Emily is Away is an interactive story created by one guy, Kyle Seeley, available on the Steam Store. It’s a 30 minute free-to-play visual novel that plays through the style of an online chat box. You play an unnamed protagonist as you guide him through his chat box conversations with the titular Emily over the course of 5 years. The story is set over the course of 5 years, from Senior High School to the last year of College.
The game is a short little nostalgia trip through the early 2000’s complete with a Windows XP theme and pop culture references. In-game interaction is limited to chatting with Emily. In-game chat is limited to 3-4 options. It’s quite frustrating actually because a lot of these choices for the character aren’t something you would say in real life, so it takes away a sense of agency from the game.
Throughout your conversations you guide the player in his relationship with Emily. You start out as friends but you can choose if you want more to be more than that. Unfortunately the game has a set ending that the developer had in mind. Your choices, while having some influence to how the ending plays out, don’t change the ultimate ending of the game.
The story has a couple of problems, IMO. For instance, though each of your conversations takes place during a certain year in HS or college, the drama plays out in a linear manner and it sometimes doesn’t make sense why Emily is reacting to a certain event from a year ago as if it happened over the weekend. And, again, the ending is set in stone. You will almost 100% fall in love with Emily. You can’t CHOOSE to be single or date another girl, ala-Catherine style (the PS3 game).
Overall the game is very nostalgic and I found myself reliving some memories from my teenage years which is plus points for the game. But the saltiness was pretty real and I can’t say I’d recommend it to anyone.