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Review: Orwell: Keeping an Eye on You – Invade the Privacy of Citizens to Protect Their Lives

I like to play indie games as a hobby and write about my thoughts on them.


In the fictional country called The Nation, the government passed a bill to allow them to spy on citizens for security reasons. To do this, they created a program called Orwell, which employees can upload information to on The Nation's citizens. With this information, investigators can use it to draw conclusions and hopefully, solve cases successfully.

Will Orwell prove to be a useful system that can be used to solve and prevent crimes, or will it be a disaster? Is the trade off between privacy and security a necessity to ensure a safe society? That will be determined by you, the recently employed individual from outside The Nation who will be testing out Orwell's capabilities in this game.

The story begins with a terrorist attack that occurs in a plaza. I was then introduced to Symes, an investigator who is involved in investigating the attack. He taught me how Orwell worked and how to collect data from various sources. These sources include websites, text chat conversations and phone calls. The process behind this was straightforward; Browse through the available sources and if there was anything of interest (content that is highlighted), grab it and drop it into the correct person's profile. Overtime, you will create entire profiles with several pieces of information about them. With Orwell's database on the left and your sources on the right, the interface was clean and organized.

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As I continued to drop more information, Symes provided feedback on most of the data chunks. He appreciated information that could give possible leads but was annoyed or skeptical if I inserted useless or misleading information such as the time when I told Orwell that Cassandra Watergate lived in Wonderland, which is total nonsense.

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It is evident that I could not just drag and drop whatever information I could find. Eventually, I encountered data chunks which conflicted with each other, forcing me to choose which data chunk to upload to Orwell. Uploading incorrect data would be misleading and problematic.

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However, there were also times where I was "forced" to upload data chunks, no matter how insignificant to progress the game. The game simply did not continue until I uploaded a random data chunk. At other times, the notification system behaved strangely as well. Sometimes, it persisted that new data chunks were available but they were difficult to find (if there were any). Regardless, it does a semi-decent job of at least pointing you in the right direction.

As more data chunks were uploaded, new sources became accessible such as new conversations and web pages, revealing more about the plot. As well, data that was once considered insignificant are now possibly valuable. The game sort of became a virtual scavenger hunt where I had to look in every possible location to find information that could be useful. The story itself however, was mostly linear but there was at least some flexibility in terms of what data chunks I could upload and how they could influence the outcome of the case.

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So, we have all these data chunks and have created profiles of people. What is next? Eventually, the current case needs to be closed as soon as possible and a conclusion must be made. With a job with great responsibility, things could either go well or horribly depending on what data chunks I upload. During my first run through of the game, I have helped solved a few cases successfully but other times, citizens have also suffered because of my poor decision making. Such decisions made me realize the impact that Orwell has on the citizens of The Nation.

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As more data chunks are uploaded, we learn more and more about the motivation behind the attacks and the people involved. Entire social networks are uncovered and there always something to learn from the data chunks, whether it was trivia or crucial details. It can be a little dizzying going back and forth between sources, but it was an adventure nonetheless.

Overall, the game was a great experience that explored the conflict between national security and privacy. While you should not expect some in-depth analysis of this topic, it did at least show that while such a powerful system can be effectively used for preventing crime, it could also be dangerous and susceptible to abuse. With an engaging narrative, the plot was well written with twists and turns along the way. I enjoyed the process of learning about the characters I made profiles for and discovering the connections they have with each other. Altogether, every data chunk is a piece of the puzzle and brought me closer and closer to the big picture.

The game only takes about a few hours to complete, but since there are multiple outcomes, you may replay a chapter to unlock other endings, so there is some replay value there. If you are interested in spying on citizens in the style of a puzzle game, Orwell: Keeping an Eye on You might be what you are looking for.

What I likedWhat Could Improve

Themes were thought provoking.

Do not force the player to "pass time" by dropping in random clues. If they have gathered at least most of the essential clues, then progress the game.

Intuitive system with a clean interface.

The notification system could be more consistent. Sometimes data chunks suddenly become available or it would persist that data chunks still remained even though they were difficult to find.

Multiple outcomes dependent on your decisions.

Text chat speeds for instant messaging and calls could be quicker for those who are impatient.

It has some replay value with multiple endings to unlock.

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