Being nice is one of those under-appreciated human qualities. It's the slighter, less impressive sibling of being kind. Niceness is almost admirable and it's almost bland. It's not really the stuff of heroism, and yet we mostly welcome this quality in others. Being "not nice" is a severe judgement. We all know people who are not nice, and we keep well clear of them, when we can.
Video games rarely call upon players to be nice. No-one in the Call of Duty series, so far as I can recall, is nice. Final Fantasy's swaggering principals come in all hues and shades, but niceness is rarely their defining quality. Even gentle walking sims are populated by people with issues.
And yet, here is Leaving Lyndow, a game that is nice to its very core. I don't want you to think I'm making mockery of the game. I like nice, and I very much like Leaving Lyndow. You can watch me play ten minutes of the game (above).
This is a walking simulation, in which the player explores a world, engages in conversation trees with NPCs and solves dainty puzzles.
It takes less than an hour to play. There's little in the game to arrest those lofty intellects seeking brain-busting puzzles. And yet, it's perfectly lovely. It reminds me of a walk in the country followed by a pint of pale ale in The Crown, perhaps a friendly chat with a retired couple called Brian and Maureen.
Leaving Lyndow is the story of a young woman who is about to set off on a dangerous journey of discovery. During the game, she makes her farewells to friends, family and professional rivals.
They are not all pleased with her leaving. The dialog trees and the puzzles are often about appeasing loved ones who are fearful, jealous, confused or lonely. Dialog options are obvious and leading. It's really hard to be an ass-hat in this game.
And yet, there's something soothing about making people feel better, about just being a nice person, even when the temptation arrives to be arrogant or uncaring.
Leaving Lyndow is a project of Eastshade Studios, founded by Danny Weinbaum, a talented environmental artist who quit the world of triple-A games to go indie. He's working on a bigger project called Eastshade, which is due out next year.
Based on this game, I'm very much looking forward to Eastshade. Leaving Lyndow is painterly and pretty. My only quibble is its brevity, but I think it's the sort of game you can play twice, just for the ease of its atmosphere. It's out today for Windows PC and priced at an entirely reasonable $3.99.