Thoughts on Beyond: Two Souls

I spoke very highly of two of Quantic Dream’s games already, and had mentioned that I would also be diving into a third game that came out in between Heavy Rain and Detroit: Become Human. That game, is 2013’s Beyond: Two Souls. This is going to be a relatively short post on the subject, because unlike the previously written about games, this one didn’t sink its hooks into me like the others did. I’ll now attempt to explain why.

Graphically, the game leans more towards the Detroit side of the scale rather that the first game, mainly due to the fact that the latter two games came out on PS4 while the former came out on PS3, so that explains the difference in fidelity. That isn’t to say Heavy Rain looked bad, it was just a sign of the times. It still had a better story line than this game, as did the third chapter. You begin play as a little girl, and there are various current time frame and flash back scenes that lay the ground work for the story. It seems that as a little girl, your character has an “imaginary friend” that ends up actually being some sort of entity that has a link with her. It’s not so much that she has control of it, but more so that she can ask it to do things. In gameplay terms, yes,  you do control this entity at certain points, and are able to choose to listen to commands or not. There’s still branching dialogue choices and things you can do that affect the story, but the story itself was less grounded in reality and I think suffered because of it. I realize that robots becoming humans is also currently far-fetched but still something I anticipate could happen whereas this spirit/entity is complete bullshit and made it harder for me to suspend my disbelief.

I do however, think it’s cool when games get fully motion captured actors and portray them as themselves in games. Willem Dafoe ends up being the girl’s “handler” so to speak, and it appears as time goes on, she becomes more than just a girl with a pet, and more of her own CIA spy bad ass. That’s cool and all, but it’s less cohesive with all of the jumping around the game did. Heavy Rain ended doing some flashback stuff but it made sense when they did so. Detroit: Become Human ended up making more of a beeline to the end of the story but you played multiple characters so you could tell it was all happening simultaneously. Beyond: Two Souls ends up making a stack of layers that when unshuffled makes sense, but otherwise seems like a mess. This is probably why they included an option to play the game in chronological order, but I wanted the “authentic” experience.

What frustrated me the most was controlling the entity. Early on you have to fly through walls to “cheat” and see what card a person is looking at so that you can match it to a card on the desk in front of you. Then Willem Dafoe asks you if you can do anything else (at this point they seem to think she is psychic/telekinetic) and you can throw shit around the room. Like the other games though, this is controlled via QTE/weird button combinations and it just didn’t do it for me. There’s some forced stealth with an invisible spirit and that’s where I drew the line. It just simply didn’t hold my attention like the others. As it stands now, I can’t recommend this one, but if you are a fan of their other games, you might be able to power through it. That’s all I have to say about it, so I’ll see you all next time!

Thoughts on Heavy Rain

Back in July, I wrote a post about a surprise hit for me, Detroit: Become Human. It happened to be a free release via Playstation Plus that month, and I decided to try it on a whim. I usually try out the free games each month, but oftentimes they simply aren’t for me and they get uninstalled. No harm no foul, considering no money spent (unless you count that $60/year fee, but it’s awesome value no matter how you look at it). It turned out that this was a game that would hold my interest, which isn’t something that happens very often to me anymore. Besides the base game, the Plus offering included a digital artbook, soundtrack and a copy of the company’s first Playstation title, Heavy Rain. We already went back in time a little bit with Detroit: Become Human (released last year), but end up going even futher back to 2010 with Heavy Rain and to some degree, it shows. This is the same style of game, but it’s not nearly as pretty. The controls are a little clunky as well, but the story is good, and that’s really what matters in this genre. Actually, part of what I said about Detroit: Become Human applies to this game as well:

Regular readers will know that I’m a fan of narrative, story-rich games that don’t necessarily have a lot of game play so to speak. These types of games range from adventure titles to interactive story books. I’ve been a fan of some of the TellTale Games series, though now that the company is defunct it’s unlikely we’ll see more of those unless another company picks up the reigns. Another recent game of this style The Council was very good and had basically no game play whatsoever — yet the story was intriguing enough that simply controlling a character through a story arc and making some minor decisions was fine by me. Detroit: Become Human lines up pretty well with this assessment — I’d go out on a limb and call it a QTE game, because outside of dialogue all of the action is controlled by various timed button presses and other motions with the controller. Honestly this is one of the first games I’ve seen that uses the controller motion technology along with the touch pad on top of the normal controls — that part was pretty cool, but also kind of annoying at times.

Unfortunately, with games like these requiring you to be on the ready to quickly press buttons at any moment, so taking screenshots ends up being sort of difficult. As such I tried to include some pictures that show of some of the neat features of the game, but those that wouldn’t really spoil anything. But, the game is nearly ten years old, so if you haven’t played this you probably don’t have any interest. Whatever the case, there is an intriguing story here that I’d love to spoil but I won’t. Suffice to say that you can play as four different characters, and each have their own part to play in the story, along with interacting with each other before the game is over. There are branching parts based on your decisions, and clearly there were places where I could have chosen to go another route, but unlike Detroit, you don’t get the branching graph that shows you exactly how things could have gone. Obviously that was something that was thought of later on in the company’s game repertoire.

