Developer & Publisher: Paul Raschid Media/Aviary Studios
Released: September 8, 2022
Requirements: OS: Minimum 64-bit Windows 7; Recommended, 64-bit
Processor: 2.0 Ghtz
Memory: Minimum, 2 GB RAM; Recommended, 4 GB RAM
Graphics: DirectX Version 11 compatible video card
DirectX: Version 11
Storage: 18 GB available space
Paul Raschid Media / Aviary Studios
Self described as a “live-action (FMV) game/interactive film,” there is definitely a lot to like about The Gallery. It is though very much an interactive film, your ‘game play’ being limited to making choices at various points about how the character in question should respond or act in the particular scene. While there is certainly a degree of pondering and reflecting about what might be a preferred response in the context of the developing narrative, you choose and watch the film unfold, which is the extent of things. Be aware of that going in and a polished product awaits.
The basic premise revolves around two people... Morgan, the proprietor of a UK portrait gallery who is soon to exhibit a new portrait by a Turner Prize winning artist, and Dorian, an artist ‘insistent’ on painting Morgan’s portrait. There is a more extensive cast and a whole lot more going on, not least of all the societal unrest in the world outside, but best that you uncover all that should you choose to play. I try and avoid knowing anything but the barest information about new films I might watch, and the same applies here.
Or rather, the basic premise involves two proprietors being painted by two artists, 40 years apart.
Your very first choice is whether to play a female proprietor in 1981, or a male proprietor in 2021. I chose the female, which resulted in the protagonist artist being male, and about 80 minutes later I got an ending I wasn’t expecting, and some surprising developments along the way. I also learned that my ending was one of twelve possible endings, and that I had seen only a third of all possible scenes.
I was aware as I went that certain decisions were impacting the story. Pop-up messages like ‘story affected’ or ‘relationship consequence’ appeared from time to time, sometimes after making a choice but sometimes as particular scenes played out. The nature of one particular relationship goes up and down, depending on how a decision has affected it. It seemed apparent early on that there was probably value in trying to keep that relationship as positive as possible.
I don’t think I needed or wanted the messaging – there were times when they seemed obvious and redundant - but they do help somewhat when/if you try to achieve another ending or endeavour to generate some of those other scenes. Which I did.
But not before I played the other timeframe and the male proprietor, which came with a whole other surprise. Which was that the lead characters had flipped roles. The proprietor was still named Morgan, but was now a male played by the actor who had been Dorian first time around. And vice versa. It was rather neat, and more than just a gimmicky bit of casting. Gender ‘fluidity’ is clearly deliberate, and it plays out elsewhere through the film. It added thoughtfully to the mix.
Many of the scenes I saw when I played the 2021 timeframe were heavily familiar, including the dialogue. But they weren’t exactly the same, the differences in time and gender doing enough to subtly shift various nuances involved. Not always, but often, and it was inherently interesting in itself just to see how a scene impacted you as the viewer when the gender of the character changed. As I said, a thoughtful addition to the mix.
If you are like me, you may well think ‘I have seen this’ and might then be tempted to factor your alt-timeline response into this decision tree as a result. That may be appropriate, but those subtle nuances I referred to might make all the difference. Or maybe not. You will have to choose accordingly and then see.
My ending was different than in the other timeline, one of six apparently available over here. I still had a lot more scenes to uncover.
I then replayed 1981, which now allowed me to Tab through any scene I had watched earlier. I suspect I will avail myself of that down the track, but not yet. This is a movie, and jumping through scenes is too disruptive.
In the same timeframe you can be more certain about the things seen and done previously; however the cumulative effect of earlier decisions might well affect how a later different decision plays out, or maybe even a later same decision. How tangled and interdependent the threads are you would only be able to tell after numerous play throughs; however the 150 decision points and the “relationship tracking mechanic” suggests it isn’t a simplistic either/or situation.
Perhaps not surprisingly I got a different end again. Ten more in 1981 to go!
It isn’t all about the endings. Other storylines and character interactions can play out differently as well, in fairly significant ways. On my second 1981 play through I came across three entirely new characters, and profoundly impacted the arc of two others. The number of yet to be discovered scenes suggest a plethora of alternatives await.
You may well recognise a number of the actors, including the leads, from various TV ventures, and their acting backgrounds show. Give or take a special effect or two, everything about the film that unfolds is top notch. The sense of place in the different timelines is well designed, the attention paid to portraiture is apparent and conveyed, and the framing used in some shots is impactful. If at times either available response seemed a little out of character, it was a small thing given the number in play. And as already noted, it has a capacity to surprise, and the writing and the various story arcs I have come across seems certain to deliver a few more.
You can choose to play with a time limit in which to make your response, or to take as long as you like. The former is the most natural way to proceed, as there is no break or pause in the particular scene. The characters continue with their dialogue, and you have either made your choice by the time it is needed or you haven’t, at which point it is made for you and the character/s move on. You can see how much time you have by a reducing red line just underneath the available choices. If you play with no time limit, the unfolding scene will pause if you haven’t made a decision when its needed, and simply continue when you have.
You can tweak a few things in the settings and play with or without subtitles. There are no manual saves, and while I never could tell when it had autosaved and ended up replaying some small sections as a result, it was again a small thing. I tended to exit after a decision point or action that affected the story in some way, and that seemed to work well, and it probably warrants playing straight through the first few times in any event.
While I really wanted more to do, The Gallery does what it does really well.
I played on:
OS: Windows 10, 64 Bit
Processor: Intel i7-9700K 3.7GHz
RAM: Corsair Dominator Platinum RGB DDR4 32GB
Video card: AMD Radeon RX 580 8192MB