In my opinion, indie games often bring us some of the best narrative experiences. That’s not to say big budget AAA titles can’t have good stories, but I feel they’re usually told on a grander, more epic scale. There’s just something much more intimate about a smaller, more personal story. And We Should Talk crafts a story that’s about as personal as it gets because it reminds us that it’s not always what we say, but how we say it.
The entire story of We Should Talk takes place from a single bar stool and aside from you, the player, there are only four characters throughout the journey. You’ve got Steph, the bartender, who introduces you to the mechanics in a pretty safe setting. There’s Dante, an ex-boyfriend of yours who has come back to the city to appear in a low budget play, and possibly rekindle a relationship with you. And Jimmy, who got stood up for a meet-up and decides to try striking a conversation up with you and maybe get a little lucky. You’ll meet these three face to face, but between each chat with them you’ll be texting your girlfriend, Sam, who is at home cooking your favorite pasta dinner while you’re at a bar chatting with folks.
And chatting with folks is the main mechanic to We Should Talk. While many games simply give you a handful of dialogue options to choose from, We Should Talk allows you to craft your own answers from a variety of options. These are usually done in two or three fragments, and suddenly what could’ve just been three or four choices becomes over forty when you take all the different combinations into consideration. And just altering one part of each sentence can drastically change the direction of the conversation. When Dante asks why you broke up, things will obviously change if you decide to say “I” made a lot of mistakes as opposed to “we” made a lot of mistakes.
We Should Talk is an incredibly short experience. I beat the game in about half an hour. But I want to be clear, there’s so much more to this game than just playing through it once and never touching it again. We Should Talk features nine different endings. In my first playthrough I got what I assumed was the equivalent of the good ending, but when I played through again I got an ending that seemed even more uplifting. It’s definitely interesting to see how only a couple of minor changes on your end can, and will, change the flow of everything.
On my first run, I just tried to be polite to everybody and play things as safe as possible. But that resulted in both Dante and Jimmy being far too forward and making things incredibly awkward. Jimmy seemed like a total creep on my first run, but in future runs you can get to know him a bit better and even become friends with him. Just trying to approach these characters from a different point of view not only changes how they react to what you say, but how they treat you in general, which is pretty cool.
A struggle that I ran into on future runs is that I had a very hard time bringing myself to be a jerk to Sam. Sam is pretty much always depicted as a funny, supportive, and loving partner. You’re the one who decided to go out drinking instead of going home to her. This is definitely something players are going to have to face themselves and even overcome if they want to see everything that game has to offer. There’s a moment pretty early in the game where she says she’s thankful for you and you’re the closest she has to family, and one of your options is to tell her she’s coming on way too strong. There are definitely a lot of options in We Should Talk that let you craft your answers in almost any way you choose. A few places where the game gets real are when you find yourself flipping through every single answer and you realize that none of them sound particularly good.
The game has a warning towards the beginning that the game dives into some heavy subjects, and it definitely does. If you don’t play your cards right, the game discusses matters of racism, abuse, and other topics. We Should Talk does manage to handle these topics fairly well, but if you’re choosing options to get into these discussions in the first place, I have to assume you’re doing so intentionally.
A small complaint I have is that a few moments definitely feel like the person was responding to something I didn’t actually say. Pretty late in the game one of the dialogue options with Sam talks about their relationship feeling doomed. I didn’t pick that sentence fragment, but Sam’s first response was along the lines of “Doomed is a strong word.” These moments were few and far between though and for the most part, We Should Talk does a great job of making its conversations feel organic.
The bar itself feels great, and is even called The Getaway, which seems quite fitting for the game’s themes. I’m not sure if the songs that play in the background were composed for this title or are just some fair use titles, but it’s a good blend of atmospheric club music that I could never remember well enough to hum, but work spectacularly well at setting the mood for the bar.
Overall, We Should Talk is a pretty well done narrative gameplay experience. I think the main mechanic behind it is a lot more interesting than the actual story that it guides along from start to finish, but there’s still a lot to see and definitely more than I bargained for in what was originally such a short experience. If you’re a fan of visual novels and Choose-Your-Own-Adventure style stories, this might be a game for you. Just remember, like I had to do in crafting this review, choose your words carefully.
John reviewed We Should Talk on Steam with a code provided by the developer. The game is also available on itch.io, Playstation 4, Xbox One, and Nintendo Switch.