Where the Water Tastes Like Wine is a game that requires time and effort to enjoy and appreciate thoroughly. And it will be time and effort wonderfully spent along the way. While at first, I'll admit I was a bit lost - you're abruptly dropped into a corner of America and told to "go find and tell stories" to pay off your soul debt, the game becomes larger and larger as you traverse a different America than what we see today. Interstates don't exist yet, train and boxcars still get most things around the country, and life itself is somewhat slower than today's world in an America that's still really finding itself in the early 20th century.
America is a big land, one full of wonder, mystery, and its share of secrets. You are the wayfarer on a debtor's quest set before you by someone that seemingly represents an early American folkloric depiction of the Devil. Over your loss at cards, he expects you to travel the lands, collecting tall tales and retelling them yourself in order to pay your debt. This is no easy feat as America is sprawling and your journey will take you across the continental states by hitchhiking the old highways, stowing away on boxcars, or simply walking your way through your own tale.
The large, 3D map is pretty straightforward and fun to behold, but it does not quite stack up to the beautifully drawn 2D animation in the game. From the campsites with other travelers to the quick and straightforward stories you pick up, the game is gorgeous to take in. While the stories can be considered quick vignettes at times or even longer, protracted experiences, all of them have their own unique background that fits the story in question.
Speaking of the stories themselves, there's a massive variety. Some items are taken directly out of American folklore, while others follow that rich and proud tradition of storytelling. While not every single one is a novella, many are nuanced and rely on your choices to affect the outcome of the story in question. Over time as you tell these stories to others, they take on a life of their own with embellishments and you can see just how your own experiences are twisted as they collected into the folklore consciousness. Many times as well, interactions with others or simple narration is handled by voice actors with plenty of experience (like Sting?!) that enrich the storytelling even further. With the added soundtrack that feels pulled from the early 1900s and you feel like you're part of the American storytelling tradition.
Where the Water Tastes Like Wine is absolutely a solid and engrossing game. It may be slower for some, but even then it's something to play for a few hours at the least. I found myself traveling to faraway points just to see what little story I could find and unravel in the middle of nowhere. I enjoyed finding stories I previously told become larger and larger, subtly changing with each new retelling. I enjoyed getting to know those who lived on the road and away from civilization, understanding their quirks and seeing just how my interactions with them affected my travels. Topped with impressive voice acting, a stunning soundtrack, and beautiful visuals...I highly recommend trying this game out. It's a different experience, but getting to explore early Americana and listening to its tales should be hard to pass up.Note: Where the Water Tastes Like Wine was reviewed on PC. A digital copy of the game was provided by the publisher/developer.