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New games: Distress challenges with difficult moral choices and complex characters

Distress is a weighty sci-fi story by someone who really loves videogames.

Something that’s bugged me about games called ‘visual novels’ is that they’re usually pretty light on the ‘novel’ side of the equation. Whatever lovely things you might say about the rest of them, the ones I’ve tried have generally been pretty thin when it comes to the actual writing.

But I’m drawn to Distress – firstly, because it’s got a distinctive hand-drawn style by artist Ian Higginbotham, and secondly because it’s written by Game Informer editor Javy Gwaltney.

Now, full disclosure, I know Javy – I met him and worked with him while I was an intern at the magazine a couple years ago, and we’ve stayed in touch. It’s thanks to knowing him – and about how seriously he takes his reading and writing – that I’m so interested in Distress.

The game has you playing a space-borne bounty hunter named Demetria Barton, who finds herself with her crew in a brightly-colored but dangerous space colony, Nova-8. Death lurks around every corner, and your companions have their own motives and fears that will inform your decisions as you travel through the sprawling city.

I’m eager to see what Javy’s cooked up for Distress’ story. It’s certainly meaty enough to be a ‘real’ novel at 100,000 words, and given his fondness for authors like Kurt Vonnegut and Thomas Pynchon, it’s pretty much a given that Distress has a few narrative curveballs up its pastel sleeve. It’s also got a staggering 80 different endings, so there’s plenty of, ahem, space for replays.

(Be sure to check out our full list of upcoming PC games, you’re sure to find something you dig.)

You can pick up Distress now over at Javy’s itch.io page, but if you prefer, you can wait for it to come out on Steam November 6. Personally, I’m saving it up for a dark and stormy night and a few nice hot cups of tea.