Conway: Disappearance at Dahlia View (PC) Review

How well do you know your neighbours? Do you think any of them are capable of doing terrible things behind closed doors, hiding behind a fake smile whilst concealing their emotions and secrets from everyone but themselves? Conway: Disappearance at Dahlia View explores this concept, having you question and investigate those around you in order to discover the truth behind a kidnapping and brutal attack upon a family within your small gated community.

Conway: Disappearance at Dahlia View was developed by White Paper Games, the incredibly talented team behind The Occupation and Ether One (and I’m not just saying that because they’re from my neck of the woods, Manchester). I personally loved their last game, which received many QoL improvements and updates since I initially reviewed it, and have been watching their progress on Conway since it was announced a while ago. I was looking forward to playing it on my PS5, with the option of 4K or Ray Tracing, but the console versions have been delayed – so instead I’ve been playing through the PC version on Steam for the last few weeks.

So, after completing the game in one sitting (I literally couldn’t stop playing it), and playing around 50% of it again post-patches this week, why is this game a contender for my GOTY? Let’s find out…

Conway 1

What does this young couple have to hide?

You are Robert Conway, an old disabled retired private investigator who lives on their own in a secluded gated community populated by interesting and secretive occupants. Life here is calm, peaceful, and slightly boring… until tonight. You’re awoken by the sound of sirens and commotion within the communal area in front of your apartment, the police are questioning your neighbour as others look on from their doorsteps – just what happened whilst you were sleeping?

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You grab your camera and let your old P.I. instincts take over as you casually begin to spy on/observe everyone from the comfort of your own room, through the window. It doesn’t take long to discover what’s happened – one of your neighbours has been brutally assaulted and his 8-year-old child kidnapped, there are clues and evidence scattered around but there’s only one way to fully understand what’s happened – you need to go down and question your neighbours to see if anyone witnessed these terrible events.

Your daughter is the officer in charge, specifically asking you to not get involved as you’re too close to the suspects (literally) and could potentially disrupt the whole investigation should you poke your nose where it isn’t wanted and alert the one responsible. However, you can’t ignore the chance at uncovering who the attacker and kidnapper are, it has to be one of your neighbours as the gate was locked and nobody else had the means to enter this secluded location at that time of night without alerting those who lived there. 

So, with your notepad, camera, custom crime board, and a particular set of skills, you set out to question every suspect, investigate their houses, uncover their secrets, and find the lost girl…

Conway 2

Stairs, my mortal enemy!

Gameplay
Conway: Disappearance at Dahlia View is a third-person narrative-driven thriller, it’s a linear adventure with puzzles, timed-based moments, and some choices which adjust the subsequent conversations and actions. However, I found that the game doesn’t really change based on your choices or the conversation options you pick, sticking to the brilliantly devised narrative without straying from the path the developers intended. However, the game has a nice balance between storytelling, puzzles, and exploration, often alternating as you explore each of the suspect’s houses for clues that’ll explain how they’re related to either crime (or none at all).

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The game is split into three parts, observing, investigating, and then linking the evidence together in order to either prove the guilt or innocence of the neighbours you’ve just been looking into. Each person on your suspect list has a questionable motive and opportunity for one or both crimes committed, it’s up to you to sort the facts from the speculation and work out if the dark secret they’re hiding is related to poor Charlotte May and/or her father, or if it’s something completely unrelated which just happens to be a crime they’re also trying to keep to themselves.

The twist here though, which I’ve not yet touched on, is that your disability has constricted you to a wheelchair, limiting your accessibility not by invisible walls or small blockades, but by the fact that you can only go where ramps and lifts are available. This adds an interesting and realistic spin on the various restrictions, such as stairs and boxes clearly being obstacles you can’t manoeuvre without assistance from devices such as a working stairlift.

Thankfully, the game has a bunch of accessibility options when it comes to the controls and general game settings, so controlling our wheelchair-bound protagonist is highly customisable (which I’ll come to later).

Conway 3

What’s in the rug?!

My name is Robert Conway, and I am a nosey neighbour…
You’ll begin each chapter looking through your window as you zoom in and out on your neighbours going about their business. Conway will offer commentary as you snap pictures of key moments, such as your neighbour bludging something out of your view, hiding a box under their bed, stashing things under the floorboards, or getting attacked by an unknown suspect. Once you’ve seen enough, you’ll leave your apartment and try to gain entry to one of the neighbour’s homes or places of work, beginning the investigation stage.

