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Video Game / Where the Water Tastes Like Wine

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"This land is built on stories. It's one big story, this country, woven of many small ones. Few of the small ones are strictly true, and the big story is mostly a lie. All the stories and songs and myths and legends start somewhere... with a seed. As they're told and retold and passed around, they grow and change to become the stories we know."
The Dire Wolf

Where the Water Tastes Like Wine is an interactive fiction game by Dim Bulb Games, set in a folkloric version of the United States during The Great Depression. Gameplay revolves around finding stories around the country and telling them to various characters in order to learn their own life stories.

This game uses the following Tropes:

  • 100% Completion: Averted. The achievement "Where the Water Tastes Like Wine" is impossible to get. It's made this way to build on the game's theme of how people are built up by dreams only to be let down by reality, and how promises made in a Deal with the Devil are empty ones.
  • Anachronism Stew: While generally set during the Great Depression, the player can encounter characters and events from other periods of American history. For instance, Rose mentions the Summer of Love (1967), and Dehaaya lived through the Long Walk of the Navajo (1864). The Dire Wolf explains that, for his "family", time is fluid and changeable.
  • Anthropomorphic Personification: The Dire Wolf can explain that the player has forgotten their name and become the personification of Folklore itself.
  • Choice-and-Consequence System: Played with, as the player can set a story's tone through their interactions with its characters, regardless of what the core event actually is.
  • Crapsack World: Few of the recurring characters' stories have happy endings.
  • Deal with the Devil: The game begins with the player in a card game, unable to match the pot and asked to pay with "his word". It turns out the dealer is the Dire Wolf, who then tasks the player with gathering stories via word-of-mouth. In your travels, it's possible to meet another of his debtors, and inadvertently become the method he uses to collect what he's owed.
    • And it wouldn't be a game about American folklore if the man himself didn't show up and do this.
  • Dem Bones: The Dire Wolf turns the player character into an animated skeleton so that they can complete their task no matter how long it takes. Regular people don't seem to perceive this change, though some can sense a dark aura in you.
  • Dialogue Tree: A variation, as the player chooses which of their stories to share with recurring characters in order to get a reaction.
  • End of an Age: One of the game's biggest running motifs, and the central theme of a good half of nearly all of the characters' stories. They're split more or less evenly as for whether the end of the age is a good or a bad thing.
    • Franklin: Optimistic. His story is about black people coming into their own as a cohesive group with its own voice and culture, and his story is filled with hope of one day being seen as his own complex person, rather than through the masks white society forces on him.
    • Little Ben, Bertha and Rocio: Optimistic. Each of their stories revolves around a different facet of the growing phenomenon of workers' unions, and the struggles poor, simple folks had to go through to win respect and acknowledgement from a society that sought to grind them down.
    • Rose: Pessimistic. Her story mourns the end of the Summer of Love, in particular, and in a more general sense, the hippie movement and how it promised to change the world for so much better but ended up delivering so little. Life in her commune is hard, and more and more of the people who once believed the future could be different have reverted into being cogs in the machine, interested only in secure livelihood and material luxuries.
    • Dehaaya and Fidelina: Pessimistic. Each in regards to their own native culture expresses a sorrow and a fear that the encroachment of the modern world (white American culture for Dehaaya, rationalism and modernity for Fidelina) will eventually wipe away all memory of their folklore, traditions and history. Dehaaya is the more optimistic of the two, concluding her story by exclaiming that so long as the stories and language of the Navajo are retold and maintain, their spirit will linger on. Fidelina, meanwhile, for all her cheerfulness, is ultimately less hopeful, recognizing that her ways are dying and that to more and more people she is no longer the benevolent pillar of the community who fights illness and witchcraft, but a deluded fossil of a kook that needs to be kept away from the sick lest she harm them with her primitive herbalism.
    • Ray laments the Twilight of the Old West, as more and more of the pristine desert which stood to him for freedom, fairness and beauty is fenced off, regulated and paved over to make way for government exploitation and civilization. He becomes more and more pessimistic until he rebels and becomes the dreaded outlaw Riotin' Ray.
  • Gossip Evolution: An important part of the game; stories told enough can "level up", so a relatively plausible story about a cowboy riding into a storm becomes the legend of Pecos Bill, a strange goat gives rise to the story of the Jersey Devil, etc.
  • Gotta Catch 'Em All: The game keeps track of how many of the 200+ stories you've picked up along the way. Additionally, the player receives trinkets from the sixteen recurring characters when they tell their whole life stories, which is vital to satisfying the Dire Wolf's request.
  • Humanoid Abomination: The Dire Wolf grants you the ability to see the true shapes of people. As you continue learning about the recurring characters, their appearances can change to match their story; compare Quinn the hobo kid from the first encounter to later on.
  • Imminent Danger Clue: At the very beginning, at the card game, the player's sure they can win because they have a Royal Flush, with the Ace of Spades most prominent in their hand; the "Death Card", and depicted with a skull in the spade. Their appearance becomes quite skeletal soon after when they become indebted to the Dire Wolf.
  • Magic Realism: Reality and fiction are frequently blurred in stories, but more notably, there's a skeleton collecting tales across America.
  • Reference Overdosed: So much. In addition to the traditional folklore, both fictional and derived from real people and events, even very obscure ones, there are many references to fiction (such as "The Colour Out of Space").
  • Tall Tale: This game is all about them and how they develop — from humble, simple affairs grounded in reality to embellished encounters flavored by each teller.
  • Tarot Motifs: All of the stories are connected to specific Arcana, Major or Minor, depending on their tone. The Tutorial Raven lampshades the pretentiousness of it, saying "The boss [the Dire Wolf] sure loves his tarot."
  • Title Drop: An early conversation asks if the player is looking for paradise, "that place just over the ridge where they all say that the water tastes just like the sweetest wine".
  • Unwinnable by Design: The achievement "Where the Water Tastes Like Wine" is not achievable, as there is no location where that happens literally.
  • Walking the Earth: Your character is tasked by the Dire Wolf to roam the American countryside, gathering folklore and spreading it from sea to shining sea. The people you meet along the way travel for their own reasons.
  • Wizard Needs Food Badly: The game tracks the player's funds, health, and restfulness; letting either of the latter two bottom out leads to a "death", in which you converse with the Dire Wolf before restarting your journey.