Though Gnosia garnered some attention when it released for the PS Vita in Japan in 2019, it mostly flew under the radar because of its somewhat odd place in the visual novel genre. Now, the game is out in Western territories as a localized Nintendo Switch port.
While it borrows elements from other games, most notably Among Us, Zero Escape, and Raging Loop, Gnosia is one of the best story experiences you’ll have in 2021. Hands down.
Between its highly addictive gameplay loop, great cast of characters, and interesting lore, there’s quite a bit to love about Gnosia.
Gnosia Review: Where Zero Escape, Among Us, and Raging Loop Collide
The game takes place on a spaceship where beings called Gnosia aim to completely eradicate the crew. The crew are trying to do the same to the Gnosia, deducing who is infected and, consequently, what should be done about it. After debating over who is and isn’t Gnosia, team members vote for who they think the Gnosia is before sending them off into cold sleep for the rest of the round.
There is a max of 15 players per round, with one to six players people being Gnosia. If you’ve ever played the Mafia or Werewolf group games, that’s essentially what you’re getting here.
In each round, there are several roles that you can take. Aside from being able to play as an infected, taking measures to fool other players, you can play roles such as a Doctor, an Engineer, a Guardian Angel, a Guard, and more. Other characters can also be regular crew members, without any sort of special powers, though they still participate in debates and voting.
These special crew members have special abilities that help them gather important information from other members of the crew. For example, every morning, the Doctor can identify if the player voted into cold sleep the night before is actually a Gnosia or not. The Engineer, for example, can select one person to scan every night to see whether or not they’re Gnosia, reporting on their findings the following morning.
Using the information you’ve gathered through these reports is vital to flushing out the enemy and surviving. You can choose to cover for or doubt certain characters based on what information you’ve obtained, and some crew members will back you up, while others will argue against you. Wildly accusing every member around you invites suspicion while keeping too quiet indicates you may be hiding something.
However, there are also some extra twists that keep things even more interesting.
Gnosia can falsely claim to be certain members playing individual roles. There can be several doctors or engineers playing at any given time, but which are the real ones and which are the Gnosia? In any round that has as Doctor and/or Engineer present, only one of each is real among those claiming those two roles. Picking between two, and in some cases three, crew members all claiming to be the same role adds immense tension to each round.
And the pressure’s on, because every night, the Gnosia can kill off one person, slowly whittling the crew down to nothing.
Gnosia is Sus
One of the game’s most interesting mechanics is its stat system, which encompasses things such as stealth, charm, logic, charisma, performance, and intuition. After each round, whether you win or lose, you gain experience points to level up these stats. Increasing stealth, for example, makes you less likely to be targeted by Gnosia at night, and a high charm level allows you to weasel your way out of precarious situations.
Additionally, there are stat requirements for different types of skills, as well. One skill, “Obfuscate,” allows you to deflect certain claims if a crew member accuses you of being a Gnosia.
Each night, after attempting to vote someone into cold sleep, you can visit other crew members across the ship. Those with exclamation marks offer events that progress the plot, give you new skills, or create an alliance. As you repeatedly loop round after round, you’ll recognize similar responses from previous rounds, but sometimes pick up on unique dialogue that hints at an upcoming story event.
It might be in your own interest to keep the characters involved in these conversations alive until the next night to trigger a special event, even if you know one of them is a Gnosia for that round.
As you progress through each loop, these special events can unlock character entries for each crew member, and the ultimate goal of the game is to collect them all to break out of the loop and reach the true ending.
While the first few rounds are on rails to introduce the game’s story and gameplay mechanics, you’ll eventually be able to set the conditions for each round, such as which roles are in play, how many Gnosia there are, how many crew members are aboard, and what role you will play in it all.
These Loops Will Make You Rage
To get to the end, you’ll need to trigger and take advantage of these events. And there are so many of them Gnosia includes an “Event Search” function, which automatically sets the conditions that could trigger a story event for each round. However, that’s where the game falters the most.
The function is useful, but it is not specific enough to indicate who you should try to keep alive. If you accidentally vote off a particular character unaware that they’re needed for a story event, then you’ll have to finish out that round without learning anything new about the plot.
In some ways, that’s understandable given the lore of the game, in which you’re supposed to loop through numerous rounds again and again. But it can be frustrating finishing 10 or more rounds in a row without having any new information come to light, considering how strong the overall story is. Stumbling upon certain events to create little story chain-reactions can be fun, but it can also be the polar opposite.
But however you get there, the payoff is ultimately worth it when the truth comes crashing down.
Gnosia Review — The Bottom Line
- Lots of interesting mechanics that make each round distinct
- The lore, story, and ending are all fantastic
- Characters are unique and expressive
- Great art to accompany the game
- Could have given players more direction to point players on the right path to the ending
- Potentially skill dependent on how well you are at logic puzzles and the real-life game
- The absence of voice acting is disappointing
Each character in Gnosia is incredibly unique and vibrant, so much so that you might feel bad for voting them off the spaceship or get sad learning that a Gnosia killed them off in the middle of the night.
That connection is reinforced by the game’s gorgeous art style, where character portraits are expressive and the special CGI scenes are beautifully drawn. It’s only hampered by the lack of voice acting, which could have elevated some of the more emotional scenes, especially those during the ending.
All in all, Gnosia is a fantastic game with a riveting story and interesting characters supported by rich art and solid gameplay mechanics. If you can handle some repetitiveness — and potentially having to go through multiple rounds without seemingly making progress — the ending of Gnosia is one of the most heartfelt ones you’ll experience this year.
[Note: PLAYISM provided the copy of Gnosia used for this review.]