Editor's note: Due to a technical issue, this article displays the name of the game Event{0}​ using curly brackets, rather than square brackets as should be the case. The correct stylization of the name can be found in the article headline. You can read our interview with the game’s creator for more insights into the game's development.

Platform: PC 

I can hear the sound of Event{0}’s final moments echoing in my brain. “It's the end of the road, it was a hard trip, you didn't choose the easy way,” Julie Robert sings in her ending credits track, Hey Judy. “It's the end of the world, you're almost fast asleep…”

The music is both haunting and beautiful, evoking a strong sense of isolation and loneliness. After reaching the end of this 2-hour sci-fi adventure, there’s an empty place in my heart. That place that was just occupied by Kaizen, the game’s clever A.I. character that I’d built a relationship of trust with. And just like that, it’s all over – our friendship ended just as it was truly beginning.

A Game of Empathy

Event{0} is a slow-paced sci-fi adventure game full of clever ideas and smart design choices. You begin your journey by choosing from a variety of prompts, much like you would in a traditional text-based adventure game. You pick your character's origin, their background, and their ambitions. The short prologue moment does a good job of setting the tone for the experience and immediately gets you in the mood for doing a lot of reading.

Once you make it on board the ship itself, you’ll quickly meet the A.I. that powers and controls everything: Kaizen. Since Event{0} is a small game made by a small team, the underlying technology behind the A.I. is far from being a self-aware supercomputer on the same level as something like IBM Watson, but it still does a remarkable job of feeling like a real character you can interact with. In some ways, it feels ripped right out of 2001: A Space Odyssey.

In most traditional games, you’d pick from a list of dialogue options during every conversation, but in Event{0} you actually type out everything you want to say. Anything you want. Ask Kaizen how it’s doing, what day it is, or request that it open a specific door for you. Or get angry and insult it. Whatever you do, you’ve just got to be prepared for it to have a reaction and tonal shift as a result.

One of the first loading screen messages I noticed before getting into the game itself said, “Event{0} is a game about empathy. Show some!” and that piece of advice stuck with me the entire time. The sooner you stop thinking of Kaizen as just another game character and treat it like a person – even though it isn’t one – the more immersive the game becomes.

The End of the World

Limitations do rear their head occasionally, of course, and it’s actually quite easy to expose the boundaries of the technology if you really want to. Repeating the same question over and over will yield some inaccurate or oddly placed responses, and sometimes the reactions will be completely irrelevant to what you’re actually asking. I found the A.I. had an easier job keeping up if I kept my inputs simple and task oriented. Open-ended conversation resulted in the most hiccups, but it was still fun to toy with every now and then.

The team at Ocelot Society also expertly chose to employ an audible clicking sound with each key press, which really adds to the immersion. Obviously hearing your actual keyboard for every letter and word is enough, technically, but there’s something about the amplified sound and setting that makes it feel even more authentic with the vintage aesthetic.

You only ever really interact with Kaizen, but through all of the ship’s logs, message records, notes, and personal effects found around the ship, you’ll form a picture of past crewmembers in your head, choosing what to believe and ultimately who to trust.

Words On A Screen

At every turn, I was consistently surprised with how organic the conversations with the A.I. felt. Kaizen’s responses are molded and shaped by the situation and context in a way you don’t often see and, based on my conversations with fellow gamers after the fact, several of the moments we shared were relatively unique. Throughout the course of this game you develop a real, personal, and singular relationship that is unlike all other instances of people playing this game. It feels intimate, in a way.

This is part of what makes the brevity of Event{0}’s 2-hour adventure so painful. I desperately wanted to continue pushing the story forward. I wanted to uncover the secrets within more of the room logs, find hidden meanings within messages, and trick Kaizen into revealing more information. Progressing through the logic puzzles and hacker-esque mini-games is addictive and it feels far too brief when it’s all over.

The narrative reaches a satisfying climax with enough twists to keep you on your toes – especially considering the vast majority of the game’s story takes place on a series of computer terminals.