The very first thing you do in The Low Road is get thrown on the phone with a woman with a file of information on her in front of you. You’re supposed to root through the files, find out more about her, and use the info presented to talk your way into a position of confidant. By bluffing and twisting the information in front of you, you discover the secrets at the heart of the game. I loved this – such a clever little idea for a game, basically using social skills to solve a puzzle, and I thought it was a fun concept to build a game around – other games have dialogue trees, but that full focus could really go places.
But then you get pulled out of that and this just sort of becomes an adventure game – it's got five or so little levels, most of which are then broken up into a series of three or so screens with a couple of puzzles to solve. You don’t really get that sequence I’d found so interesting at the start. Instead, it's dialed back to a more simple “get told you need an item, find a way to get the item, use the item.” I mean, yeah, that’s just video games, but at least other games are.... faster.
Cuz man, you move slow in this game! And when you have to run back and forth between screens, or god forbid up or down stairs, it just takes a longer time than it should. It sounds like a small thing to complain about, but trust me, you’d be complaining too if you realized the solution was across two screens and through two load screens. I almost cheered when I solved something and it just transported me directly to where I was supposed to be!
I’m not the world’s greatest fan of adventure games, so when it swapped over to that style, I was a bit disheartened. At least it broke it up a lot by introducing little one-off game modes, like a part where you debate someone and health bars pop up, so that as you jab at each other, you’re see the effect it’s having. Then there's another part with a boxing mini game. There are even a couple of spots that return to the conversation-based subterfuge I’d enjoyed, and I was really glad when they popped up again!
I really don’t want to get too deep into the story, which certainly goes deeper than the corporate espionage story that it starts out as. I found it at times a little difficult to follow, but I’m not sure if that’s specifically on the story or if it’s because I was just having issues with reading comprehension for some reason. Still, after a little more extra playing, you get yourself back on track, so anything you’d been confused about actually winds up being addressed later on.
The Low Road also manages to be stylish. Special shout outs to the soundtrack, which slaps. It’s really good, but unfortunate that I had to play it with the music so low because I was in public. The '70s tinges that come in around the edge work too, giving a fun flair to the game and the architectural design. There’s really a lot going on around the game's core that I really enjoy, but unfortunately the core’s just fairly average, its fun ideas only visited in short bursts before returning to the slower, more traditional parts that make up the bulk of the game.
I wish there was more focus on the espionage stuff, the actual parts that deal with taking the low road to exploit others for your will through strong conversational skills. But even after that’s done, the game’s still fine enough. The variety of puzzles and things you do helps break it up so you’re not just endlessly trying to combine items to win, and you never really feel lost about what your goal is, which is a big plus for an adventure game in my book. It’s in these more traditional parts that it’s a little too slow and simple, though. Unfortunately, this slower, simpler stuff is what takes up the bulk of the experience.