Sometime in the 4th millenium, you uncover an ancient computer. Buried in its databases, underneath layers of password-protection, is the account of a chilling juridical/moral experiment.
DOL-OS falls into the genre of games where you investigate and hack your way into the deeper security-layers of a computer-system. It does this in a very engaging way, with a creative take on the genre.
First off, the user interface is extremely well-polished. The program boots up slowly (but not annoyingly so), there are loading bars, the colour scheme suggests a retro-futuristic aesthetic. Some files are corrupted, the letters shifting and blinking ever so slightly to make the text harder to read, thus adding to the sense of investigation and decryption.
The immersiveness of the UI coerces the player to let herself be cast as the PC in the encompassing narrative. I couldn’t help but be reminded of Babel, where you roam a scientific base to uncover the intruiging backstory.
DOL-OS has a similar narrative end-goal, but it eliminates the intermediary player character and incorporates the player directly into the narrative.
Of course, regardless of the aesthetics of the UI, the most important thing is the substance of the story being unraveled underneath.
The general story of DOL-OS is not that original. It takes well-known SF tropes as its basic elements. It does however take an interesting and original viewpoint toward the usual conventions of this type of story.
Rather than explicitly point out the adverse effects on humanity of the experiment, this game lets the player draw her own conclusions.
Instead, DOL-OS heavily focuses on the personal impact of being part of such a scientific endeavour. Through journals and expert reports, the personality and history of the characters are uncovered piecemeal.
One character in particular, Théophile, shines through as the tragic protagonist in this slowly emerging drama. The player gets tantalizing glimpses of his life-history, his relation to his family, his weaknesses…
Progress through the game is gated through a number of password-protected transitions deeper into the database. Especially the first puzzle is brilliant. It takes careful attention to detail and an associative leap across several documents to construct the first password from the scattered clues.
After that, the gateways are less strongly protected, serving primarily as pacing mechanisms.
DOL-OS succeeds admirably in casting the player as a technological/archeological investigator from the far future. It conjures up a world of morally ambiguous advances and of potentially chilling consequences that seem to lie perhaps only the metaphorical five minutes into the future from our present point of view.
Engaging, thought-provoking, chilling,… A very strong piece of IF.