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Whilst investigating you’ll often find yourself having to solve environmental puzzles and taking note of evidence and clues, snapping pictures of documents and items so you can refer back to them later. The puzzles aren’t too cryptic or difficult, often finding the solution nearby or a clue on how to overcome it within the same area, but they are all varied and unique from one another. As the game progresses, some of the puzzles become much more involved – such as the lift in the garage and the puzzles within the manor – and completing them all without any outside help was very satisfying.

The final gameplay mechanic is the crime board that Conway has created within his office. At the end of each investigation stage, you end the day by linking your findings together – these are the pictures you’ve taken and notes you’ve made whilst creeping around other people’s houses and businesses. Here you’ll have a few key images with a question assigned to them, you must then look through your evidence and see what relates to each one. For example, you may have taken a picture of a bottle of bleach, but that bottle has five or six uses (sentences to select) upon it, you have to pick the right one and link it to the correct theory/question. 

Conway 4

Piece together the clues and discover what’s going on.

Elementary, my dear Watson
Out of all the stages of the game, the question board was what I struggled with the most. I didn’t realise until I was about three chapters in that you can actually ask for a hint which removes all non-related items from the board, but that still doesn’t help if you’re as stupid as me and can’t figure out what you’re looking for. The more you struggle, the more hints you can request – resulting in not only the useless evidence being removed but also useless selectable options within the remaining pieces of evidence also being removed. So, the bottle of Bleach that had multiple linkable statements will be reduced to just one.

Working out what goes where without resorting to the hints is very satisfying, similar to what we saw in both Murder Mystery Machine and Hercule Poirot: The First Cases previously. However, I’m glad there is a multi-stage hint system for those who can’t work out the answer and find themselves unable to progress without giving up and looking for a guide online. I did find myself using the hints for a later board, as there were so many things I needed to link and I couldn’t seem to get the right answer, but I did manage to solve most of them the first time or with a little trial and error.

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I’m not really bothered about Steam Achievements, but if you are, you need to get every deduction right on your first try if you wish to unlock a bunch of the achievements on offer. That means you need to pick the right clue within the right image and link it to the right question without getting any wrong. Plus, there’s no manual saves or chapter select, so if you get it wrong, you’ll have to play the game again to get another shot at being perfect! I know this will happen, but I really hope the PlayStation trophies aren’t the same – you could be rewarded for so many other things within the game yet these particular trophies are screaming “wait for a guide” to me.

Conway 5

A rather unique lockpicking game.

The Puzzles
Each location has its own set of puzzles, unique problems which you must try and overcome by using the various objects around you and clues you’ll find. For example, when you sneak into the garage you discover there’s something you need to look for within the basement, but you can’t simply go down there as it’s flooded and your wheelchair can’t transform into a makeshift submarine. So, you must find a way to power the pump which is hooked up to drain the water, but first you’ll need to figure out how to divert and increase the electricity from another device to the lift, so you can enter the basement – as you can’t use the stairs.

A common puzzle, which I found quite interesting, is the one you’ll have to do each time you try and lockpick a door. Instead of using a method we’ve seen before, it’s more like a maze or labyrinth which is shrouded in darkness. To solve this, you have to first find the point at which your cursor vibrates then hold the action button, that’ll illuminate a cone of vision so you can see the pick. Then, you must slowly work your way through the make until a button prompt appears – at which point you hold that particular button and do the whole thing again whilst still holding the button down.

If using a controller, it’ll usually have you hold the Left Trigger, then the Right Trigger, and finally it’ll ask you to hold either the Left or Right Bumper to finish off the job. As I only have two hands, and I hold my controller normally, when I’m holding down both L2 and R2, I have no fingers near the right position to push a bumper and releasing either will undo the previous picking session. So, I found myself using my nose to tap the final bumper – this isn’t required, as you can plan your fingers in advance and leave a few spare for the final prompt, but my method was to utilise the tip of my nose as a third finger…

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Conway 6

Robert Conway is on the case: What’s that smell?!

