PEGBRJE: Pendula Swing: The Complete Journey
The Great Gatsby gets fantastical.
Pendula Swing: The Complete Journey is a point and click RPG made by Valiant Game Studio, a Swedish indie studio. Players witness the origins and life of Brialynne Donu Tenúm, considered the greatest dwarven hero of the world, as she lives out her life on a tiny island mourning the death of her wife. However, she will soon be thrust into a strange and fantastical modern world after a prized possession is stolen from her, and must come to grips with the fact that time has moved on without her over the past 350 years.
This new world is unfamiliar to Brialynne, but in order retrieve what rightfully belongs to her she will do whatever necessary to get it back. To do so, players will be controlling Brialynne in a 3D point-and-click style environment, interacting with any objects that she can find in order for the player to gain backstory or to gain the item in the inventory. They have free roam of the the world itself to wander and explore, with hundreds of people to talk to and understand their plights. In all honesty, I’d consider it an RPG as much as it is a ‘Point and click’, for players not only have decisions that they need to make based on the conversations they have but also an entire log of ‘quests’ and clues to hunt for and solve. Players can even customize how Brialynne dresses, either to match the times of the day or stick with what she knows, while also altering the ‘equipment’ of her person for style. There is no combat or violence thanks to Brialynne’s hero status — it would be hard to get away with violence with the media coverage and her blatant hero strength — making Pendula Swing a non-violent RPG narrative that actually delivers on focusing on dialogue and decisions rather than violence or stealth.
In this scenario I’ve painted, this means that Pendula Swing is completely living or dying by its story and let me tell you: there’s a lot of it. Brialynne has essentially walked into what we’d consider the Roaring 20s, complete with all of the social movements and political commentary that are sometimes forgotten in the heat of the speakeasies and prohibition. As she hasn’t been in a ‘civilized’ location for nearly 400 years, Brialynne has absolutely no idea of what is going on with this world besides the preconceived notions and opinions she had when the Big Bad of the world was an orc, and goblins were just savages. Current day, however, with the modernization of cities and livelihoods, all of the races are rapidly clashing together in a different style of war that isn’t quite as obvious as one with swords and magic. The moment she returns to the now bustling city of Duberdon, she is greeted by an immigration station resembling the infamous Ellis Island. Before she arrives, the tone hints at the world leaving behind her uncomfortable preconceived notions, but it is on this immigration island that players are informed quite bluntly that Brialynne is in for a ride.
It’s hard to completely cover everything within this title, especially narratively, due to the sheer size of Pendula Swing. The game was released episodically at first, ending at Episode 7, and this version being the completely bundled and refashioned edition. The city is filled with different racial, social, economic and political tensions based on the many rapidly developing issues that were brought to light during the 1920s, from the acceptance of different cultural norms (or lack thereof) to the stark differences in working conditions. There’s the racial tensions personified with Orcs and Goblins, races that were originally loathed and killed by the Dwarves, Elves and Humans, now all mingling together and bringing their cultures to the big city but being suppressed and cast down low by bigotry. Cultures and livelihoods are being left behind in a fury of dust as industrialization grips the city, with innate magical users unable to adapt and being left without work due to the advances of human sciences. Racial stereotypes run rampant between all 5 races, with nobody safe from preconceived notions of superiority or inferiority as humans dominate the societal discourse. Brialynne, as one from a simpler time, is understandably swamped; but that doesn’t have to stop her from making a difference with her influence.
Of course, it isn’t all terribly bigoted and destructive — cultures form from the mingling of different cultures to create new experiences for all, which can be seen by Brialynne and solidified. Speakeasies allowed for the intermingling of races all under the same shared banner of just wanting to get wasted and have fun. Love can spark between any and all, as Brialynne can attest for there are even romanceable options for her to pursue of all races and creeds. Society may frown, but ultimately cannot stop the winds of change as people come together and forge bonds of friendship and romance. Brialynne is witness to it all, and as I mentioned before her influence as a mythical adventurer can be used for assisting people and breaking down barriers as she hopes to reclaim her stolen possession. Of course, this is completely up to the player’s choices — this is an RPG after all, meaning that how players wish to deal with the social issues surrounding them will be up to them. Some of the decisions don’t even have to be morally damning; my favourite is in the opening episode where I settled a dispute between two vendors by somehow getting them to go on a date together. Love truly knows no bounds.
I know I’ve talked a lot about the narrative, but trust me when I say that this is just a vague overview of the general topics at hand; what solidifies the experience of Pendula Swing is in the individuals and their struggles. It is easy to look at an issue in society and ignore it, but it becomes difficult when individuals struggling with that issue are given a voice with relatability. There are hundreds of individuals with struggles that Brialynne can interact with, all ranging from those at the top of the food chain to the very bottom, from explicit racists to unintentional bigots to those struggling to have time for bigotry. They all have their faults, even the purist of souls, and that’s what makes them real (can’t say human since… well, they all aren’t). Brialynne’s decisions may not change everyone’s lives, but help she light on each individuals problems and how each solution given doesn’t necessarily solve the overarching issue they are facing.
The story is the key draw to Pendula Swing, bringing life to an era that many alive today simply could not have witnessed and giving it a fantastical twist to assist in the allegories. To help with the story, the backdrops of the city landscape are utterly gorgeous. It brings the architectural styles of the era, clashing the neoclassical columns of the mayor’s house and the fountains throughout the city with the hints of Art Deco in buildings and skyscrapers which would pave the way for modernism in later years. It’s a treat to wander and explore, bringing different layers of the city to life as players can explore it entirely. I wasn’t a big fan of the character models in the portraits, but that’s mostly a minor issue that I easily overlooked. The soundtrack of jazz and blues fusion in different regions of the city reinforced the era, and honestly I just had fun going between the regions.
It can be a bit heavy handed at times, but Pendula Swing: The Complete Journey is a fantastic adventure to trek through. The contrast of Brialynne’s simplicity and straightforward attitude with the complexity of the newly created city life helps to build up both focal points, as Brialynne is forced to realize that the Duberdon she remembers is no more. There is much to see and do in this new world, and you get to join Brialynne for the ride and help her shape the interactions. Will she fall into the stereotypes, or swing completely the opposite way? If this adventure sounds like your perfect afternoon, I strongly recommend giving this a try. It is by no means short — 7 episodes after all — but will take you on a jazz filled journey that you won’t forget.