A true detective story, Heavy Rain is doing its best work while trying to convince you who the killer is. I really didn’t suspect the character who ended up being guilty, but as the story unfolded I wasn’t disappointed with it. I suppose there are other ways things could have ended up, but I don’t really see the point in playing through a thousand times. I made my choices and I enjoyed the ride, but I don’t intend to go back for more. The same happened with their other game, and I don’t feel bad about it.

One other note: I didn’t realize that Beyond: Two Souls (2013) was also produced by Quantic Dream, and it was also a free Plus game a while back. I went ahead and downloaded that one and intend to play through it soon. So expect more about that later on this month.

Thoughts on Detroit: Become Human

Sony announced this month’s lineup of free games via their Playstation Plus service, and it was lackluster at best. One arcade racing game reminiscent of, I don’t know, Pole Position? And a Soccer game that wasn’t FIFA, not that I’d care either way — nobody likes Soccer. There must have been some sort of critical mass of outrage thrown at them, because at the last moment they swapped out PES 2019 for Detroit: Become Human. Konami wasn’t even told it was going to happen. Nonetheless, I was more interested in trying out a newer Sci-Fi game rather than boring ol’ Futbol so I went ahead and downloaded it. I should mention too that the other game, Horizon Chase Turbo is actually pretty fun, but that’s all I’m saying at this juncture.

Detroit: Become Human was hyped up before its release. I remember hearing good things about it, but from video it didn’t really appeal to me and honestly I would have never played it were it not for getting it for free. Apparently, I was wrong when I judged this game by its cover, because it appealed to me on many different levels.

Regular readers will know that I’m a fan of narrative, story-rich games that don’t necessarily have a lot of game play so to speak. These types of games range from adventure titles to interactive story books. I’ve been a fan of some of the TellTale Games series, though now that the company is defunct it’s unlikely we’ll see more of those unless another company picks up the reigns. Another recent game of this style The Council was very good and had basically no game play whatsoever — yet the story was intriguing enough that simply controlling a character through a story arc and making some minor decisions was fine by me. Detroit: Become Human lines up pretty well with this assessment — I’d go out on a limb and call it a QTE game, because outside of dialogue all of the action is controlled by various timed button presses and other motions with the controller. Honestly this is one of the first games I’ve seen that uses the controller motion technology along with the touch pad on top of the normal controls — that part was pretty cool, but also kind of annoying at times.

Graphically the game looks amazing. I honestly think it’s one of the best looking games I’ve seen on the Playstation 4, top five at least. The animations were stellar, there was no hitching, it ran well, looked beautiful and contained more heart than I would have expected. As the story goes, it’s the middle of the 21st century and Androids have become a large part of human society. They perform tasks that many would not want to do for themselves, including cleaning, manual labor, and even taking care of their own children. It seems that they are the perfect utility machine for everyone, and affordable enough for the average family to own one. Ironic that the game takes place wholly in Detroit, Michigan, a city that was known for its prosperity during the automotive boom of the 1900’s, but is more known as a ran down and broken city in more recent years. It seems to have regained its prominence in the nation in this game however, as these Androids are all created here in the city by a company called Cyber Life.

I honestly cannot go further into the story because it has so many branching pathways and spoilers that I’d have to play through it a couple more times in order to see everything. I don’t want to spoil that for you if you haven’t yet played it. I wasn’t expecting to enjoy this one as much as I did, and I played through it in just a couple of days which isn’t something that usually happens with me and games these days. The story is compelling — you’ll take control of several different Androids with different agendas and there are plot twists and turns along the way. Fuck up on some QTEs? You’ll have to live with the consequences (I did earn a trophy for not losing a single fight throughout the entire game). The same goes for your dialogue decisions. Things will happen, and it will be your choice how they happen. Just don’t expect everyone to like your choices.

If you have a PS4 I highly recommend you download this game right now and play it. Definitely for fans of Sci-Fi stories with artificial intelligence, detective work, dystopian futures, the love of a family, hero’s journeys and freedom.

The Council: Finale

Earlier in the month, developer Big Bad Wolf released its final episode of The Council. “Checkmate” picks up where the prior one left off, in which you had found out that you yourself were related to Lord Mortimer, and as a result, a Daemon too. Definitely an interesting turn of events, and in this final showing things go from interesting to downright weird.

