Thanks to a lengthy localisation delay, it took five years to get a follow-up to Centauri Production’s supernatural investigative adventure. In Memento Mori 2: Guardians of Immortality, the developers have learnt somewhat from their mistakes in the first, mainly to ditch the overly dull, dreary atmosphere and menial tasks. The sequel is still thematically similar, though, as the world of art, the crime of murder and the question of spirituality all come into play here, sometimes in interesting ways. Unfortunately, while there are certainly intriguing ideas floating around in the story, they’re never brought together in a cohesive way. And although the unique puzzles and variety of locales is to be admired, Memento Mori 2 never rises above its sluggish pace, settling for an exercise in mediocrity.
The story begins in Cape Town, with Max and Lara (the two protagonists from the first game) now married and on holiday. Their vacation is interrupted, however, when Lara gets a call from her employer, Interpol, to investigate a theft at a local art gallery. The couple are experts on the subject – Lara from her job and Max from his previous life as an art forger. At first the two working together on the mystery makes for a compelling dynamic, allowing you to explore the relationship between them, something that was sorely missing in the first game. Sadly, though, Max soon disappears under mysterious circumstances, which makes for an exciting plot development but a shame to lose their interaction; Lara is determined and Max is slightly short-tempered, and it’s fun to watch their rapport while it lasts.
With Max gone, Lara heads back to Lyon and decides to take on a new case. A disturbing crime has taken place in a San Francisco church, where religious imagery was painted on the wall in blood and some construction workers went missing. Lara decides to proceed with the inquiry, hoping it will take her mind off her missing husband, but as the mystery unravels it puts her at even greater unease. It’s quite a gripping premise that sends Lara even farther around the globe to places like Finland and Mexico. There are seven self-contained acts in total and each has intriguing moments, but in the end nothing comes together cohesively. Too many questions are left unanswered, while those that are resolved are done in an unsatisfying way.
This is a story that should have been more stimulating and engaging than it is. There are times when you can get bogged down reading documents or listening to dialogue that just isn’t very absorbing. It’s equally frustrating for story strands to be introduced and abruptly abandoned or glossed over in a wishy-washy way. For example, the many questions about Max’s disappearance and circumstances afterwards aren’t ever fully explained. There are times when unanswered questions can be an effective storytelling device, but here I found it more annoying than anything. Even worse for returning players, one of the major reveals is unforgivably similar to another in the first game. It’s obvious once you spot it coming (and you likely will) and it comes off as cheap. Some may find the connection to the first game welcome, but I would have found it much more interesting if a different route had been explored.
Lara’s task is to discover who caused the crime scene at the church and to catch them. It’s a tale of murder and, fittingly, of religion – the question keeps popping up throughout the story of whether Lara believes in more than what she can logically understand. There are moments where you’re faced with a key decision that can change the outcome of the story. Unlike in the first game, where seemingly inconsequential actions turned out to be the opposite, Memento Mori 2 clearly signposts when these are happening. Do you choose to hide some evidence? Do you hand in a letter of resignation? It’s a better approach, but still not perfect. There were times where I seriously pondered for a while about the right thing to do or say. Disappointingly, however, it only ever impacts the final cutscene. There are two main endings you can get, with a few minor variations of them, neither of them overly impressive. It would have been more meaningful to see the consequences of your choices play out more during the game, since here it feels too calculated.
If you’ve played the first game, you might be surprised to hear that Max and Lara have changed from sounding French and Russian to both being American (although there are a couple of references throughout that still refer to their origins). It’s actually quite a welcome change, since the heavy and sometimes fake-sounding accents in the first game could become grating. Both voice actors do well here, especially Lara, which lends some authenticity to her role. The majority of other voices in the game are serviceable but mediocre, though some are downright awful. Two of the worst offenders are a wheelchair-bound old woman named Zenzele, who also serves as the occasional narrator between acts, and a guard at a religious ruin – both butcher every line as they go.
It doesn’t help that there are lots of mistakes with the audio production. Occasionally a character’s voice will switch for a line or two, obviously being said by a stand-in actor doing an off-base impression. Sometimes lines are spoken out of order, or in the wrong place, with only the subtitles offering the correct dialogue. Whenever you’re on the phone, the person on the other end of the line is barely audible. I can appreciate the effort that went into getting his game localised into English at all, but these are obvious problems that should have been noticed in testing and been fixed before release.
Cape Town is a vibrant, colourful location that stands in stark contrast to what comes later. The sun is shining, the water is a bright blue and the music is cheery. In fact, this opening location is quite unlike anywhere else; here the pace is slower and it’s all fairly upbeat. Once you jet back to France, rain and gloom are the order of the day. Wherever you go, the atmospheric environments in general are perhaps what Memento Mori 2 does best. You’ll often be exploring run-down, grimy places that create a strong sense of impending darkness, both literally and figuratively. One of the highlights is in a partially destroyed restaurant, where the electricity is out and only your torch guides the way. The use of lighting and shadows in this scene is successful in creating a palpable tension.
While the alleys of San Francisco’s Chinatown are urban and gritty, the snowy landscapes of Finland are remote and rustic. Both offer up a satisfying feeling of uncertainty – the former due to the blood, the latter from its unnatural quiet. You’ll spend some time at a small Finnish hotel, which makes for a nice change from the larger cities. During your stay, a blizzard whips past the windows and the snow continues to fall once you step outside. If there’s another thing to commend Memento Mori 2 for doing especially well, it’s offering up both variety and quantity of locations to explore. And it’s a world that often feels realistic and alive, thanks to cars whizzing past and people standing in the background chatting.Continued on the next page...
What our readers think of Memento Mori 2: Guardians of Immortality
Posted by SamuelGordon on Aug 5, 2014
Great and challenging
Good: - Great puzzles, some of them challenging. - Decent voice acting - Interesting locations - Seems like every act is made by different people which i loved! - You actually have to think about not leaving any evidence behind or tampering with it, if you...
Posted by Niclas on Jun 3, 2014
Interesting story with well integrated and challenging puzzles
I must say that i really liked this game. It feels like a mix between Still Life and Gabriel Knight. The story and atmosphere has its ups and downs, but for the most time it is really good and interesting. What I really loved about this game was its...
Posted by Iznogood on May 18, 2014
Gripping Story with Difficult Puzzles
In Memento Mori 2 we once again meet Lara Svetlova a detective working for the Stolen Arts department of Interpol, and Maxim Durand an artists and former art counterfeiter, who were also the two protagonists in the first game. Except this time they are Mr....