About Where the Heart Leads
Once Upon A Time...
Where the Heart Leads is a narrative game developed and published by Armature Studio. Exploring the emotional highs and lows of Whit Anderson’s life, the game explores the impact simple conversations can have on people’s lives. The game was released on July 12, 2021, and is available on PS4 and PS5.
Choose Your Friends’ Adventure
On a stormy night, Whit makes the courageous decision to save his dog Casey from falling into a sinkhole that has opened up on his family’s farm. As a result, Whit finds himself tossed into a surreal journey that visits pivotal moments in Whit’s life, both from the past and the future.
With more than a dozen different endings, the player will lead Whit through conversations whose responses will shape the lives of Whit’s loved ones. Where the Heart Leads has over 20 hours of gameplay and a script of more than 600,000 words.
Concept Rating: 4/5
A Beautiful Journey
The surreal world you explore throughout the game is gorgeous, often reminiscent of a watercolor painting. It’s not afraid to use dark and moody colors, or (in contrast) bright and cheery ones to reflect the tone. The only issue is that assets like trees or buildings sometimes get in the way, blocking the player’s view of Whit or where they’re headed.
While choosing not to have voice-overs for a script of over 600,000 words is understandable, Where the Heart Leads doesn’t contain any voice acting at all. For so much reading, a few lines of voiced dialogue would do well to break up the monotony and help draw the player back into the game.
Luckily, the game’s soundtrack helps breathe life into each scene, perfectly surrounding the player to highlight each emotional beat without drawing too much attention to itself.
Graphics & Audio Rating: 4/5
Words, Words, Words
To speak of gameplay for Where the Heart Leads is to speak of its story. As with most narrative-driven games, it’s seeped in heavy emotions, though lighter moments still peek out here and there.
The story itself is slow at first but starts to pick up the pace midway through. Players are free to explore any character’s storyline in any order, despite the game being split into chapters. One point to be aware of is that starting a conversation with a character can prompt an important decision out of nowhere. Often it’s most beneficial to look around and find clues to get a better idea of the full context of what decision you’ll be speaking into existence.
Despite any monotony in gameplay (as it’s all reading), Armature Studio has done an outstanding job to make players feel a genuine connection to the game’s characters. It’s a feat often boasted of but rarely realized. Where the Heart Leads, however, has created a story that creates these bonds only through words, perfectly recreating what it feels like to get to know someone.
Gameplay Rating: 4/5
Makes You Think
With so many endings to discover, Where the Heart Leads offers some great replay value. This is especially true, as there are no black or white outcomes, and it has the potential for players to reflect on how their own choices and words have had an impact on their loved ones in real life and may continue to do so.
Replayability Rating: 4/5
Where the Heart Leads is a narrative game that takes a close, unblinking look at the repercussions our own choices and words have on the lives of those around us.