‘Virginia’ is a surreal, sci-fi thriller that feels like a video game version of ‘Twin Peaks’

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505 Games/Variable State

Though many modern video games are epic adventures that can take upwards of 50 hours to complete, there’s been a surge in recent years of small, intimate games that can be completed in just a couple of short hours.

Since these games are made by small teams with limited budgets, it’s easy to overlook them in favor of something like “Grand Theft Auto,” which can afford giant billboards and flashy TV commercials.

In truth, however, it’s a space in which some of the most inventive, ambitious storytelling in the gaming industry is happening.

One such game is “Virginia,” a new first-person narrative game from a studio called Variable State. It takes many stylistic cues from ’90s sci-fi crime noir, like “Twin Peaks” or “The X-Files,” but those are really just a jumping off point for a game that tells a story unlike anything else I’ve ever experienced.

This is “Virginia.”


You play as Anne Tarver, a recently-graduated FBI agent who’s been assigned to a missing person case in a small, rural town.

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505 Games/Variable State

“Virginia” never tells you any of these things outright, though. The game itself is entirely devoid of dialogue.

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505 Games/Variable State

You might catch a glimpse of text in a newspaper, or read what someone is typing on screen, but “Virginia” puts a lot of trust in you to put the pieces together.

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505 Games/Variable State

“Virginia” plays out in a series of linear scenes, like a movie, so you won’t ever make huge decisions. Your agency as a player takes a backseat to the narrative experience. But that’s not bad.

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505 Games/Variable State

The game embraces its filmic roots, using quick cuts and other techniques to bump up against the limits of what most people imagine a video game can be.

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505 Games/Variable State

Since the game is in a first-person perspective, it feels like you’re really occupying the space with the game’s other characters.

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505 Games/Variable State

During scenes with Anne’s partner, Maria Halperin, I found myself examining her every movement and facial expression, trying to glean what she was thinking and feeling.

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505 Games/Variable State

“Virginia” will often cut to another scene without warning, so I was always reading the room and its characters as quickly as I could, hunting for hidden clues about what was going on in the story.

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505 Games/Variable State

Its scenes are often ambiguous and surreal. Two people could walk away from “Virginia” with very different interpretations of its events. Things like “Twin Peaks” and “The X-Files” are clearly big influences here.

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505 Games/Variable State

Though it’s impossible to convey visually, it’s worth noting that “Virginia” has a stellar soundtrack, performed by the City of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra. It imbues “Virginia” with a quiet tension, filling in emotional beats where the game’s absent dialogue cannot.

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505 Games/Variable State

So, if you’ve finished all of “Stranger Things” and need a new sci-fi thriller to dig into, check out “Virginia.” It’s a great way to spend a night.

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505 Games/Variable State

“Virginia” costs $10 and is available PS4, Xbox One, and PC/Mac.

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505 Games/Variable State