Developer – Armature Studio
Publisher – Armature Studio
Platform(s) – PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4
MSRP – $24.99
Release Date – July 13, 2021
Disclaimer: Code Was Kindly Provided
Where The Heart Leads is a narrative experience set in a bizarre world that shifts in many different ways. You follow the story of Whit Anderson, a husband as well as a father to two kids. Whit’s story and personality depend on the choices you make as you navigate throughout his life story.
In terms of spoilers, I will only be delving into the first 20 minutes with a few references to certain side characters here and there. I won’t be discussing any of the specific choices, storylines, and personality traits (besides one) that characters retain.
Where The Heart Leads kicks off with Whit and his family living on their farm. In the middle of a severe thunderstorm, the family dog, Casey, gets stuck down in an enormous ravine in the middle of the farmland. Whit goes down to save her but in the process of saving her, Whit ends up plummeting down the ravine and ends up stuck.
Whit has to then progress up through the ravine to make his way up back to his wife and kids. In the process of doing so, old recollections are retained and you as the player can shape how those old memories play out.
Let me make something very clear from the get-go if you’re looking for a game with exhilarating gameplay, Where The Heart Leads is NOT for you. This game is a narrative and visual experience through and through. I know some were a bit confused on what this game was about before release and I’m here to let you know this game tells its story through its characters and art direction, not through its gameplay.
For 95% of the game, you’ll be moving from area to area engaging in conversation with characters by reading bubble text. This is a type of game style where you know from the word go whether or not it’s for you.
I have yet to finish Where The Heart Leads (hence the Impressions) so I’m speaking on my current experience 5-10 hours in. I enjoy what direct Armature Studio took this game in terms of its characters.
I truly feel like I have an idea of who each character is as a person after one or two conversations with them. The number of choices can vary throughout individual playthroughs resulting in many different endings.
This is the part of my impressions where I will reveal the personality trait of a side character. If you don’t want to know anything, I suggest skipping over this part. Whit’s Brother is someone who doesn’t enjoy school at all and would rather continue working on his art. He’s a bit of a hothead and stubborn at times, but you can tell there’s someone with good intentions for what he wants out of his life.
I enjoy interacting with almost every character I meet and I enjoy the dialogue written for the most part. There are a few times where certain bubble text can be way too cheesy for me but it’s all a matter of personal taste.
My concern with this game is that I fear it may be a bit longer than it needs to be. I’m not done with the game yet and I feel it’s already starting to drag a bit. A game can go however long it needs to tell a story but in the end, it’s all about how it’s all executed and I feel the length may be a blight to the overall experience.
One thing that won’t get a complaint from me is the art direction. As you’ve seen from the above images, Where The Heart Leads has a distinct art style. It’s by far my favorite aspect of this game and to say it simply, the game is a joy to look at most of the time.
In my experience, Where The Heart Leads is a relatively bug-free game, except for one big issue that cost me a couple of days of playtime. At the start of the game, there’s an area where you have to crawl through a small crevice to continue to progress. The problem is I literally couldn’t go through the crevice to continue my playthrough. As far as I know, I’m the only one among the early reviewers who had this issue.
I tried closing the game and restarting it as well as deleting the game completely and reinstalling it, but none of these methods work. It was then suggested that the only way to fix the issue was to start a new playthrough and go back to where I was initially. This method worked, and it didn’t bother me too much considering I wasn’t too far in the game by this point. I didn’t experience any other bugs or glitches besides this one but this bug in particular is something I felt was worth noting.
Where The Heart Leads is an experience that will be right up the alley for some and a complete miss for others. It’s a very specific type of game for what it’s out to accomplish. It’s not a perfect experience, I fear the game may be a tad bit bloated, I do wish there were minor gameplay sequences instead of the walk here and talk routine.
There are bright spots such as the characters as well as the art direction. From what I’ve played, Where The Heart Leads is a mixed bag for me personally. I appreciate some of its aspects considering this game is from an indie studio, I’ll definitely need to play more to give you a definitive opinion but so far this what I felt after a few sessions.