Dysfunctional Systems Episode 1: Learning to Manage Chaos Review

Title: Dysfunctional Systems Episode 1: Learning to Manage Chaos
Release date: 2013-04-04
Developer: Dischan Media
Publisher: Dischan Media

"Dysfunctional Systems" is the first commercial OELVN from "Dischan Media" - the makers of "Juniper's Knot". And it's a darn good one to boot.

The game deals with Mediators - interdimensional travelers, whose job is to fix problems that arise in many worlds of the multiverse. We are dropped into the shoes of a novice mediator Winter Harrison, who with her mentor Cyrus arrive to the planet Sule in order to observe a strained relationship between two neighbouring nations: Brighton and Gabrea. Brighton used to be a Gabrea colony, but even after gaining independence one hundred and twenty years ago, the relations between the countries remain tense. Gabrea economically strangles Brighton and the latter's President is basically just a figurehead for Gabrea.
"Mass Effect" style codex with an information about the world.
Technically it should have been an easy in-and-out job. Just show the newbie around, let her gain acquainted with such concepts like hostilities and chaos, observe and learn. What neither Cyrus nor Winter expected, was to end up smack dab in the middle of a starting nuclear war. Did I mention that Winter is fourteen and totally out of her depth?

Now that I have introduced the gist of the VN, let me put the elephant in the room to the forefront. "Dysfunctional Systems" is not a game - it's a prologue to a game that almost never got made. After the release of Episode 1, Dischan Media announced that they are putting DS on an indefinite hiatus due to the artist leaving the project. It's only after a successful Kickstarter campaign that it became clear that Episode 2 will be pushed out the door, after all. So, while we wait for the upcoming sequel, let's see what the first part has to offer.

It offers about 2 or so hours of a really good entertainment that, though, suffers from an underdeveloped setting. We learn almost nothing about mediators and why they are even bothering interfering into the affairs of other universes. That's what we will probably find out in the other installments. On the other hand, Episode 1 offers us a great character dynamic between the lead characters - Winter and Cyrus.
Corrupting minors, Cyrus?
Winter makes for a very convincing and compelling teenager protagonist. She is rebellious and obnoxious, but that is understandable, considering she didn't even want to be a mediator. It's the fucked-up government that eventually decided that Winter should be a mediator after she failed to fit into any other neatly arranged occupation slots. Does it need to be mentioned that the whole anti-utopian revelation reminded me of the basic premise behind Alan Dean Foster's "Nor Crystal Tears"?

At first Winter's whinging kind of threw me off, but Cyrus IS a very hard person to deal with levelheadedly. At first he appears to be a reasonable authority figure, but as the game progresses, it becomes clear that he is impetuous and short-sighted. That said, one of the best points of DS, is that the VN doesn't side with either character and clearly shows that there are no absolute truths, and any course of action can dangerously backfire. This results in two different endings, with a possibility to port either of them into the upcoming Episode 2, though I really don't know how Dischan is gonna implement that without possibly making a clusterfuck by trying to keep track of all the possible variables between all the episodes.
President will scare his enemies with his mighty eyebrows.
Many visual novels rehash a lot of text between the routes, which is understandable when a huge length of the novel is involved. The shortness of DS Episode 1 lets the makers present all new original text between the two routes, once the important decision that splits the branches has been made. The two routes are unique and both are great in their own way. However, I just have to nag a little and say that the very end of the epilogue, when a shitload of new characters are introduced for no good reason, rubbed me the wrong way. It looked as if Dischan just wanted to make the introductions as a sequel hook by proclaiming: "Here, look, these are the guys you will meet in part 2!" It was completely unnecessary and the game would have been better served with those introductions being lifted to the beginning of Episode 2.

Those who played the previous Dischan Media's short game "Juniper's Knot", will remember the gorgeous art. The same artist returns for "Dysfunctional Systems" and really helps to bring the whole world to life. It's beautiful! That's all I can say. The whole graphical makeup, coupled with subtle animations, brings the game to life in unexpected ways. I just hope that the new artist hired for Episode 2 will manage to achieve the same effect.
Winter's lesbian roommate loves massaging her back.
All in all, "Dysfunctional Systems: Learning to Manage Chaos" is a great game, especially coming from the western producers. Just remember that it is basically just a prologue to a yet unfinished story.

P.S. I have read lots of stories with interplanetary travel and I have read a lot with interplanar travel, but I don't remember many where both are employed at the same time. Sci-fi geek in me is dancing in joy. 

Links of Interest

Visual Novel Database
Offical Dischan Media site
Official "Dysfunctional Systems" page
IndieDB page
Purchase the game at: Dischan Store, GamersGate, Desura or Steam.

Final Verdict: 84%


  1. NetworkError21/5/14 02:34

    These reviews are great. I find myself agreeing with 95%+ of the points in each, so maybe I'm biased to the quality, lol. They've even influenced a purchase here and there with the ones I'm less familiar with. Keep at them!

    1. Well, I'm glad someone likes my reviews :-)

  2. Anonymous23/5/14 14:20

    Bollocks. All of your reviews are spot-on!