Publisher: The Dairymen
Review Context: The last time I read George Orwell’s Animal Farm was a long time ago in the 1990s, so I played this game without remembering details of the book, but only vague memories.
Date of Playthrough: January 2021
PC Specs Game Played on:
OS: Windows 10 Pro 64-bit
Processor: Intel(R) Core(TM) i7-9700F CPU @ 3.00GHz
Video Card: NVIDIA GeForce RTX 2060 SUPER
Disclosure: This review is based off of a review copy provided for free.
In the world of video games, adaptations of other works are few are between unless it’s a game based on a newly released movie. George Orwell’s Animal Farm is a book of historical significance originally published in 1945 that is still read today. It’s a book I personally read at some point in the 1990s when I was a kid, so I vaguely remember the plot points and characters. To find out that Orwell’s Animal Farm was releasing out of nowhere caught me by surprise. I impressed to learn that The Dairymen co-founders Imre Jele and Andy Payne were persistent in trying to obtain permission from Orwell’s Estate to make this game and eventually received it. This fact alone encouraged me to believe that Orwell’s Animal Farm was likely going to be a good video game adaptation of the book due to the pressure of the Orwell Estate’s blessing. The Dairymen eventually recruited Nerial to develop the game, knowing the success of their popular narrative game, Reigns!.
Orwell’s Animal Farm is an intriguing story about animals that achieve freedom by taking over Manor Farm after chasing away their farmer, Mr. Jones. With their new found freedom, the rebellious animals band together and create their own sets of rules, the Seven Laws of Animalism. The story plays itself with good voiced narration as you make hard decisions for the talking animals(text only) along your destiny. As someone who had little memory of the book, I found animals like Boxer (donkey), Moses (crow), Napoleon (pig), and Snowball (pig) to be interesting and very important characters that you will remember by the end of your experience playing the game.
The gameplay of Orwell’s Animal Farm is point-and-click, where you go through years separated into seasons for you to make decisions for the animals to do various activities to contribute their services to the farm. As you make your choices, you have to keep in mind that animals should be following the Seven Laws of Animalism, Where the game shines is that you can choose to not follow the story as it is told in the book, although as I mentioned before, my experience was fairly fresh and I had no frame of reference for my playthrough. For someone that has a distinct memory of the book, Orwell’s Animal Farm could be an interesting experience if they already know what the better choices are for the animals to test them out on their own.
Although the experience for me was mostly being consumed by the narrative, playing the PC version was not the smoothest of experiences, as the game is also available for iOS and Android. The game design felt like it was just ported to PC without many adjustments. Orwell’s Animal Farm is also a game that I believe will attract a variety audience including gamers and also people who are just interested because they like the book, but unfortunately the game lacks a tutorial and even tooltips as you play. As a daily gamer, the game is fairly intuitive despite the lack of direction in the beginning, but for someone who isn’t a gamer this could be an issue. The one area where the gameplay is the roughest is selecting the animals in meetings, as the clicks aren’t solid and knowing which animals are available to select is also annoying to figure out.
Even with the rough gameplay, the game is an achievement in story presentation. Orwell’s Animal Farm is beautiful for what it is, and with great animations going from season to season, along with the excellent soundtrack to go with the narration, you will easily become immersed in the game. The game flows remarkably well, but there will come a point in the experience, as I had in my playthrough, where you may hit a crossroads in decision making with huge consequences. The Orwell’s Animal Farm experience is an exercise in how altruistic decisions can lead to negative consequences. In the game every decision matters to some degree, so be aware of what you do.
Interestingly, I ended up with the same ending as the actual book, but as I looked up after the fact, a lot of what happened during the rest of my game experience was different. The game includes a “Handbook” menu that keeps track of your destiny and animal population statuses, which I found to be very interesting to look at during various points. Unfortunately, this is another instance of mobile design poorly implemented in the PC version because there is no hotkey to just easily bring it up, as you have to click on a house in order to bring it up. This means you can’t bring up the menu during the meetings with the animals. At the end of your playthrough, whenever it ends because it will vary from player to player, you’ll be shown a screen with stats and all seven of the endings alongside the bottom for you to read, I’m a fan of this screen because it implies replay value, but what I don’t like is that there is no tracker menu on the main menu after the first playthrough to show previous stats. It felt missing.
All in all, I consider Orwell’s Animal Farm a successful video game experience and adaptation (based on what I know), despite the PC version being a bit rough. I would like Nerial to fine-tune and smooth up the gameplay experience, especially for the influx of non-gamers who will want to play this over time. Also credit to The Dairymen, Imre Jele and Andy Payne. for putting in the effort to bring this historic book to life in a video game format..
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Reigns! (PC, Android)