary, letting you devote your attention to the dialogue between your character and her potential love interest. Between the levels, live action cinematics fill in the story and depict the budding relationship between the characters.
In terms of gameplay, Cibele is certainly more novel than exciting, in fact, being boring is part of the game. Each of the levels consists of these very redundant, barebones battles against enemies in very simple levels. You hack and slash while the characters chat, slyly flirting and cautiously teasing one another. It's meant to be boring; it's the kind of mindless game you play while having meaningful conversations. The game reminds me of time spent building roller coasters in Minecraft or replaying another fireteam mission in Destiny while talking about important life events or other weighty topics. Cibele is the first game I know of to present the fact that sometimes we play games to focus on the game, and sometimes we play games while connecting with someone else.
The game would not work at all if not for the impressive acting of the game's designer and writer, Nina Freeman. She totally sells it. The writing works well and sounds genuine (it can be a little creepy how familiar this dialogue sounds). Pardon the familiar praise, but she delivers a bold and authentic performance as the central character of her own autobiographical game. Moreover, her game makes me wonder if this is something games could be, a way of telling our own stories and histories for others to play through. Cibele is a unique experience and a reminder that 2015 has proved to be an impressively innovative year in gaming.
Okay, lets get down to our final score.
The graphics are perfectly suited for the game - the MMORPG you play looks very genuine - and the FMV cutscenes are well done. What gives the game an extra boost is the talented acting of designer Nina Freeman who delivers some top notch voicework.
The gameplay here is almost an afterthought, though it is perfectly suited to the game. You're meant to play while overhearing the flirtatious banter of two young gamers (though if the dialogue wasn't so well-written, the gameplay would get a bit tedious!).
The game is a fun, brief experience that should be played and shared but probably is not one you'll return to terribly frequently. Games like this - simple, intensely personal and well-written experiences - might consider using randomly generated levels to bring gamers back.
The gameplay is fairly mundane and the entire game is pretty brief, but for gamers who like novel experiences, Cibele is a must play title.