At gamescom 2017, I met indie developer Laura Bularca from Jovian Industries, the company behind Heart. Papers. Border.. A self-described “optimistic strategy game about travelling, freedom and changing the world”, Heart. Papers. Border. puts you in the shoes of a freelance travel writer out to explore the world and meet new people.
Taking place in a fictional version of Earth called Heart with different countries and geographical features, the game lets you choose a difficult level from the start by selecting which nationality to belong to. Some countries offer way less income or severely restrict travel, while others offer you a better starting position or plenty of freedom to travellers. Balancing your objectives with your available funds and time restraints is the main core of the gameplay loop, so the country you start significantly affects your early experience.
While I did not had a chance to play the game myself, Laura did gave me a pretty comprehensive tour of Heart. Papers. Border.. Played from an overhead world map view and with no objective but to travel and explore the world, the title tasks you with learning what each country has to offer and writing about it in your own travel blog. As you visit places, you unlock hashtags which can be used creatively to increase the exposition of each blog entry and affect your income at the end of the month.
As any traveller knows, the fun of travel brings with it the burden of bureaucracy. In order to visit other countries, you may require a visa which takes both time and money to obtain, forcing you to manage your expenses as you wait for the documents to clear. This economic balance between exploring the world and making enough money to explore the world is at the core of what the gameplay is all about, putting emphasis on player choice above all else.
Due to the noise at the event, I wasn’t able to listen to the game’s soundtrack and sound design, but the art style is absolutely amazing. Inspired by NASA's Visions of the Future retro-futuristic posters, both the game art and UI are heavily stylized and feature strong colours that pop out of the screen, resulting in a very attractive and stylish indie game.
As you arrive in a country, the game zooms into a detailed view of the territory and shows both the city you’re lodging and its nearby points of interest. From there, you can explore the surrounding region and travel anywhere in the country, in that typical tourist fashion that every experienced traveller is familiar with. As you explore the landmarks of each nation, you connect with locals and learn new things to write about, giving you new material for your travel blog and slowly changing the world by your sheer libertarian presence.
Thing is, Heart. Papers. Border. is unapologetically idealist -- you are able to make a good living by simply writing a travel blog, and your journey sees the world change from a series of governments into a planet free of borders. You can even get enough funds to cross continents and visit isolationist countries, which are affected by your presence and start shifting into the liberal. This is not a game for a conservative audience.
If that doesn’t bother you, you can check out Heart. Papers. Border. right now in Early Access. The game is intended to launch somewhere in the summer of 2018, and Laura told me they strive to constantly implement community feedback into the project. If you can’t wait to get your hands on this utopian take on travel and contribute to its development, go pick it up on Steam.