As the episodes before it, the series has continued with the narrative adventure style game play. You’ll run about the island and solve puzzles while having confrontations with various guests. As a “choices matter” style of game, it’s clear that there are multiple endings and various things that occur throughout the episodes might be different for you than they were for me. For instance, I never had an issue with one of the puzzles in an earlier episode, so I retained both of my hands, but watching some other videos of the game made it clear that you could indeed lose your hand if you had guessed wrong. There was also a bit where you had to choose a spear during a puzzle, and it was revealed that I had chosen correctly. Various people can die, and in my case, there were a handful of them that did. The result most likely changes only minor details, but the ending was most assuredly altered on my path.

I failed one of the confrontations during this episode, and if memory serves me, I hadn’t failed one prior to this. The Cardinal proved to be a worthy adversary, but it did little to effect the rest of the episode. I was sent to go ahead and try to convince anyone who was going to vote against Mortimer (thereby stopping the Louisiana purchase by America) to change their minds, and he was the only one who resisted. There were some annoying puzzles this time around as well, and a trip into “the Ether” which took the game from a normal political romp into a supernatural realm that I didn’t capture here in screen shots. Once all was said and done though, we killed off Mortimer’s brother (Sir Holm) and then Mortimer turned on me as well. You can see my results of each chapter below:

I didn’t see that coming. Being Lord Mortimer’s son and gaining some supernatural powers seemed pretty awesome, and though Holm said with his dying breath that Mortimer was mad and that I would turn out just like him, I didn’t realize what he meant until after the conference. It turns out being just like him was more like being him. He told me about how I was his chosen one and that I was one of the best children he had ever had, but this also meant that he had chosen me to be his new body, as he says he only changes bodies via his own children. This didn’t really mean that I lost anything though, as the game simply ended and I was presented with a little epilogue about the remaining surviving members of the Council:

It doesn’t seem that much detail was put into this section, we’re just told that each person goes back to their home countries and does things that would be fairly historically accurate. The only entirely fictional character is Mortimer himself, and we just learn that nothing is heard from him again, but in my case that means that he took over my body and that would explain why no one knows what happened to him. Whatever the case it was an enjoyable romp through historical events, and I rather enjoyed it. It set itself apart from series that TellTale have made, and I hope to see them create something else in the future. I’d take a second season where you can see what happened to you (Mortimer) and where your choices in this season affected the next. I’d also take a whole new game series. Since we know that TellTale is defunct, I need someone else to give me this style of game as I do enjoy them. They’re relaxing and don’t require twitch skills to run through. I also enjoy the episodic nature where you get to play a game like this throughout the year a little bit at a time.

Anyway, I’d recommend it if these sorts of games are up your alley. I’m sure the complete edition will be around soon and likely will go on sale during Winter events so keep an eye out for that.

Quick Thoughts: Iron Crypticle and Sunless Sea

This post has been sitting in my drafts folder for a while, and since I’m not ready to share some of my opinions on more recent titles (I’ll have posts for Fallout 76 and the Torchlight Frontiers alpha soon) I figured this was a good time to find something in the draft folder and post it. Honestly I don’t remember exactly when I picked up these two titles, but they were on sale at some point on the Playstation Store for a couple bucks each so I thought I would try them out. Sunless Sea was something that came out on PC first and I had thought about buying it a few times, but happened to catch this sale. Iron Crypticle is a low-budget indie game that just happened to appeal to me via its gameplay loop. Let’s dive in.

If you’ve played any of the twin-stick shooters or rogue-lites of the past decade, or even if you enjoyed games like Gauntlet, you will probably like Iron Crypticle. The game has a story premise but it doesn’t really matter. The main gist of it is a top down arena, set up as a series of rooms, making up a dungeon of sorts. You have the twin stick action, as one would control movement and the other controls your fire. There are some special abilities and limited ammo weapons but that’s really what you have to work with. Each room will contain a set amount of monsters that increase in difficulty as you progress. It doesn’t seem to have a permanent progression that lasts between games so I guess it’s not really a rogue-like, but it still feels similar enough. At the end of a dungeon you will face off against a boss, and then move on to the next level.

There really isn’t much more to it, but i like that they’ve kept things simple and it works despite that simplicity. If you can get this on sale for a couple bucks like I did it’s worth the diversion.

Sunless Sea has been out for a while as I’ve mentioned, and apparently at some point there was some DLC released, which has been since bundled into one package. This is supposed to be a captain’s simulator, but set in a lovecraftian world. It boils down to a bunch of menus to tell the story, give you missions, and present other random events. Most of the time you’ll be clicking through these, and then you’ll set sail to do stuff. It’s very sandboxy in this regard, where you get some breadcrumbs and can follow those or just do whatever the hell you want.

This one is supposed to have progression where certain things carry over to the next session, your captain’s memoirs if you will. It’s not an action packed game but is intriguing nonetheless. I’ll have to put more time into this to give it a proper review, but so far I’ve been interested to learn more.

That’s all I have for today. Have a happy Thanksgiving tomorrow if you’re in the States.