Postmortem: one must die (Extended Cut) Review

Ladies and gentlemen, the moment you've all been waiting for!

  • Developer: Jakub Kasztalski/Unbound Creations
  • Publisher: Jakub Kasztalski/Unbound Creations
  • Release Date: 15 August 2013
  • Time played: 1 hour

Postmortem: one must die (Extended Cut) (not to be confused with Post Mortem, the 2003 point 'n' click adventure game by Microïds) was released on Steam a bit over a year ago now and advertised as a "narrative-adventure" where you play someone akin to the Grim Reaper. The game description states that the "fate of a conflict-torn nation" could potentially be changed by the one life you choose to take. The game also claims to have elements of The Walking Dead, Gone Home, The Last Express and To The Moon - which is a pretty big claim to make, at least with respect to The Walking Dead and To The Moon - two games I rate highly.

Its references to such esteemed games intrigued me so I decided to give it a go. Does Postmortem: one must die hold up to classic games like The Walking Dead and To The Moon? Or is it all a marketing gimmick?

Plot (5/5)
In Postmortem: one must die you play the role of an agent of Death, a grim reaper, Manny Calavera. You get the picture. Basically you're instructed to end the life of someone at a gala but you're given the choice of whose life to end. Apparently, the nation that the mansion belongs to is going through an industrial revolution of sorts and there are the progressive industrialists known as the "Newagers" that are at ends with the conservative, lower socioeconomic group known as the "Oldagers". Tensions are high between these two factions and the country is on the brink of civil disorder. Each of the guests at the gala will have a role to play in the the way the nation heads and each have differing views of the major factions along with differing ideas on how the country should develop as a whole.

The fictional nation that Postmortem is set in is a well developed and believable one and so are the characters you meet at the gala. Each of them aren't actually saints and they all have their strengths, weaknesses and inner turmoil. Just like in real life, their views aren't necessarily black or white. For example, one of the characters actually supports both the Newager and Oldager factions, preferring the economic policies of one but the cultural policies of the other. I enjoyed having the moral/ethical debates with the characters, it's what made the games such as The Walking Dead and even BioWare RPGs such as Mass Effect or Knights of the Old Republic all the more interesting.

Gameplay (3/5)
As mentioned before, you play the role of an agent of Death and have been given the task to end someone's life at a gala you're visiting. If you want, you can kill someone as soon as you arrive, making the game terribly short but I guess it's an appealing choice for those that believe things should be decided by chance. Alternatively, you can dig up information around the house such as reading newspapers and conversing with the guests. There are only a few characters you can talk to but they have rather deep conversation trees and the choices you make really have an impact on the characters. Your responses will end up encouraging or discouraging certain behaviour which have an impact on the epilogue, after you finally decide to kill someone.

Obviously, killing someone also has an impact on the ending but if you're not just using blind luck to pick the victim it's not going to be easy to pick who should die. What I found in my first playthrough is that even though I had the best intentions when picking my target, something I said to someone whom I thought wasn't anyone of any importance turned out to be quite important in the epilogue. Not only that, but something I said to him made things much more chaotic for the nation than I would've liked. This is the game's strength and something I'd love to see in all RPGs and adventure games - the ability to have a lasting impact on the world based on your conversations and actions.

Unfortunately, the game suffers from the same flaws as all games from the visual novel genre and even The Walking Dead to a degree. Besides picking what you say during your conversations with characters, there isn't much else in terms of gameplay. So if you don't like wordy debates about politics, you're definitely not going to like this game. If you do however, this game might be right up your alley.

Sound (4/5)
The game has a distinct lack of sound effects. There is only a handful that get played including introductory voice samples when you engage in conversation with the characters (similar to Baldur's Gate) but nothing more. I would've liked to see a bit more work done with the sound effects maybe even some voice over work although considering how much dialogue there is that would've probably increased the cost and size of the game considerably.

Music (3/5)
Apparently there are composers for this game but a lot of the music sounds like your run-of-the-mill public domain classical music. Don't get me wrong, I love classical music and it suits the game well but it would've been nice if something more original was done, similar to what happened with The Yawhg.

Graphics (4/5)
I like the character portraits in this game and the rest of the artwork is good. The walking animations for the characters however are pretty basic (it looks like they're skating around the floor all the time) and it would've been nice if they supported higher resolutions; everything looked a bit blocky on a 1920x1080 screen.

Replay (2/5)
The game actually has quite a bit of replay value as the game has multiple endings, similar to The Yawhg. The difference in Postmortem: one must die is that the outcomes will be dictated mostly by your words rather than your actions (except for the having to choose someone to die part).

On the downside, the game takes less than an hour to complete - although this may chance depending on how much investigating you do and how fast you are at reading. Also, Postmortem: one must die is another of those games that would benefit greatly from Steam achievements but sadly has none. Imagine being awarded an achievement for each outcome you brought about for the nation? Sounds like a good idea to me.

So is he "quite" the guy or is he a "quiet" guy?

Polish (4/5)
The interface is passable and there aren't any serious bugs that I encountered except I came across quite a few spelling mistakes which are quite glaring considering this is a game that is rich with dialogue.

Score – 7/10

Postmortem: one must die can be best described as a political debate visual novel. While it doesn't quite adopt the usual same visual format as an.. er... visual novel, just like a visual novel, the only real gameplay element is what you choose to say during conversations. However, unlike any visual novels I've played, this game deals with political debate, and covers ethical and moral dilemmas, which is something I'd love to see more of in games. On the downside, the game is rather short and it's not doing itself any favours with its lack of Steam achievements. Low production values are also quite evident too.

If you're still uncertain whether to get the Extended Cut, the original version of the game is absolutely free from the developer's website. As far as I know the only difference between the original and the Extended Cut is the addition of an extra character and some bonus material like development docs, artwork and wallpapers. If you like what you see though, I'd recommend purchasing the Extended Cut.

Postmortem: one must die (Extended Cut) is available from these retailers:

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[ LINK: Official Postmortem: one must die website ]