The story and replayability
I was hooked to the story within Conway: Disappearance at Dahlia View, once I got the code to review I simply didn’t stop playing until I saw the credits roll – which took around 11 hours. The theories and predictions I was making as the game went on, all turned out to be wrong – I was left surprised, shocked, and intrigued every time I went to explore a new location and discovered something new. The whole experience was further enhanced by the brilliant voice acting and character animations, delivering a believable and immersive world that I found myself lost within.

My only complaint would be that you can’t skip anything. Even after playing through the game and starting a new one, you must sit through every cutscene and character dialogue without the option to simply click through it or skip what you’ve seen. Obviously, you don’t want to do this on your first playthrough as the story is brilliant and exciting, but when playing it a second time for the trophies, I kinda wished we had the option to skip certain scenes.

I guess another minor complaint/wish would be a chapter selection screen (which may happen as The Occupation had one added post-launch too). As it stands right now, there is no manual save as the game auto-saves at various points – this means if you get a deduction wrong on the question board, and you want the achievement, you can’t simply reload and try again to get the perfect answer achievements. Also, once you finish the game, your save file is effectively deleted as the game literally restarts – so when you next press ‘continue’, you’ll continue from the autosave that triggers upon the restart.

I believe every trophy within Conway: Disappearance at Dahlia View is missable (they weren’t active when I first played the game) – so there’s plenty of replayability if you wish to try and obtain them all on your own, without the use of a guide. I’m just hoping the developers may introduce a chapter select and skip options by the time the game comes to consoles.

Conway 7

I love that you can play with the controls before committing to them.

Accessibility
Before I start praising the developers for their incredible attention to detail, Conway: Disappearance at Dahlia View is one of the best games I’ve ever played with it comes to adjusting the controls to suit your own style and preference. Seriously, I don’t think I’ve ever smiled and given an audible appreciative “ha” whilst setting the control scheme of any game before! Also, instead of only having the various control options in the menu with a short description, the game lets you adjust the various styles on the fly at the beginning of the first chapter, so you can see how each feels and operates without having to continuously flick back to the menu to swap it around.

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I shouldn’t care this much about control schemes, but those responsible for the amount of choice should be commended.

So, what are the choices? Well, you’re in a wheelchair, so this makes it a little more interesting when it comes to the movement controls – when using a controller you can:
1. Use the Left Stick to move forward and backwards, with the Right Stick controlling turning left and right.
2. Use the Left Stick to move based on where you’re pushing, like a standard 3D third-person game.
3. Swap the Sticks in point #1 above, so the Left Stick now controls left and right and the Right Stick controls forwards and backwards.
4. You can use the Right Trigger to go forwards and the Left Trigger to reverse (like a driving game), with either the Left or Right Stick to rotate (two separate options).
5. Alternatively, you can just control all four movements with either the Left or Right Stick – like old-school ‘tank controls’ (also, two separate options). 

On top of this, the invert options are very robust, allowing you to customise if you want to invert a particular Stick, only head movements, head movements and the cursor during investigations, puzzles, and the question board, and even the option to control various viewpoints with only the Left Stick or swap them to the Right one. I wish every game had such a wide selection of customisable controls

However, if using keyboard and mouse then you only have WASD in ‘tank controls’ or ‘Camera Centric’ (like option 2 above). But, you can fully customise the controls to also suit your needs, so it’s essentially the same amount of customisation but with fewer ‘options’.

Conway 8

That’s very curious…

Accessibility – continued
Aside from the robust control options, which are sure to allow everyone to play the game how they’re most comfortable (I played it using the triggers like I was ‘riding’ the wheelchair), there are also a bunch of options which’ll make the game more playable for certain people.

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As you’d expect, you can resize all the subtitles, adjust the transparency of the background behind the text, and even have the lines coloured based on who’s talking. You can also activate an audio direction indicator, so you know where the noises are coming from if you have an issue with your hearing. Also, I found that enabling the subtitles will have the game describe the sounds (such as what type of music is playing or if you can hear footsteps), yet there’s no specific option to disable that – which was strange as there’s usually a descriptive toggle.

Other options include increasing the size of the on-screen cursor, which is great if you’re not sitting right near the monitor, disabling or increasing the length of the timers during time-specific segments, and customising the core gameplay mechanics. Things you can alter are changing tapping a button to holding it, helping/removing the lockpicking segments, adjusting quick-input segments, removing the requirement to hold multiple buttons at once, and tapping a button instead of holding it to open cupboards and operate devices. 

