—art imitates life—
Imagine a place where you can paint all day, chat with fellow artists at a pretty Parisian café, and brush up on your skills at the local academy. In Avant Garde, a historical art RPG, you can do just that. And it’s up to you whether you lead a life of aimless squandering and drinking, or choose to become a pioneer of your very own art movement.
The game starts off in your atelier (studio in French) where you find yourself equipped with just a couple of mediums, and a limited range of subjects. Your first artworks always start out as either grotesque or horrible, which is quite a clever way of encouraging players to improve-you wouldn’t want to be known as the artist who can’t paint, would you?
Something else this game does extremely well is engagement loops. In order to make a masterpiece, you need to increase your stats. But we’re not talking about Strength, Intelligence and Magic here. I mean form, perspective, composition, anatomy, colour and expression-which by no coincidence happen to be art elements and principles. Once you improve one of these skills, your paintings increase in both quality and value, and you’ll have a much better shot of being accepted at the Salon. So for one thing, it’s a continuous journey of artistic self improvement in order to make some more francs, but that’s not all.
The characterisation of the artists in this game really brings it to life. Courbet is painted out (pun very much intended) to be a wisecracking smart alec, while Manet is much more reasonable in his approach. You’ll meet most of the remaining artists at the café, where you can befriend rivals and learn a few new tricks of the trade. Or of course, have a drink or two.
Considering the fact that this game is only a work in progress, the amount of attention to detail is rather impressive. From a historical point of view, it educates the player about different art movements and techniques, and in my opinion, successfully entices the player to go and find out more about art in general. A game like this could work wonders in a school setting should the teacher approve. And of course, the game wouldn’t be the same without the music, which fluctuates between pleasantly serene to striking and motivational.
The only drawback I can think of is perhaps what exactly your overall goal as a struggling artist is supposed to be. That’s why once you earn enough francs to allow you to purchase everything, and you’ve maxed out your art stats, the game loses its vitality somewhat. Furthermore, at the beginning of the game you are free to choose a quality and a flaw which appear to have no impact on the game-and meaningful choices are crucial for a game to have good overall impact. But once again, this is just a sample of what’s to come-a painting in the making, if you like. We’ll just have to wait and see what the game creators are composing in their studios.