Previewed on PC
Road to Guangdong takes you on a road trip as Sunny, where you’re headed to your newly inherited restaurant with your Aunt Guu Ma by your side. It’s a long but relaxing drive for you as you listen to the radio through the coastal Guangdong province of China, however, it’s far more intense for your weathered family car, Sandy. It’ll up to you to care for the car as much as the newly inherited restaurant you’re driving towards, whilst meeting relatives and rekindling relationships along the way.
You’ll be driving down a lot of roads in Road to Guangdong, as the name might imply. However, whilst you’ll be doing a lot of driving, it is the conversations you’ll have along the way that will make the journey truly memorable. In the short demo that we played, you stop at your uncle’s Kung Fu school where you’re given the first taste of the dialogue system’s depth. Every conversation is structured around a robust choice system which will let you shape your character and their relationships. Although typical dialogue choices are seen in so many games, Road to Guangdong takes it a step further with a supplementary system which is driven by information and context. In each location, you’ll be able to glean information, that you can then apply to further the games story, through new dialogue options.
Whilst this supplementary system looks to present a vast array of possibilities – where conversations can evolve with information, as well as things you pick up on becoming valuable later on – what I saw in the demo left a lot to be desired. Whilst the dialogue system seemed to present freedom in when you could apply what you’ve learned, the uses were ultimately very rigid and predefined. In the demo, these choices only came into play after every other conversation tree has been exhausted, which took away the excitement from learning a new piece of information, as until everything was done, you knew you did not have the full picture that was required to continue the story.
Despite the dialogue system falling a little flat in the demo I played, it still shows a lot of strong possibilities which could make the game a deeply interesting narrative adventure. The Steam page boasts of ‘narrative puzzles and moral choices as you select dialogue and shape Sunny’s character’ which were missing from the demo, however, with the potentially advanced dialogue system, they’re undoubtedly a possibility that we look forward to.
Whilst the narrative may the be focus of Road to Guangdong, the driving is at the heart of the experience. Once you’re done in a location, you’ll be able to get back on the road and drive along to the next stop. You’ll follow the winding path that stretches out in front of you in a calm and serene experience, as you’re the only car on the road. This lets you focus on the journey rather than worrying about what’s coming up on the road ahead, allowing you to monitor the condition of your car and enjoy the beautifully colourful low-poly scenery that Guangdong, China has to offer.
Should you run out of fuel or oil on your journey, or your car becomes damaged, you’ll need to pull over and refuel or repair. Thankfully, you’re able to do this anywhere, whether it be in the middle lane of a highway or the side of a country road as when fixing up your car, you’re brought into a separate world where you can perform the needed maintenance. Whilst this is functional, it makes Road to Guangdong feel much less like a connected experience and more like a series of vaguely related events, as repairing your car takes you away from the quiet world of the road.
In the demo build I had time with, Road to Guangdong is not free from the oddities of glitches and bugs. Whilst nothing I encountered was game breaking, it was certainly an interesting sight to behold when the houses that were meant to be beside the road started floating above it. The draw distance in the build we had time with was also rather unusual, as you’re able to watch the street lamps flash into existence on the road in front of you. However, when speaking to the developers at EGX, they noted this themselves, so it will likely be fixed before release. In the demo I played, you don’t actually arrive at any points along your journey, which takes a lot out of the experience. Instead after a predetermined time on the road, your menu will pop up, telling you’ve arrived and automatically placing you there. This furthers the feeling of the world being disconnected, so it would be wonderful to see this changed in the final release.
Road to Guangdong presents a lot of promising opportunities with its peaceful driving and unique dialogue system which we hope will be taken to great heights in the full game. However, it has plenty of technical problems in its current build which will need to be fixed. If you enjoyed Jalopy but were hankering for a story to drive you through the game, then Road to Guangdong will take you to where you need to go. You’ll be able to get Road to Guangdong on Steam here when it releases on May 16th.