State of Mind
Having already seen State of Mind at last year's E3, I checked in with the folks from Daedalic again this time to get the latest info on their upcoming 3D adventure. Speaking with the project’s Creative Lead Martin Ganteföhr, there were new things I learned, old things we knew, and a release date that’s right around the corner.
The game is first and foremost an investigative mystery centered around the moral implications of transhumanism, the theory of evolving the human race via technological means. Protagonist Richard puts his vocation as a journalist to good use by researching and looking for clues to solve the mysterious and sudden disappearances of his wife and son. In addition to puzzles, the game will also feature some light action cinematics and at least one stealth section.
Technology plays a large part in both the story and setting. On one hand, the citizens of dystopian Berlin circa 2048 rely on engineered implants in their everyday lives. For example, Richard has an implant that lets him make holographic calls to other characters at any point, facilitating the game’s communication portions.
Then there’s the seemingly utopian VR world that plays a large part in the mystery and houses artificial intelligences derived via mind uploads of Berlin’s living citizenry. Adam is one such clone, living an artificial life in an artificial city, ignorant of the fact that he is a copy and his whole life a lie. During the course of the game, Richard and Adam do interact, introducing one of its major dilemmas: at what point can an AI be considered “alive”? There are even distinct endings based on how the player chooses to resolve a final moral choice.
Since last year, the team at Daedalic has used the time to listen to player feedback, and there have been a series of tweaks made to the dialog and pacing, and several scenes reworked entirely to improve the overall experience. The game is also voiced, in both English and German, with Doug Cockle (Geralt of The Witcher) taking on the English role of Richard. A release date isn’t very far off, with August 16, 2018 the current target for PC, PS4, Xbox One and Switch.
My Memory of Us
As soon as I saw My Memory of Us, even from about fifteen feet away, I knew I was in for something interesting. After talking with a member of the development team, I heard nothing to think that my first impression steered me wrong in the least. I then got to spend several minutes playing, by way of a tutorial of sorts, which confirmed my initial reaction further.
The first thing probably everybody will notice about My Memory of Us is its almost-monochrome color palette. The majority of the game features beautiful black-and-white graphics, helping to set it in a historical place in time, namely Poland during World War II. The only pop of color is a bright red used for certain key features in a scene, like an article of clothing or the optical lens on the evil soldiers’ headgear.
You see, although it’s set during actual historical events, the game views these events through the imagination of the two children providing the story’s focal point. These two kids, a little boy and girl, meet one day just before the war breaks out, and quickly form a beautiful friendship.
But it isn’t long before the German army arrives – or, as the kids see it, evil robot soldiers invade their hometown. From here on out, the boy and girl must rely on their bond to get them through the real-life horrors waiting for them, all filtered through the lens of childlike imagination. I stopped playing the demo there – after all, this isn’t the kind of game I want to spoil for myself, either. Thankfully, we won’t have to wait long, as Juggler Games is bringing My Memory of Us to PC, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One as soon as September of this year.
A Plague Tale: Innocence
Some games showcase the fun and friendly side of E3, with colorful worlds, lighthearted humor, and feel-good stories – and then there’s Asobo Studio’s A Plague Tale: Innocence. Other games may be more graphic or adult-themed, but this one is about as thematically dark as dark gets.
The game asks players to guide siblings Amicia and Hugo safely across 14th century southwestern France. The catch? Oh, if only there were just the one. Soldiers of the Inquisition are doggedly chasing the pair, Hugo is infected with a deadly disease, and hundreds upon thousands of rats carrying the Black Death flood the countryside, on the hunt for flesh to consume. But the siblings have one trick up their sleeve: the rats are deathly afraid of light. This knowledge is more than just a way to keep safe; when applied cleverly, it can be a deadly weapon against the hordes of foes hunting down the kids.
Sitting in a private meeting room, the demonstration for A Plague Tale began with Amicia and Hugo being ferried across a river by Lucas, another child on the run from the law like themselves. For the duration of the demo, Lucas and Hugo followed automatically while Amicia was the player-controlled character. Disembarking the boat, the three come upon a recent killing field, semi-fresh corpses of combatants literally piled up as far as the eye can see in the pre-dawn mist. Reluctantly, the trio begins making their way across, Hugo understandably dismayed and fearful at the prospect of having to walk on dead bodies.
If that wasn’t bad enough, the group halts as a horse lying on its side a few feet in front of them suddenly begins thrashing, apparently not yet dead. But it quickly becomes clear that appearances can be deceiving – the horse is indeed quite dead, and what appears to be the thrashing of limbs and body is actually something, or rather many somethings, inside the horse trying desperately to get out. As the poor animal’s hide tears apart, a river of glistening, slithery rats pours forth, and from everywhere all around, heading for the children to devour them.
This scene in itself was so shocking that it immediately seared itself into my memory. Appalled, I still couldn’t help but keep watching. Luckily, Amicia knew just how to handle the situation. Seeking refuge by the dim light of a lantern, the three were relatively safe for the moment. A few feet away, another lantern spelled out A Plague Tale’s main gameplay mechanic: seek safety in the light. But still there was worse to come.
Before long, lights begin bobbing in the distance: lantern-bearing soldiers heading toward the children, searching for them. Out of options and with nowhere left to run, Amicia knows there is only one way to save herself and the others. Taking out her slingshot and taking aim for the nearest soldier’s lantern, she deftly shatters his source of light, instantly marking him for a grim and violent death at the teeth and claws of the rats all around. As the soldier, now a shrieking mountain of rats, screams his last, the kids sneak past the otherwise-distracted rodents and on to the next leg of the demo.
Things continued in this vein for a few more minutes yet. Using the same mechanics, the player will need to continuously create a path for the kids to make their way through the treacherous terrain. One particularly notable sequence saw the children making their way with a lit torch, driving a sea of rats ahead of them. On the far side, a soldier standing before a metal grating, with no other exit in sight. Unfortunately for him, fleeing from the fire meant the rats only had one way to go, and he was squarely in their way. As the soldier began screaming in terror at the advancing rats, driven by Amicia and her torch, she started sobbing, apologizing from the bottom of her heart to the man she has doomed to a torturous death, forced to do so to ensure her own survival.
As mature and grisly as these images were to digest, they are also an enticing hook that offers some truly enthralling moments. Although promising a memorable narrative, this isn’t really an adventure game as such, nor is it focused on action gameplay. As the designer showing off the demo put it, it’s about “being smart to survive.” A Plague Tale: Innocence releases in 2019 for PC, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One.Continued on the next page...