No Save, No load. The Story Continues When You Die.
"Sasha" is an RPG game that tells the story of a mysterious girl named Sasha and an adventurous villager named Gary. The game combines storytelling and gameplay through text-based conversations and player-controlled interactions. The player has the option to make choices during conversation pop-ups, and these choices will result in different outcomes. For example, correctly answering a riddle posed by an NPC may earn the player useful potions or gear.
The goal of the game is communicated to the players through pop-up texts. For instance, at the start of the game, the player is told through a conversation to collect firewood from the nearby forest. According to playtesters, the clear instructions helped them navigate the exploration element of the game without feeling lost. Like many RPG games, "Sasha" has a level progression system and a generic combat system, although the narrative is the main focus of the game. However, the combat and progression system still have noticeable outcomes. Whenever the player wins or loses a battle, a corresponding animation plays along with some text.
Although the gameplay system is similar to most games made with RPG Maker, the way the narrative system shapes the outcome of the story is innovative and unique. In many RPG games, when the player-controlled character dies, the game restarts from the last saved checkpoint. However, in "Sasha," when the protagonist Gary dies, the game continues. Gary is mysteriously transported to the very beginning of the game, aware that he has died. This is how the plot unfolds. The key to this mystery, a mute girl named Sasha, only appears if the player has died at least once.
As Jesper Juul says, "I dislike failing in games, but I dislike not failing even more." Failing is usually an unpleasant experience, and few players can complete a game without ever failing once. "Sasha" takes advantage of this by integrating the narrative and mechanics of failure, making it more interesting and significant. Ian Bogost argued that video games are better without narratives because books and movies tell stories better. "Sasha" provides a counterargument to this, as the player only discovers a major part of the plot after inevitably failing due to their mistakes. If the player manages to never fail in the game, the plot would be entirely different. This interactive mode of storytelling is not possible through reading books or watching movies. While Bogost is correct that "even the best stories in video games did not top middling books," I believe the fault lies with the writers in the game industry. If the writers were at the same level, video games could offer a unique narrative experience through interactive branching stories, something that books and movies cannot achieve.