Review – Gnosia
I’ll admit that I hadn’t heard of Gnosia until just a short while ago. When I was approached with taking on a visual novel styled “whodunit”, I wasn’t over eager to accept. However, something about the trailer made me reconsider looking into it. I felt like there was more to Gnosia than met the eye. So I decided to take a chance on it, and let me tell you, I’m so happy I did.
I’m going to warn you right up front that Gnosia doesn’t have the strongest beginning. It starts off with a giant wall of text in tiny script that’s plastered across the page; flying by at such a high speed it’s like watching the introduction to a Star Wars movie in fast forward. After starting a new game twice, I still can’t tell you what it says. Then you’re greeted by a blonde haired woman named Setsu, who gives you a very basic rundown of what’s going on. The problem is the dialogue once again cuts off before you can fully gain any sense of what the hell is happening.
You won’t really gain any sort of understanding of what’s happening until you’re dropped right into the thick of things. Setsu is your ally at first, guiding you through the most basic procedures for what to do when the unthinkable happens. By this, I mean that an alien race, the Gnosia, have infected several members of your crew. They look, act, and sound like the people they infect with one major difference: they want to annihilate all human life. It’s then up to you to not only figure out who has been infected by the Gnosia, but also how to get the other members of your team to listen to you.
If the premise seems similar to Among Us or Mafia, you’re not wrong. This is a social deduction game that has been set in a visual novel style. You might think at first that Gnosia has very little to offer than just reading dialogue from each character and trying to guess who the enemy is, but you would be wrong. There is so much more to Gnosia than this simple premise.
You’re informed at the start that you’re caught in a time loop of sorts. All you know is that you’re on a space ship that has been compromised by an invasion of an alien species known as the Gnosia. Once they infect a person, they are nearly indistinguishable from the host and will kill a human crew member as long as they’re still alive onboard. Each day you’ll gather with the other members of your crew and debate on who has been infected. After casting a vote, the person deemed as a Gnosia will be put into “cold sleep” and will be gone for the remainder of the loop. The loop ends when either all of the Gnosia have been put into cold sleep or more than half of the remaining crew are Gnosia.
However, most of the time that’s not the end of the problem. Gnosia starts off very simply with you and a few crew members trying to weed out the two Gnosia onboard. As you complete more loops, you’ll meet new passengers (fourteen in total), and the number of Gnosia can increase to four per loop. Obviously, this can seriously affect the ratio of unaffected vs Gnosia in later levels. That’s not the end of the complications either.
After the first few loops, you’ll be introduced to new jobs. The Engineer is the first role available to you, which allows you to investigate one person each night in order to determine if they’re human or Gnosia. The next role added is the Doctor, who can scan the person put into cold sleep to see if they were truly Gnosia or not. Then there’s the Guardian Angel, who can protect one person of their choosing from the nightly Gnosia attack, but cannot save themselves. There are other roles as well, but discovering them is part of the fun.
You’re not always a crew member trying to take down the Gnosia either. Sometimes you are a Gnosia. In this case, you are informed right from the get-go who else on the ship is Gnosia, which allows you to come up with a plan on who to take down first. Gnosia can also lie (a lot) and claim other roles like the Engineer or Doctor. This adds a whole new level of strategy into the mix, as you can cast suspicion on other crew members and hopefully have them selected for cold sleep instead of you.
In addition to various roles, there are also RPG elements in here. After each loop, you’ll gain some experience points, more if you succeed in your objective, less if you fail. You’ll be able to spend these in different categories: Charisma, Charm, Intuition, Logic, Performance, and Stealth. Some make you more amicable and less likely for suspicion, others make it easier to spot lies, etc. This is a great way to customize your character to your own playstyle, especially if you prefer taking on certain roles or even playing as a Gnosia. It also adds a lot of replayability to an already compelling game.
The thing that impresses me the most about Gnosia is the rate that it delivers new information. The simple concept could have easily grown tiresome after a few loops, but this game consistently gives you more to work with. Be it a new job, information on a fellow passenger, or an unlocked ability, the Gnosia finds ways to keep it feeling fresh the entire time. You’ll glean more information about your fellow passengers every few loops, which makes them almost feel like friends at some points. There’s even a subtle overarching story that connects everything together by the end. The way the knowledge is parceled out reminded me a bit of Hades in that regard.
I do have a few issues with Gnosia, however. The hand-drawn art style is done really well, but there are only a few different illustrations for each character and their whole range of emotions. The same can be said for their dialogue. While there are moments when you can learn something more personal from them, the majority of your encounters will be during the debates in which you’ll hear the same five or six sentences over and over. This is the aspect of Gnosia that felt the most tedious.
Surprisingly, I don’t feel the same way about the music. There’s no voice acting and hardly any sound effects, but the musical score I still enjoyed. The weird part is that there are only a few different tracks, but they fit the game so well that I didn’t mind hearing them so frequently. A couple of the melodies even stuck with me after I stopped playing the game.
I have to say that Gnosia really impressed me. I completely underestimated it by assuming it was just going to be some monotonous visual novel mystery game. I’ve never been happier to be proven wrong. The steady introduction of new elements, complex characters, and intriguing gameplay make Gnosia delightfully addicting. I fully encourage everyone to let Gnosia get its hooks into you.
The hand-drawn aesthetic is well done, but each character only has about four to five different illustrations to convey their full range of emotions.
At first it seems like a visual novel, but before long some deductive reasoning elements enter the scene. Gnosia then continuously adds new gameplay elements and tactics to make every round seem fresh.
There’s no voice acting and very minimal sound effects, although the few that are present are done well. The soundtrack is bare bones, but fits each scene so well that it will stick with you after you’ve stopped playing.
What seems like a mediocre game at first will quickly prove it’s anything but. The complex characters combined with new gameplay elements and additional rules will keep you hungering for more.
Final Verdict: 8.0
Gnosia is available now on PC and Switch.
Reviewed on Switch.
A copy of Gnosia was provided by the publisher.