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Gnosia: Or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Amogus


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A friend last year recommended the VN Gnosia to me. I, being who I am, resisted for a while. VNs had hurt me. They had abused me. Pancaked my love for storytelling. But then, I saw the artwork for Gnosia and said "Screw it, letsago." 

I grabbed it for the Switch and went to town playing it. It is the perfect type of VN to play in short bursts. For me, that meant before bed usually for 20-30 minutes a night. For those that don't know, Gnosia is a social deduction VN that plays out a bit more like Town of Salem than it does Among Us. For starters, the game's story is told in loops. You wake up at the start of a loop on a spaceship, assigned a role. The ship AI has detected a Gnosia may be on board. These parasitic aliens seek to infect each crew member and make it to a space port to continue spreading as far as they can. The goal of those not infected to to find the Gnosia and put them into cold sleep where they can spread no more.

Each character is assigned a role on each loop. Some may be engineers that can find out who the Gnosia is each night. There may be a doctor who can discover the identity of anyone put into cold sleep. Those with Guard Duty are those who never left the ship and therefore cannot be Gnosia. AC Followers worship Gnosia and do everything they can to help them. Then, anywhere from 1-4 characters can be Gnosia. They can lie, cheat, and steal their way to survival in order to either put every crew member into cold sleep, or kill each person. They can select one person each night to kill.

The main bulk of the gameplay is made up by debates, where characters discuss and vote on who they must put into cold sleep. Engineers and doctors share their reports, though Gnosia and AC Followers can like about their role to muddy and confuse the debate, or convince others that the true engineers or doctors are in fact Gnosia. Each character has stats that dictates how they will act during debates. One character, for example, who hates lying and is super perceptive, may be able to immediately tell when someone is lying, but has low charisma and as result, struggles to convince others of the truth.  You yourself also have stats that go up against other characters stats to see how convincing you are, or how trustworthy.

The story is told in between the debates, as you can visit parts of the ship to talk to characters. Under certain conditions, you may get character events that shed more light on their character and their story. As you are only one of two people aware of the looping, you must discover as much information as you can to find a way out of the loop. For me, this took about 130 loops. Later in the game, you will be able to alter the starting conditions to better set up the conditions needed to trigger character events. And the game will auto-set them for you to nearly guarantee the character events as well if you so choose. 

The game is addicting, pretty to look at, and the story quite engaging. It is the type of game better suited towards short bursts rather than hours long sessions as the loops can feel repetitive as you try to trigger events. As each loop normally only takes 5-10 minutes, playing for 30-40 minutes at a time can net a solid 3-6 loops which I think is a solid amount for a single sitting. 

To sum up my thoughts, allow me to simply state, Setsu masterrace please play gnosia do it for setsu 

thoughts?

 

Spoiler

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I really love this game. I don't do well in multiplayer environments *and* I love AI, so a singleplayer social deduction game is something I've always looked forward to. All the better that this game has an actual story to tell, with actual characters.

I love the story, the characters, and the gameplay. This game makes me a happy bean.

I think the best part is that the characters have personalities, and these personalities inform gameplay. Here's some rambling on how gameplay functions:

Spoiler

They implement these through visible stats indicating their abilities (logic for deductions, stealth to go unnoticed by others, performance to make your lies go undetected, etc etc), but also hidden affinities underneath. Characters have preferences for other characters that affect how they act at times. Finally, these parameters evolve over the course of the games, which means that a single play through from the start doesn't get stale, as both you and the opponents gain more conversation tactics to use, or stats to bully others with.

So, how do these stats and preferences become characters? Through the situations they create.

  • Friendly characters like Shigemichi or Kukrushka always try to stand by those they like as they're emotionally driven (and dumb as bricks, leading to easily outing themselves by deduction when they're the enemy). Thing is, people actually like Kukrushka, so it can be really hard to vote her off if the remaining people are emotionally driven.
  • On the other hand, someone like Raqio is very logical, and will throw any friends to the wolves the second that they get a whiff of suspicion, or even if it's just expedient. Funnier still, Raqio is just the type to point out logical deductions, even when those deductions incriminate them. Raqio is typically disliked by the crew, due to their very low charm (as evidenced by their personality).
  • Otome has high logic, but is also very amicable, preferring less deadly solutions. Also very cute and well-liked, making it a nightmare to convince others she's evil. Unlike Raqio, wouldn't turn on her friends unless the deductions really point that way.
  • Some characters just flat-out have weaker stats. The aforementioned Shigemichi, but also Stella and Gina, who, while decently balanced, lack any one strength to push back against an expert in their field. And Shigemichi just can't lie to save their life.
  • Setsu always handles themselves well, but also can't fight alone against more charming people. They'll be around unless they're doing well enough their opponents gang up on them. Chipie is similarly well-rounded.
  • Yuriko is the stat monster of the game, her only weakness the fact that she's so anti-social she can get herself hated by the group over time, or quickly targeted by the traitors at night.
  • Remnan has solid abilities but no ability to actually convey himself, so he rarely does so. If he's piping up early on, it's likely he's a traitor. Unlike most, he can afford to keep quiet without looking suspicious for it.
  • Sha-Ming is a cockroach, his sole objective to survive. Does nothing by himself but jump on bandwagons and distract others from disliking him. If he's targetting someone specific, he's either a traitor, or really fears that person.
  • Similar is SQ, who also doesn't have the ability to handle herself in debate, but is very good at getting cushy with people and bandwagoning.
  • Comet is funny because she sucks at everything, but can nearly always tell when someone's lying. It's up to others to catch on to what she's found or watch her be instantly voted out if she tries to accuse traitors.

And these are a bunch of more or less accurate personality profiles I built for the characters just from gameplay alone.