So, if you have issues with your vision, reflexes, holding various buttons whilst also using the Control Sticks, or hearing, then you can fully customise everything so that you can enjoy the game – again, something which I wish more developers would seriously consider implementing so everyone can have fun and not miss out.

Conway 9

If you have an ultrawide monitor, there are no cinematic borders.

Technical
Conway: Disappearance at Dahlia View ran great on my fairly old PC (i7-2600k and GeForce GTX780Ti GPU). At 1080p and all settings on Very High, I was getting almost 60fps most of the time, with regular drops to around 55+ and a few random dips to below 30fps (most likely an issue with my system). As such, the game felt great to play and it looks good with a very similar visual style to The Occupation, the developer’s previous game. However, the textures did sometimes look a little fuzzy and soft, as if the depth of field was being a little too aggressive – I even thought that it may have some form of dynamic resolution to keep the framerate up, but I don’t think it does.

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One thing you’ll have noticed with the images in this review is that the game has cinematic borders at the top and bottom of the screen. Death Stranding used these on the PS5 in order to deliver a 4K resolution image with a solid 60fps (1:1 pixel count but fewer pixels on screen due to the bars). So, I thought that Conway: Disappearance at Dahlia View was doing the same thing, only rendering the pixels we see so that performance is boosted whilst still giving us a 1080p image. However, I don’t know if this is the case…

Basically, when you press Escape (or the controller equivalent), the menu appears. But, for a brief second, the borders vanish and you can see that the entire 1080p image is being rendered, it’s just placing the borders over gameplay! I queried the borders with the developer and they advised they were added intentionally to fit the cinematic nature of the game – which I have no issue with – I just don’t know why it seems to be rendering a full 1080p image when it could be adjusted to render less to boost performance a little.

To test this, I was informed that if you have an ultrawide monitor then the black borders don’t appear. So, I forced my GPU to render at 1920×822 (via the NVIDIA Control Panel) and I put the game into windowed mode – as expected, the game now played at the 21:9 aspect ratio without the black borders. I seemed to get around 2-3fps better performance than rendering at the full 1080p, so maybe the borders are just an overlay? I don’t know.

One thing which I found strange was that, despite having the borders there during 1080p gameplay, the game doesn’t keep the subtitles on top of them. Most of the subtitles are aligned on top of it, providing a nice dark background so you can easily read them, but every now and again they’ll be some which are higher up and overlap the gameplay – if the game won’t let you remove the borders, I feel the subtitles should always appear over the lower border.

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Official Trailer:

Final Conclusion:
Conway: Disappearance at Dahlia View is a brilliant thriller that fully immerses you as you spy on your neighbours and take a look at what secrets they have hidden behind closed doors. Each of your suspects has something to hide, but is it related to the attack and kidnapping which you’re unofficially investigating? With very little hand-holding, you must observe, investigate, and piece together just what is going on in Dahila View – overcoming your physical disability and letting nothing stand in your way of discovering the truth. Simply one of the best narrative adventure games I’ve played all year, enhanced by fantastic voice acting, well-written dialogue, and an exciting and intriguing story.

Aside from my minor ‘issues’ with having no chapter select, manual saves, or option to skip dialogue on subsequent playthroughs, I can’t express how much I loved working my way through this game – I didn’t stop playing it until I’d finished it all in one sitting and I can’t wait to play and review it again once it eventually comes to the PlayStation 5 in the following months.

A copy of the game was kindly provided for review purposes

Conway: Disappearance at Dahlia View

£24.99
9.5

Final Score

9.5/10

The Good:

  • - Brilliant story, dialogue, and voice acting
  • - Lots of customisation within the controls and accessibility options
  • - Nice balance between observing, investigating, and piecing together what you discovered
  • - Runs really well, even on my older PC
  • - One of the best games I've played all year

The Bad:

  • - No option to skip dialogue or cutscenes on subsequent playthroughs
  • - No chapter select or manual saves so you can easily reload if you missed something
  • - There were a few minor bugs and glitches but I imagine they'll all be resolved as patches have already started rolling out
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