I admit that until recently I had never heard of gnosis. When I was given the opportunity to tackle a visual whodunit novel, I couldn’t help but love it. But something in the trailer got me thinking. I felt like there was more to gnosis than meets the eye. So I decided to give it a try, and let me tell you, I’m very glad I did.

I’ll warn you from the start that Gnosis doesn’t have a very strong start. It starts with a huge wall of text in tiny font, scattered across the page; it scrolls at such a speed that it’s like watching the introduction to a Star Wars movie in fast-forward. After starting a new game twice, I still can’t figure out what it says. You are then greeted by a blonde, Setsu, who gives you a rudimentary overview of what is going on. The problem is that the dialogue is interrupted again before we can understand what is going on.

You tell me!

You can’t understand what’s going on until you’re in the middle of it. Setsu is your ally in the beginning, guiding you through the most basic procedures of what to do if the unthinkable happens. By that I mean that an alien race, Gnosia, has infected several members of your team. They look, act and talk exactly like the people they infect, with one major difference: They want to destroy all human life. Then you not only have to figure out who is infected with gnosis, but also how to get the other members of your team to listen to you.

If the premise sounds like Among Us or Mafia, you’re not wrong. This is a social deduction game in the style of a visual romance. At first glance, you’d think that Gnosia doesn’t have much more to offer than reading each character’s dialogue and trying to guess who the enemy is, but you’d be wrong. Gnosis is much more than this simple premise.

That sounds perfectly normal to me.

In the beginning you are told that you are trapped in some kind of time loop. All you know is that you are on a spaceship that has been affected by the invasion of an alien species known as Gnosia. Once they infect a human, they are almost indistinguishable from the host and will kill a crew member while still alive on board. Every day you sit with your teammates arguing about who is infected. After the vote, the person deemed to have gnosis is put into a cold sleep and left for the rest of the loop. The loop ends when either everyone in the cold sleep is Gnosis, or more than half of the remaining crew is Gnosis.

In most cases, however, this is not the end of the problem. Gnosia starts off very simply with you and a few crew members trying to take out the two Gnosia on board. As you progress through the loops, you’ll meet new passengers (fourteen in total), and the number of gnoses can reach four per loop. Clearly, this can greatly affect the relationship between the unaffected and the affected at later stages. The complications don’t end there either.

Another one bites the dust.

After the first few cycles, you will be given new tasks. The engineer is the first role you are offered. Allows you to examine a person each night to determine if they are human or gnosis. The next added role is that of the Doctor, who can scan a person who has fallen into a cold sleep to see whether or not they were really Gnosis. There is also the Guardian Angel, who can protect the person of his choice from the nightly attacks of the Gnosis, but cannot save himself. There are other roles, but getting to know each other is part of the fun.

They’re also not always a team member trying to destroy Gnosia. Sometimes you are the gnosis. In this case, you get information about the other people on the Gnosia ship from the start, so you can make a plan about who to shoot first. Gnosis can also lie (a lot) and claim other roles, such as engineer or doctor. This adds a whole new level of strategy, as you can make other crew members suspicious and hope they fall into a cryogenic sleep before you.

Being a gnosis is a lot of fun.

In addition to the different roles, there are also role-playing elements. After each cycle you get experience points, more if you reach your goal, less if you fail. You can classify them into different categories: Charisma, charm, intuition, logic, performance and stealth. Some make you more sympathetic and less suspicious, others make it easier to spot lies, etc. It’s a great way to customize your character to your own play style, especially if you prefer to take on certain roles or even play as Gnosha. It also adds a lot of replayability to an already fun game.

Each passenger has strengths and weaknesses.

What impresses me most is how quickly Gnosia shares new information. The simple concept could easily get boring after a few loops, but this game constantly gives you more to work with. Whether it’s a new job, information about a fellow traveler, or an unlocked gift, Gnosia finds ways to keep things fresh. With each turn, you gain more information about your fellow travelers, so they eventually become almost friends. There’s even a subtle story that brings everything together at the end. The way knowledge is passed on reminds me a bit of Hades in that respect.

The plot thickens.

I do have some issues with gnosis. The hand-painted style is very well done, but there are only a few different illustrations for each character and the full range of their emotions. The same goes for their dialogues. While there are times when you can learn something personal from them, most encounters will take place in debates where you will hear the same five or six sentences over and over again. It was the aspect of gnosis that seemed the most boring.

Surprisingly, I don’t think of music that way. There are no voices and almost no sound effects, but I still enjoyed the background music. The odd thing is that there are only a few different songs, but they are so good to play that I didn’t mind listening to them over and over again. Some songs stayed in my memory even after I stopped playing.

It’s really helpful to know more about each character.

I must say that Gnosia impressed me. I completely underestimated it, thinking it would just be some sort of monotonous visual game based on a novel. I’ve never been so happy as I am today that I was wrong. The constant introduction of new elements, complex characters and exciting gameplay is what makes Gnosia so appealing and fascinating. I encourage everyone to embrace Gnosia.

The handmade aesthetic is well thought out, but each character only has four or five different illustrations to express the full range of their emotions. At first it feels like a visual novel, but soon elements of deductive thinking come into play. Gnosia is constantly adding new game elements and tactics, so every turn feels fresh.
There are no voices and very few sound effects, although the few that are there are well done. The soundtrack is spartan, but fits so well with each scene that it stays with you after you’ve stopped playing. What at first glance seems like a mediocre game will quickly prove that it’s not. Challenging characters, combined with new game elements and additional rules, will keep you coming back for more.
Last block : 8.0

Gnosia is available now on PC and Switch.

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A copy of Gnosis was provided by the publisher.

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