The Old City is an adventure in the mind. Dealing heavily with epistemology, the overall objective of the work is to present a clear and coherent philosophical message in a deep and meaningful world of allegory in which you will be forced to make personal choices in a nonlinear but directed story.
The story of The Old City is philosophically founded and is absolutely the focus of the entire game. Everything else is secondary. Above all, the story is about choice.
While the initial stretch of The Old City is a linear string of semi-open levels, the later game divides into various pathways that all communicate something entirely different about the world and the story. The story itself is told via the musings of your character (in relation to where you are or what pathways you've chosen) and, chiefly, the environment itself.
There are no weapons, no items, and no skill-trees. All that exists is you and the world. You will make choices simply by the pathways (which will be described in detail to you whilst in-game) you choose to walk down, and each of said pathways is independent of the other. You will not loop around to another pathway or go through other pathways for the duration of that play through. Thus, to understand the game fully, you will need to play through it multiple times to explore all the other avenues that exist.
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