All privacy is gone due to social media algorithms that know you better than yourself, masked revolutionaries fight to be liberated from an oppressive government, and you can’t even trust the law enforcement. With so much personal freedom stripped away, there’s only one thing that’s known for sure — the city is going to be set on fire. That’s the setup for the new graphic novel-inspired action-platformer, Liberated, from Polish video game studio Atomic Wolf.
There are influences from Playdead’s video games Limbo and Inside and the medium-defining comics of Alan Moore. After exploring this austere and bleak world through its varied protagonists, I’m left impressed with what the team has managed to pull off both from a gameplay and narrative standpoint.
Liberated excellently pulls off its comic book presentation
The main thing that sets Liberated apart from other action-adventure platformers is its comic book presentation style. The camera shifts from panel to panel, depicting the narrative in a noir-ish monochromatic dystopia, gameplay segments progressing seamlessly. When I wasn’t “playing” the game, detailed hand-drawn art brought style to the story presented in each comic “issue.”
Liberated has four individual issues, two-to-three hours in length each, and each one references events and experiences seen in other issues from fresh perspectives. Wearing the influence of Watchmen on its shoulder, comic panels are placed deliberately. Liberated’s narrative sections are akin to a motion comic, and the foley work and OST are immersive. I was also immersed thanks to the wide swath of perspectives on the game’s issues, from a reluctant freedom fighter to a disillusioned police captain. Liberated subtly establishes its characterization before jumping headfirst into its politics, placing its cast in immensely thought-provoking and exciting situations that provide a staggering amount of depth.
As for the politics themselves, Liberated’s brand of dystopia is predicated on state control. There are depictions of governmental abuse of power, police brutality, and acts of terrorism with wrinkles of conspiracy. These facets of the story are presented with a properly measured maturity. The more tragic parts of the game’s world drawn from events that have occurred in real life (such as the bombing of a school) are approached somberly.
The combat in Liberated doesn’t take a backseat, properly scaling as the game goes on
Liberated is still a lot of fun to play despite the heavy subject matter, as there’s surprisingly a lot of gameplay. With a range of platforming, combat, and puzzles, the experience felt well-adjusted and kept me engaged. In combat, I had the option to sneak and hide behind various forms of cover, using stealth in order to dispatch enemies quietly. There was also the opportunity to use the Nintendo Switch’s right analogue stick, which brings out a laser-equipped gun that shoots with pinpoint accuracy.
While there’s infinite ammo, there is still motivation to aim for the head since you need to reload. As I progressed, the enemies became stronger and required me to either be smarter with my stealth or fire at the head a couple times in order to properly dispatch them. These elements of twin-stick shooter and stealth action are paced out well to make Liberated a comfortable experience.
Meanwhile, the puzzles in Liberated are decent brainteasers, providing a respite to the otherwise constant action gameplay. With an appreciable range of number-based, matching, and hacking activities, I never felt that the tasks were too complicated or abstract.
Liberated runs fairly well on Nintendo Switch. I experienced occasional hiccups in the gameplay, and the time the game needed to load as pages turned was noticeable. The performance issues rarely impede gameplay, but the lower resolution playing handheld makes it harder to appreciate the finer details (which affects the otherwise strong atmosphere), and even docked, there is a bit of blurriness. I played most of the game on Nintendo Switch Lite, but thanks to the options that are included for increasing the size of speech bubbles, I never had issues reading the content.
A standout title for the Nintendo Switch that’s both experimental and engrossing
Liberated, despite some minor visual downgrades, is a standout title for Nintendo Switch. I was fully immersed by both the action and story all the way through. Atomic Wolf has done a commendable job of adapting the power and potential of comic books as a video game. The developers have stuck the landing, and I’m excited to see what stories and experiences they end up creating next.
A review code was provided by the publisher.