Most visual novels are hearty affairs, consuming tens of hours of your time to reach a conclusion. Not Gnosia. You can beat Gnosia in 5-15 minutes. Or at least one loop of it.
Finding yourself on a drifting spaceship, Gnosia presents you with a problem. One or more passengers have been infected by an alien, a Gnos. Now Gnosia, unless they’re identified and put into cold sleep, will kill the others on board one by one, until no humans are left. Only one person can be put into cold sleep each day, however, and who’s selected largely depends on how a group discussion consisting of five rounds plays out.
Sometimes you may have a good idea of the identity of a Gnosia, but can you win the others around to your line of thought? The game ends once all Gnosia have been put into cold sleep, or there are no conscious human passengers left for the Gnosia to kill. Even earlier if you’re killed by the Gnosia or chosen to be put into cold sleep.
Being a visual heart at its heart, you don’t do much in Gnosia other than read dialogue and occasionally speak up for yourself. In fact, when you first start playing, you might suspect the game to be woefully basic. In the spaceship’s main control room where the decision who to put into cold sleep each day is made, you’ll likely take a backseat for the most part, letting others speak up about their suspicions. You can speak up to defend or agree with someone if you like, or even take the initiative to cast doubt on or cover a fellow passenger. Speak up too much, however, and you may bring unwanted attention upon yourself.
In the early stages, it can all be a bit bewildering and repetitive. You don’t really know much about your fellow passengers or the situation, and your limited options will result in you largely sitting back and watching how things play out. That means clicking through a lot of repetitive dialogue. Still, you’ll be intrigued. As one loop ends and another begins, you’ll become more invested in your plight and, more importantly, additional gameplay elements will open up. Eventually Gnosia becomes a very different game to what you first experienced in your first few loops.
Multiple roles are slowly introduced for the passengers, for example. One person aboard could be an engineer, able to investigate one other passenger per day and distinguish whether they’re a Gnosia or not. Another may well be a guardian angel, able to save someone from a Gnosia attack. Identifying and utilising these passengers with roles may be crucial to your success, but they may be cagey about coming forward in case it makes them a target. Also, Gnosia or those that worship them might also claim roles to confuse matters or outright mislead others. If two people claim to be engineers, you know at least one of them is lying.
Gnosia even has RPG aspects. At the end of each loop you acquire experience, which you can use to increase your stats. Put points into intuition, and you’ll be able to see through others’ lies. Raise your charm, on the other hand, and you might be able to more easily manipulate others. Each stat has an important effect on how you play, and it’s up to you how you develop them. Raising some of them high enough even unlocks new skills and command options. Being able to definitely state that someone is or isn’t a Gnosia comes in very useful.
By the time you reached the 20th loop or so in Gnosia, pretty much every gameplay element has opened up to you. You’ll find you’re able to check various data and dialogue logs to perhaps gain important information, take time to talk to other people one-on-one before and even customise each loop somewhat, deciding how many passengers are on board, how many Gnosia there are, and even your role. It’s at this point that the game really hits its stride, and from then on it’s all about trying to uncover the story that runs through the heart of the experience.
Whether or not you will reach the end of the story, however, depends on how much patience you have. You’ll have to play many, many loops, and while the random nature of the game means that no two are exactly the same, the round-based discussions to decide who gets put into cold sleep that take place each day do get very tiring. The first day discussion is the worst, when you really have no idea who’s Gnosia and who’s not. Thrust into discussion, you’ll witness lots of finger-pointing and people sticking up for their friends. In the end, you have to vote, even though you don’t have the foggiest idea if someone’s a Gnosia or not.
“I think Raqio is sketchy,” says Remnan. “Don’t you think that by targeting her you’re making making yourself look sus?”, replies Otome. “I like Raqio,” chimes in Stella. Imagine that conversation over and over but with different names and accusations. Reading through it all day after day while trying to gleam useful information out of it soon becomes monotonous. Rubbing salt into the wound, depending on which passengers get killed or put into deep sleep, you might not get the opportunity to progress the story in any given loop.
The bite-sized nature of each loop means that Gnosia is the perfect game to spend a little time with when you have a modicum of downtime. You could play one or two loops while on your lunch break, for example, or one before you go to bed every night. That way, you’re less likely to get put off by the repetitive roundabout discussions. It’s also perfect for those who want a single-player equivalent to the multiplayer-focused Among Us. It has its flaws, but Gnosia is an inventive and unique title that draws you in and surprises you.
Gnosia Review: GameSpew’s Score