Unveiling Heartstrings: "Neva" - A Masterpiece of Emotional Game Design

Alongside the game’s increasingly incredible visuals, Neva’s emotional journey stands at the heart of the game. Like all of the very best games, it is the story of how the player feels, not just of how they play. Neva seems to be the start of a new trend in what it means to create a masterpiece in the ever expanding universe of video games.

A Tear-Jerker From The Start

From the very start of ‘Neva’, with its emotionally charged introduction, this game is an excellent example of sophisticated emotional game design. The opening cinematics from this year’s Summer Game Fest festival evoked tears from me after just minutes, and the game sets you up for an emotional ride. Again, without spoilers, the first frames set a sympathetic prelude for the journey and relationship between Alba and Neva, her wolf companion.


‘Neva’, a sequence of gorgeous living watercolour, features Alba and her long red cloak jumps and dances with Neva, her fluffy, white wolf, in a gorgeously intense relationship. Heart-breaking and beautiful, this bond, tested and reaffirmed multiple times through the game, is a further proof that the studio really cares about art as it relates to story.

A World Enveloped in Magic

The ‘Neva’ world is a vision of what you might experience if you escape the real world for a magical zone, one with environments featuring amazing depth of field, and landscapes carrying endless secrets. Underground river, by McFarlane, 2014. Also by McFarlane, 2014. The ability of the studio to create these worlds is one of the most exciting aspects of their work.

Platforming and Combat: Intuitively Designed

Its platforming is subtle and intuitive as much as graceful, and its environments encourage exploration with small hints, while its combat actively encourages a kind of rhythmic dance that maintains the game’s immersive Flight of the Bumblebee quality. What the studio has developed is a scheme (keeping ‘gameplay’ and ‘narrative flow’ in harmony, with ‘attachment’ as the byword) that brings a new level of conceptual sophistication to its approach to storytelling and, by extension, to player experience.


This intimacy is perhaps “Neva’’s greatest achievement: it creates a bond between you, the player, and the characters you control on screen. Every single interaction – every challenge, every triumph – between Alba and Neva is something that Cats and Digits knows you’ve invested in, and the studio has laid down its own cards to take that investment to the bank. That’s why you’ll remember this story. That’s why this love story, this tale of trauma and survival and the power of the bond between people and animals, will resonate with you long after you’ve beaten the etc.

Jun 15, 2024
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