I think, in the end, what really makes my day are the deductions. Spending a few minutes looking over all the reports and systematically detecting all the enemies is absolutely fantastic.

Raqio is the best.

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Gnosia was one of the games I preordered back when it was coming out to Switch, due to how highly people thought about it on the Vita. It's an incredibly good Werewolf sim considering it's single player, you touched on it but I want to elaborate on just how well they pulled off the transformation from a social game based on reading people into a single player story based game. Each character has AI and likes and dislikes and preferences, even down to the little known fact that the player selects a favorite color for their profile and this gives them minor bonuses and penalties with individual characters, setting up individual player's casts slightly differently from the very start.

It works wonderfully as a social deduction game despite being single player because they set it up where the main plot mostly involves just learning about the cast, which directly translates to a better understanding of what is happening in debates. Every character has invisible values for how much they like and dislike each other character. You find out X character loves Y character, which might make some of their previous actions make more sense but more importantly helps you "read" X better. You need to plan around the fact that X doesn't like accusing Y, and if they do end up accusing Y then you better pay attention because that is not done lightly.

The RPG style skill levels for things like if they're good at lying all tie into their personalities: The shy dude can get away with not speaking up because everyone knows he is shy, the loud and rude dude can get away with some bold actions because people expect him to take them, the cute girl can more easily charm certain people into being on her side just by asking nicely. These are all real types of players if you play any social form of Werewolf, and Gnosia does a perfect job at making them all feel alive. It didn't take long before I was thinking about the characters and not meta gaming, just like IRL Werewolf, with thoughts like "she's being a bit aggressive today/he's staying oddly quiet/why would X say that about Y out of nowhere/oh damn I think this person just pissed off the group with their personality and not because they are guilty".

It's the little quirks that really make the cast shine in the end, the stuff beyond the personalities the RPG stats indicate. Late game in Gnosia the cast shines the brightest, several characters gain a complex moveset they can use, with some characters even having unique moves (that they can teach the player) far enough into the game. As new discussion skills are introduced, characters will have preferences on how to approach those skills. An easy example is to demand everyone say they are human (aka not Gnosia), each cast member has different innate feelings on this question. There's at least 1 cast member that actually hates the idea of admitting they are human, on top of several cast members that are wary of this approach because they don't like to think of themselves as human or aren't a member of the human species or they dislike speaking up in general. Characters can stay silent and just let the rest of the group speak up, and some people can flat out demand the group stop this activity. There's a lot of good mental work involved in these situations, did they stop the group because they just hate the idea, or are they the Gnosia, or are they a role that wants to cause chaos, or do they think it's a waste of time for a character specific reason? It really makes each character feel "real" because they all have different opinions and thoughts that the player can never directly see, only learn through observation, which is the heart of a game like Werewolf.

 

Also something important to note, I've talked to several people that think they finished the game but actually haven't. The credits rolling do not signify the full ending of the game has been reached. For a more direct spoiler for anyone that is unsure what I mean but wants to be sure they get the ending:

Spoiler

you have not seen the true ending if you haven't made a 2nd profile with the same name and favorite color after seeing the credits roll, in order to complete the time loop and get the final plot details ironed out in a very good sequence.

 

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Kukrushka ruined so many damn loops for me. Once she gets set on something, everyone and I mean EVERYONE joins up with her. Or once you know without a doubt she is the Gnosia, she easily manipulates people like Otome and from there she steamrolls to victory. And if you are too heavy on accusations at her, you're done almost instantly against her. She was rough for me to deal with. Sha-ming and Yuriko were pretty straight forward. My bias almost never let me go after Setsu though. Setsu is love, Setsu is life.

 

Spoiler

Yeah the hidden true ending was a bit of a pain if you don't think to start a brand new game with the exact same stuff. But its so worth it. 

 

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Yeah Kukrushka is a hard enemy for many early builds, she has huge charm but abysmal logic (2nd only to Comet). Until you have late game stats you need to rely on the "Definite Enemy" skill (or keep Raqio alive) to take her down. I had the most real trouble with Jonas just because he's essentially the wildcard character, his greatest strength as a gnosia and weakness as crew are the same thing: he acts on whims that only make sense to himself. When I'm sure he's Gnosia I can take usually him down, but he's one of the harder characters to pin down as Gnosia from my experience.

 

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Making my life hell was mainly Kukrushka and Yuriko.

With Kukrushka it's really hard to take her out if you can't logic her identity. If she lasts till the later stages then she's probably made enough friends to be near impossible to vote out. Usually her poor logic is her downfall, but if she isn't in a position to make a mistake it can be really hard.

Yuriko *can* be worse than her if Yuriko sets her sights on the player, but usually she picks a sacrifice each round to target and you just have to wait until she accumulates enough dislike from everyone or refuses to say she's human.

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It really is a great game. I loved how the game design and themes complement each other. Most character backstories deal in some form with learning to accept yourself and those around you as well as finding the right balance between self-expression and not intruding on others too much. Much in the same vein, the player's learning curve revolves around learning each character's peculiarities and finding your own way to work with or around them. You can't fundamentally change the other characters, only nudge them in the right direction or let them run into a situation where they are in over their heads depending on your goals and you have to so while learning what you are good and bad at because otherwise you only end up pissing them off. For example I had to learn that trying to lead discussion ended in me getting voted or killed off most of the times so I changed to a style where I held my head low and stuck to collecting information at first and only switched into attack mode once I had solid understanding of the playing field (e.g. once I caught several characters lying).

If I had one major criticism of the game it's that I wished for more characters to get proper arcs. Something like each character getting a loop completely dedicated to them once you unlocked all of their notes would have been nice.

The character who made life hardest for me was Shigemichi. Not because he was hard to deal with but because of him being a dumbass. He constantly self-sabotaged and got voted or killed off before I got the chance to see his character events.

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