With the current pandemic having prolonged isolation beyond a year now, it’s not surprising that the latest hit to land on the Switch involves rooting out the infected to protect a group of people. Gnosia on Nintendo Switch successfully creates a single player experience from the elements of the Werewolf style, social deduction genre that typically requires a group of people to play. The need for other human beings is made irrelevant by utilizing layers of randomly generated mechanics to control the actions of each individual character. A focus on an overall narrative and character development helps to keep the experience fresh during each subsequent playthrough, so long as the minimal variety of responses don’t grate on your nerves.
An air of mystery constantly hangs over each game, or loop as it’s referred to. A ship of unknown origins with an unknown destination leaves dock after the crew returns aboard, with a number of those individuals infected by a murderous host. Early loops start off rather simple, a small number of crew with a single infected that must be rooted out through a vote. Each day, the crew attempts to deduce who is the Gnosia and end their rampage by putting them in cold sleep. If the infected remains awake at night, they eliminate one of the crew, with the loop ending when the number of Gnosia equals the number of humans.
Once the game is over, whether having won or lost, everything resets and starts anew with only the player and one other crew member retaining the memory of the previous loops. More and more complexity is added to each loop; crew member size increases to a maximum of 15, different roles are assigned that help weed out the Gnosia, and some human crew members begin to help the Gnosia against their own interests. Playing in one of the roles is quite entertaining. The engineer role has the ability to determine whether a crew member is human or not once per night, while the doctor role can check for the same status on the last crew member chosen for cold sleep. The roles are useful to the player but don’t guarantee success as the Gnosia will falsely claim the roles and accuse crew members of infection.
After 20 or so playthroughs, all of these elements become customizable at the beginning of the loop, allowing the player to decide if they want a role to play and how many infected need to be found in a set number of crew. RPG style experience points are awarded each loop that are used to increase attributes such as charisma and intelligence and these help shape how each of the loops play out. A higher charisma will make the player more influential when trying to convince crew members to join your side. A higher stealth will make it less like the crew will choose the player for cold sleep.
One of the great strengths of Gnosia is that each loop feels much different from the last. The mechanics that control each of the AI characters is subtly complex so that rooting out the Gnosia is no easy task. While the actual results of the loop feel much different, unfortunately the actual conversations during each round of voting gets stale very quickly. Each of the crew members has a distinct personality that plays out well, but is undercut by a very small variety of actual responses. The decision on which crew member to vote for cold sleep is completed through 5 rounds of accusations and rebuttals from characters. The variety of responses is so low that you could potentially see the same text multiple times in the same day. Each character only has one or two responses so it doesn’t take long to have seen them all.
Unlike traditional social deduction games with real people, Gnosia is more than just victory or defeat in a single loop. An overarching story is slowly uncovered during each playthrough as the player learns the history of the ship and its crew. Character profiles are unlocked during interactions between rounds of voting which not only provides insight into the personalities of each crew member but also provides clues to the mystery of the Gnosia. The ongoing story injects a much needed motivation to continue with the loops and greatly helps with keeping the experience from going stale.
The timing couldn’t be better for the port of Gnosia which originally launched on the PS Vita in 2019. It comes on the heels of a surge in popularity for Among Us, the social deduction game whose playthroughs can vary depending on the skill level of those involved. The social element may be lost by playing a single player experience but the gain of an interesting story and a more consistent experience is certainly worth the trade off.
- Well developed AI mechanics
- An interesting ongoing story
- Well developed focus on characters
- Customizable social deduction experience
- Lack of a variety of responses