“This is a story about people daring to survive,” reads a title card in the latest and final trailer for VA-11 Hall-A, which could be considered an odd description for a cyberpunk bartending game. Called VA-11 Hall-A, it was originally borne of a cyberpunk game jam in 2014. A couple years, a prototype, and a free prologue chapter later, VA-11 Hall-A is finally on its way to existing on our one-day sentient PCs (for Windows, Mac, and Linux) on June 21st, with PlayStation Vita and iPad versions coming sometime later this year.
The titular bar in VA-11 Hall-A—affectionately called Valhalla by its patrons—reflects the everyday reality of its post-dystopian residents. As a lowly bartender, you combine ingredients to make bizarre drinks to your diverse customer’s liking. Your reward? A story. “[It’s] a really depressing society, where everyone’s always sad and worried about their future in a country with no hope of recovering,” explained art designer Christopher Ortiz in an interview with us back in 2014. “So we came up with a set of characters who, in the middle of this disaster, try to go on with their lives and be as happy as they can with what they have.”
VA-11 Hall-A’s visuals were inspired by cyberpunk PC-98 Japanese adventure games. But its focus relies on its bystander approach to a narrative. There’s no visual novel-esque choices to be had in this cyberpunk action game. While you interact with the bar patrons, the interactivity lies only in making their requested drinks correctly. There’s no dialogue options, just listening. Which so happens to be what the best bartenders do—listen to liquor-inhibited life stories, with no judgement.
Despite being pegged as “Cyberpunk Bartender Action,” VA-11 Hall-A distinguishes itself aside from that very pointed gameplay feature as well, in showcasing some of the other aspects of the game. Specifically of the non-bartending variety. The trailer takes a peek at the game’s apartment customization features (think Animal Crossing: Happy Home Designer (2015) with a cyberpunky, ever-pixelated twist) and even the more story-driven conversational beats of the beer-sharing variety.
But, most important of all, you’re just a bartender, trying to get by and being an outsider to the stories of this post-dystopian, downtown bar. “You’re thrown into an ever-moving world, and things won’t wait for you to happen,” explained writer and programmer Fernando Damas to us back in 2014. “The characters all existed long before the player ever met them, and their lives go on offscreen. There’s a powerful feeling you get when you realize you’re in a place where you’re not in control of everything and there are things you just can’t change or avoid.”
Mix your favorite cyberpunkian drinks in VA-11 Hall-A when it’s out June 21st on Steam for PC, Mac, and Linux.