Where The Heart Leads (PS4) Review - A Moving Narrative Adventure With Real Soul That Never, Ever Lets You Down

 PS4 Review: Where The Heart Leads I've spent a lot of time playing narrative-driven games and have had some moving moments along the way. But until I finished Where The Heart Leads, no game had ever made me cry during the credits.

Where The Heart Leads (PS4) Review - A Moving Narrative Adventure With Real Soul That Never, Ever Lets You Down

Where The Heart Leads is a true masterwork from Armature Studio, focusing on life, the decisions we make, the friends and family we connect with, and the slow end to everything that awaits us as we grow old and grey.

I'm not sure if it was the moment I finished the game, where I was personally at the time, or what, but Where The Heart Leads and the way it tells its story makes you care about every single person within it touched me in a way that no other game has. So, once the credits rolled, I went down to my fridge, opened up a beer, and began writing this review, explaining why my experience playing Where The Heart Leads was so memorable.

PS4 Review: Where The Heart Leads

A Cast to Get Along With

Whit, a guy residing in the town of Carthage in the United States of America, is the protagonist of Where The Heart Leads. Whit is trapped deep within a network of caverns that twist and contort all around him when a freak storm forms a massive sinkhole outside his house, leaving his partner Rene and two children, Alex and Kate, on the surface while he is deep within a system of caverns that twis and contort all around him.

On his way back to the surface, he takes an ethereal voyage into his past, through the events that created him, and into his future, through the events that will still to occur. On this voyage, you will meet Whit and his family at various stages of their lives, from young teens experiencing their first taste of love to empty nest parents living off the extra time (and lack of dependents), constructing a sustainable life for themselves long into their retirement years.

Armature's method of letting you jump into Whit and Rene's lives, his brother Sege's career opportunities and unique perspective, and catching up with everyone in town to see where they've been since you last saw them is brilliant, as you gradually build up your connection with them and learn to love everyone in their own way one scene at a time.

Sege may cause more difficulties than he solves, but he is your brother at the end of the day. You can sense every effort Armature has put in to bring that feeling to life in Where The Heart Leads, whether it's through superb writing that properly depicts everyone's characters or the emotive and fitting soundtrack that flawlessly complements each scenario.

There are plenty of scenarios in the game that do this, but over the course of my ten hours with it, I built true bonds with every member of Whit's family and friendship circle, and I was deeply invested in their futures.

Harmoniously Intertwined Gameplay And Narrative

That effort is aided by the gameplay, which has you wandering around various stages in Whit's life, connecting with everyone who was present at the time and simply conversing with them. You find out about their personalities, interests, hobbies, crushes, and even adversaries. Where The Heart Leads is the first time Armature has been able to accurately portray the process of learning about someone, growing to like them, or just becoming friends with them.

So many games promise that you'll feel "close to your buddies," "create important relationships," and so on. But, despite the hype, none of those games are ever truly capable of doing so, whereas Where The Heart Leads does so smoothly and readily.

It's a game that's devoid of spectacle but all the more unforgettable for it. Part of this is due to the game's reliance on giving advise and making decisions that have considerably greater short- and long-term consequences than anything Telltale could achieve at the time.

You become Whit because you take over his thoughts, give him counsel in a variety of scenarios, and as a result, Whit is you, especially if you play the game as I did, making the choices you would in the situations he is confronted with. These decisions are significant and have a wide range of consequences; they are never black or white.

They're all very, very grey, and they feel like real-life decisions that we all have to make. It made me think about how what I've said in the past has affected individuals, their outcomes, and whether or not the counsel I gave was sound.

The outstanding writing between all of the characters also contributes to making these decisions fascinating and the resulting relationships worthwhile to engage in. Sure, some of the gameplay sections are a touch stale, and I believe there are a few too many scenes in general, but when you consider the entire experience, Armature's achievement in fusing the narrative and gameplay of Where The Heart Leads is unrivaled.

A Story To Tell The Existence Story

As I stated at the outset of this review, no game has ever taken me through such a rollercoaster of emotions as Where The Heart Leads. I was on the verge of tears throughout the game's lengthy epilogue until I reached the final scene, at which point my tear ducts damn broke.

At the age of 21, as someone about to leave their youth behind and make the entire journey into adulthood, Where The Heart Leads is a game that will affect my future decisions and resonated with me unlike anything else I've ever experienced.

It's given me a glimpse into adulthood, showing me how thrilling it can be but simultaneously showing me how uncertain it can be. It made me realize how much of our existence is poised on a tightrope, and how one minor storm may bring the entire edifice crashing down.

Most importantly, it reminded me to be grateful for every opportunity I have and the time I spend with the people I care about, whether it's when I'm at home with my family or when I'm out with friends and we're all dancing and laughing together at 4 a.m. It taught me to appreciate the good things that life has to offer rather than sit on the sidelines. Ever.

Because, in all honesty, life isn't always great and cheerful, but the relationships I establish with people and the times we enjoy together will make my life truly valuable. I've never seen a game capture the entirety of existence in such a way as Where The Heart Leads did, and in such a way that so deeply resonated with me. Where The Heart Leads has given me a fresh perspective on life that I didn't realize I needed.

A Story To Remember For A Lifetime

I'm not sure how to end this review or sum up my feelings on Where The Heart Leads because I started crying again while writing this review when discussing the game's themes. Anyway, Armature has developed one of the best narrative experiences I've ever had, and one that you should enjoy as well if you want a deep, meticulous, and resonant look at life and its various complexity.

Whether it's the loss of elderly loved ones and the regret that you couldn't do more, or the conflicts between friends and siblings, or even the minor friendships you have with John Doe down the road, Where The Heart Leads touches on it all, and in a manner that few games can.

It's an event that will shape my perspective on the decades ahead of me, as well as make me reflect on the years I've already lived and whether or not I did the correct thing at the time.

Where The Heart Leads was a highly personal experience for me, one that left me exhilarated about life's potential, scared about the unknown, and terrified of how fleeting it all is. I can't promise yours will be the same, but Where The Heart Leads is an experience that everyone should have at least once, just to see whether it has any lasting effects.

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