Harold Halibut turns Starfield’s best side quest into a vividly human world

I by no means love defining one sport with one other, and never least a sport like Harold Halibut, which wears its influences overtly – stop-motion, Wallace and Gromit-style Aardman animations, combined with possibly a little bit of Wes Anderson and in all seriousness, Postman Pat – however which additionally so clearly deserves to be seen as its personal factor.

In this case although it is onerous to disregard: the setup for Harold Halibut is similar to First Contact, arguably essentially the most attention-grabbing mission in Starfield (and one itself closely influenced by a Star Trek: The Next Generation episode known as The Neutral Zone), the place – spoilers! – you uncover a seemingly alien ship lurking in a planet’s orbit, emitting bizarre garbled noises over the radio. You quickly uncover that is really a ship from Earth – just one that is taken a number of hundred years to really get right here, leaving it populated by a load of barely entitled generational descendents of the unique explorers, who’s solely world is the ship’s inside, and solely understanding of humanity that which they will examine within the chosen historical past books and courses they’ve on board.

Harold Halibut screenshot showing Harold silhoutted in a sqaure room contianing a wall-to-wall tank of glowing turqouse liquid

Harold Halibut screenshot showing Harold in a small room full of plant life

Image credit score: Slow Bros. / Eurogamer

As for Harold Halibut, Harold is a lab assistant-cum-janitor on a equally stranded spaceship that has as a substitute turn out to be an underwater enclave, after arriving at a presumed Goldilocks planet that really turned out to don’t have any inhabitable land. Having set off within the late ’70s and since been completely submerged beneath this new planet’s oceans, although, the ship has turn out to be a sort of unusual, alternate-universe time capsule, stuffed with fuzzy CRT screens, intercoms with wobbly sound, and really particular sorts of little England jobsworths. (Much of Harold Halibut, a narrative journey sport about finishing largely mundane duties as a wider, extra existential thriller unfolds, appears like a journey to the native Post Office, the place you are knowledgeable you possibly can’t ship that letter since you’ve positioned your stamp barely too near the label. And that is the flawed sort of envelope.)

With the animation type in thoughts all of it combines into one thing exquisitely tactile – there are great buttons and levers and rotating doorways – and the surroundings design, which feels as very like precise set design, correct prop work, is lavish with element, every room a diorama that is been staged and lit to perfection. It’s an eminently screenshottable sport, as my bursting storage will let you know, however as a lot because it’s tempting simply to linger on the great thing about it – on the little fake chips of paint in Harold’s hair, the confoundingly wooden-yet-fluid animation – the true magic is in how this world’s been fleshed out past its look.

Harold Halibut screenshot showing Harold atop a ladder looking dowan after fixing a neon sign about a general store

Harold Halibut screenshot showing Harold converse with a balding man with a moustache in lovely clay animation style

Harold Halibut screenshot showing Harold chattingh with two NPCs, a police officer and a child

Harold Halibut screenshot showing Harold in a neon pink themed gaming arcade store

Image credit score: Slow Bros. / Eurogamer

Halibut’s world is wealthy and, unusually, for such a sparsely populated commune within the far nook of the universe, bustling with life. It’s a testomony to the ability of writing as a lot as type, in how its characters every really feel uniquely deep and humorous and really humanly bizarre, and the way nicely it captures the vivid small-world syndrome of village life, contained however completely preserved underwater right here like a closed terrarium. Like Starfield or Star Trek, it is taken an attention-grabbing thought experiment and ran with it – however past Starfield or Star Trek, it is given that concept time and area to linger, and in doing so allowed a entire ecosystem of life to blossom out. Don’t sleep on it.

For extra Next Fest highlights here is Ian attempting out 10 totally different VR demos.Watch on YouTube

This piece is a part of Wishlisted, a week-long sequence on Eurogamer masking a few of our favorite video games from February 2024’s Steam Next Fest. You can learn all the opposite items from the sequence at our Wishlisted hub.

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