A thousand years ago, the world's central AI — Grace — was turned off, leaving humanity in a dark age. At present, Adamari Ito sets out on a voyage across the galaxy to recover the missing AI and understand what truly happened all of those years ago.
Return to Grace is a first-person walking simulator in which you will take control of Adie, an archaeologist that sets out on an adventure to find the god AI that disconnected years ago and uncover the truth once and for all.
Throughout the short narrative — spanning only about three hours or only one, once you know what to do — you will engage with various AI that represent fragments of Grace: Logic, Empathy, and Control; each has its own personality and interactions with the protagonist. To bond with them, you'll be making gameplay choices rather than dialogue ones: interacting with the environment or choosing between one of two paths to take, each favoured by different characters in the story.
I quite appreciated this system — Adie remains her person, but you can still interact with the environment and affect things around you. It took away the feeling of making the character act outside of their own personality, as your decisions were more subtle than character-defining ones.
I enjoyed the dialogue hidden in the things you do: every action, even when I did things wrong, seemed to inspire the AI to say something — most notably, encourage Logic to call me an idiot in too many ways to count, but that's beside the point. A second playthrough revealed how much more I could get if I opted to do things differently (and by differently, I very much mean wrongly).
Return to Grace made interacting easy because both the writing and audio design were spot-on. From Adie's phenomenal performance (Karen Knox did a fantastic job) to the intriguing narrative, I was excited to interact with the characters and learn more about the game and its world. That said, with the short run time, you don't learn a lot to feel connected to this universe, but it also doesn't detract from the experience overly; if the game had gone on for longer, the gameplay elements might have become slightly repetitive.
As a walking simulator, you won't really be doing much in your search for Grace. Most of the time, you will be doing tasks to progress your story whilst the characters interact in the background with interesting, albeit simple, duties to perform. This means that gameplay-wise, the game isn't a wonder, but it doesn't need to be.
The narrative unfolds at a steady and enjoyable pace that doesn't feel dragged out, and although I do wish I had been able to explore and immerse myself in this world a bit more, I am glad for its short run time.
You can enjoy the entire experience in one sitting regardless of how much you want to explore or how little or how good or bad you are at games. It is great to pick up over an evening and play it through, or even play it several times and see just how much some of your decisions — especially the later ones — affect the endings.
Overall, I can recommend Return to Grace confidently. If you like walking simulators and the story is intriguing to you, then there isn't a reason not to pick it up; I was satisfied with the ending, and I immediately booted up a second playthrough to see how I could affect it.
Return to Grace (Reviewed on Windows)
This game is great, with minimal or no negatives.
Short and concise, Return to Grace tells a great story with a thought-provoking ending I quite enjoyed.