Around the World in Eighty Days, by Jules Verne, is one of the classics of literature. It’s been adapted into plays and countless films and other media, but not so many video games. Well, 80 Days changes that!
Genre(s): Adventure | Strategy
Developer inkle Ltd.
Publisher: inkle Ltd.
Release Date: September 2015
Played Main Story (Lost the bet!)
Much like the book, the game opens with Passepartout’s employer, Phineas Fogg, accepting a wager to go around the world in eighty days. Your master gives you a bit of money to set the first trip and get everything you need, a role you’ll take over for the entire duration of your journey while still taking care of your duties as a valet and making sure you find the proper routes to get around the world as fast as possible.
80 Days is both an adventure and strategy game, as you’ll have to manage several resources. The first is time. You have 80 days to make it around the world and back to London to collect on your winnings from your bet. Each day takes a few minutes so you can finish the game in just a few hours. You need to make sure the trips you’re taking get you as far as possible in the least amount of time.
The second resource is money. You start with £4000 and by buying and selling stuff from markets in the different cities you can recoup your losses and pay for some of the more expensive trips. You can also get money from banks but those funds are very limited and usually take up a few days to get.
The last resource is Fogg’s health. Long trips, uncomfortable and even perilous ones will take a toll on his health and if he reaches 0, game over. As his Valet you need to make sure he’s always in good spirits, from giving him tea or attending to his needs when you stay at hotels.
From the start, the game can be incredibly challenging. You’ll often get items in markets that sell well in other cities but unless you take or find the routes to those cities they’ll only take up inventory space and be a waste of money. You can fill your suitcases with different clothing sets for the different types of journey—land, air, sea, stormy, deserts, etc.—but unless you have those routes, they will also be a waste of space.
Every playthrough is vastly different which adds to the replay value and makes these mechanics work differently. For example, during my first one I bought and sold valuable items early on getting up to £15000, which I then lost more than halfway through when my characters suffered an accident on board a flying ship. On my second and current playthrough however, I couldn’t find anything good to sell and have had to hit the bank so often they’re barely doling out any cash.
When you finally select a route, which might leave the same day or the day after—or even more if you’re not willing to spend money to negotiate timetables—you’ll embark on your journey. Depending on the vehicle these might be slower as well. Over the course of the trip you’ll have several obligatory scenarios that range from conversations with passengers or Fogg to whodunit moments and even some romance for our dear Passepartout. On the way you’ll also have the chance to engage in other conversations to find routes, tips on items to sell and even improve your relationship with Fogg or change something in the Valet. Lastly you can dote on Fogg to help his health, which is almost necessary during the longer trips.
I’ve gone on some long trips in the game and used all these options, and missed some, and they’re extremely useful. I found routes and better sales, Passpartout became more courageous and I discovered more about this strange version of our world, with automatons and gas powered skyships.
I think the best thing about this game is how much your choices matter. One wrong route, one wrong decision in a conversation and your 80 Days will be up. If you mess things up with Fogg he won’t back you up in certain conversations or fewer dialogue options will show up. If Passepartout doesn’t become courageous by your choices, then he’ll have fewer options in critical situations. Finally if you don’t have the right items in your inventory, long trips will kick Fogg’s butt. And beyond the strategy, your choices determine how the story unfolds. Passepartout is the one telling the story of this journey and you can choose, at certain points, what he focuses on when describing something. Does he speak of how Paris is in shambles after the war, or how the people endure or perhaps how he remembers the city from his childhood? These choices make your story and playthrough unique and it’s frankly fantastic.
And it’s addictive. I started my first playthrough and couldn’t stop until I made it back to London. I’d lost the bet but I still had to make it to the end and now I’m on my second playthrough, on Day 35 and well on my way through Asia.
Part of what makes the trips so good is the strong writing. Every scenario and character you find are intriguing and the many ways things can end just makes you want to go back for more. This isn’t our world, it’s a steampunk version of it where there are military automatons controlled by music, robot car drivers covering their true nature and carriages pulled by steam and clockwork horses. The Trans-Syberia train is a mag-lev train, travelling at ludicrous speeds across the harsh cold wilderness of Russia, even going over water. This is a world where Colombia comes under attack from the French, Japan and Russia go to war and you find yourself in the middle of all of it.
I would love to get my hand on a book, an encyclopedia of this strange and wondrous world because I know there are so many stories to tell and I’ll keep going back to it until I’ve read them all!
This is a game with a simple visual style, everything brought to you in still images and conversation bubbles but the hand-drawn art is intricately detailed. From the pictures of ships to the ones you find in cities, the artwork draws you in long enough for the writing to hook you. Along with it is the powerful soundtrack. The trips are usually quiet but every time you find a route there a wonderfully exciting jingle to go with it and every city has its own identifying melody. The main theme is also fantastic, a piece that just makes you feel like you’re going on a great adventure.
The only flaws I found in 80 Days were the inventory system and some sluggishness in text.
You will often need to buy timetables for the different regional routes but they take up inventory space, a lot of it and as it’s never clear if you need to keep them on you at all time to keep the routes. This might not seem like an inconvenience but there are too many trips where you can only carry two pieces of luggage so anything else you’ve bought will have to be sold off or discarded before you can go, wasting some of your investments and leading to a great deal of frustration. Some signposting might have been good on this or more flexibility on the number of suitcases to carry or make the timetables not take up inventory.
As a (mostly) text-based adventure, you’ll be reading a lot and for the most part the text pops up quickly, which suited me perfectly as I’m a fast reader. But at certain spots, perhaps for dramatic effect, both the story and conversation options slow down to a crawl. Going to the bank is a perfect example. Depending on your finances this is something you might need to do more than once and the choices never change, look at the bank or the bank manager, yet every time the choices take a long time to show up, as if there was something extremely dramatic about it. With such strong writing, the developer didn’t need to do this to add a feeling of apprehensiveness to situations.
80 Days is a phenomenal adventure strategy game, and one I’ll probably play for a long time hoping to find more of this fantastic alternate world and trying to win that damn wager!
4.5/5 – Amazing!