Cibele is first and foremost a game about human connections. It is a story about Nina, a nineteen year old living in New York who meets a guy online that she likes, and it allows players to watch their relationship unfold over the course of several months.
You play as Nina herself, experiencing her life through her computer as she plays a character named Cibele on the MMO Valtameri. Players can access various files on Nina’s desktop to learn more about her personal life, which really helps develop a sense of connection to the character. You’ll learn about Nina’s hobbies, her friends, and a bit about her past; things such as her love of anime, movies, photography, and poetry. She wants to be an actress.
The game is played in three “scenes” with breaks in between for brief story segments. Each scene starts at the computer, where you can dig through files and see pictures, chat logs, and other documents. You can skip this part and go straight to playing Valtameri, but I highly recommend doing some investigating to really get a feel for the character since the game is meant to be immersive. Once you log into Valtameri you’ll get a call from your love interest Ichi (Blake). I’ll try not to spoil too much but the game gets into the heavy flirting almost immediately. The conversation is basically a back and forth between two people trying to make a connection.
Once you’re in Valtameri you’ll get to play a very basic map exploration and action based game where you wander around clicking on monsters to attack them until a boss is summoned. It takes multiple tries to defeat each boss as they leave the map after taking a certain amount of damage. This portion of the game is a bit clunky, but it is also not the primary focus, and is designed to not detract from the story. The conversation between Nina and Blake is clearly the focal point, and having such simple controls for Valtameri makes it much easier to pay attention.
Out of everything about Cibele, I was the most surprised at how intimate it felt, almost seeming intrusive, as if I was reading someone’s diary. From lusty poems to risque pictures, this story shows none of the sense of shame so many of us feel about the more personal aspects of our lives. Be ready to feel just a tiny bit creepy because you are experiencing some deeply personal moments in Nina’s life, and it can be tough not being able to turn away and respect her privacy.
Cibele is a pretty short game from a length perspective. My play through was just a bit over an hour, even with reading all of the files I could. It was definitely an emotional experience as I said, and I ended the game feeling a bit uncomfortable simply because of the amount of intimacy and emotional connection to the character that was involved, but I still feel good about the experience. The story is honest, and presented as Nina saw fit, and I have an overwhelming amount of respect for her for being so raw in her telling of it. It had simple controls and a captivating story. I would recommend it to lovers of stories and people who enjoy seeing others make connections, as long as you are wiling to feel a bit too close to the character you’re playing. Be ready for an emotional ride, and maybe play when you’re home alone, otherwise your roommates might wonder what you’re doing with pictures of a nineteen year old girl up on your screen.