Earlier this year visual novel Over the Hills and Far Away failed to get funding on Kickstarter, landing at just around a third of their asking goal. However, undeterred WarGirl Games went to Patreon to get the game funded and it was finally released in September. Having very nearly backed the original campaign myself I took the chance and gave it a spin. And with only a couple personal issues with it I found it to be a most enjoyable experience.
Over the Hills and Far Away tells the story of a British soldier and a young Shawnee girl as they both sit out the pouring rain in an abandoned barn during the War of 1812. Aubrey, the redcoat, has deserted what was left of his regiment and has headed south to try to get away from the war and possibly start a new life for himself. He’d be taken captive, or worse, by the American forces and tried as a traitor by his own kinsmen so the only thing that he can do is run. And hope he’s not found.
Mia, the native girl, is discovered as he seeks shelter from the storm and to try to dress his wound as well as he can until he reaches civilization. Pointing his flintlock musket at her, she doesn’t flinch. She doesn’t even speak English to him for some time, preferring to either stay quiet or talk in her native tongue. She doesn’t fear Aubrey and she certainly doesn’t trust him. They do find themselves quite at odds with each other most of the time, but there are moments of kindness and compassion on each others’ part. Which makes these two characters so very much human.
What I love so much about Over the Hills and Far Away is how they weave such a personal story together, with just two people from quite different worlds dealing with each other and their outlook on life. Mia distrusts the white man for good reason, for both American and British forces treat her people like fodder. And Aubrey’s outlook towards Indians are colored by the tales spread of them as savages.
As they spend more time cooped up in the barn, waiting out the downpour they are at times ready to smack each other around for being hard to deal with and at other times they almost feel like they care. By the end of the game you really start to feel for the two. And the ending is such a tear jerker that it’s worth spending a couple hours reading through the interactions and internal monologues. Especially when outside forces force them to realize just what they mean to each other.
If there’s one problem that I have with Over the Hills and Far Away is that I don’t really consider it a game. I barely even see it as a visual novel. Because unlike most games in the genre there are no branching paths. I’d probably call it more of a graphic novel than anything. Still, even though there’s no interaction with the characters themselves the story more than makes up for this shortcoming. If you care more about story than gameplay then you should really check this one out.