Thursday, 17 October 2013

A Beyond: Two Souls Review

Beyond: Two Souls is the latest game from Quantic Dream. The team that brought us the 2010's game Heavy Rain which instantly received a warm welcome from the gaming community and recognition of being a truly unique experience.

But what is Beyond: Two Souls really like?

I'll be blunt. Beyond is a game with great potential. However, it's been clouded over by major problems, inconsistencies and a main lack of consequence and threat.

Beyond tells the story of Jodie and Aiden, both linked by a mysterious cause to which both are tethered together. Her story is told in a non-linear order (the ending explains why). By doing this it makes the story extremely muddled up.. I should say however that it does put the chapters in the right order when you complete the game. Having it jumbled up makes certain events appear near the end of the game, that were from Jodie's childhood. When it would have been more relevant to be played near the start of the game, allowing the players to know fully what Jodie has been through. Some of these events should have been played at the start because they give the story it's meaning and it's direction. Without them (for the first two thirds of the game) the story misses key information, leaving players in the dark.

The game features twenty something chapters, some of the plot points are silly, some are predictable, whereas some drift away from the main story and try to pull focus. Instead these ones drag on, become dull and leaving you wonder what was the main reason for it. 

Despite this some of the chapters are highly emotional, deep and some will question your morals and ethics. It will put you in terrible positions and await your response. Make you look at certain things in your own life at a new angle. Become sad. Become angry. Become scared. When it comes to changeling emotion this game is brilliant at it.

One of the games features is player choices. You are free to choose different ways to tackle a problem, however your choices do not have a major impact on the story as you would expect it to. The effects of these choices last for one cut-scene or one new brief game area. Some choices don't make any impact whatsoever. For example some segments of the game may involve Jodie and security cameras. Whether you disable the cameras or don't (and get caught by them) nothing will happen differently, they will both play out the exact same way. Doing this does hider some portions pointless and makes you wonder why they were added if they weren't significant in any way shape or form.

Jodie interacting with NPC's gives you conversational choices. Choices will appear giving you options. You better read them fast, know what they mean and select one. Otherwise one will be selected for you (unless you pause it, thus breaking the game's flow). Having these timed can be a pain, while most are easy to tell what they mean and select it no bother, there is some choices that are too bleak to get a grasp of what will be said.

Being tethered together is an acceptable reason as to why Aiden can only venture so far from Jodie. However it is not clear how far he can travel before being yanked back. Some times he can go about 20-30 meters away from Jodie before being pulled. Sometimes -in the same chapter- he can only go 10-15 meters away. This inconsistency does make the game a pain as you'll constantly be unsure of how far you can go. Resulting in you having to test the limits every now and then.

Other things about Aiden that make no to little sense is the possession/killing abilities  . Everyone glows to Aiden this indicates if the person can be possessed, killed or can't be interacted with. It makes no sense why Aiden can kill some people yet it only applies to specific people. It's a small inconsistency but is still relevant as it raises a massive what if?  and why? question.

Making a re-appearance from Heavy Rain is the QTE (quick time events). Unlike Heavy Rain however, these don't possess much of a challenge or come with much of a risk -there is no risk actually-. If you fail multiple times, you won't die (or if you did it's okay cause this game has no game over what-so-ever). Aiden will automatically fix the problem for you, a cut-scene will occur, or Jodie will react without your commands. This means you can fail all the QTE and the game will still be playable hindering the QTE as no challenge, threat or important. 

There is another kind of QTE that was not present in it's former. Jodie will attempt to complete an action. Time will slow down and the colour will fade. You only get a second or two to look at her movements, anticipate it, then complete it. For example. You're about to punch someone. Time slows down and you see her fist moving to the right. Push right and it's all okay. Some of these however are very difficult to interpreter and carry out. You may be confused if you have to block an attack, parry it, or move away. Taking all the options in and deducing what one to carry out within a few seconds is frustrating and will often have you failing them (but it's all okay, it's not like you'll get a game over or anything).

In all the game does feel like two games in a way. Playing as child Jodie and adult Jodie, they both feel and sometimes play different. Maybe there is a chapter or two in there where it links both play-styles, evolves it in a sense making the transition more smoother but because it's told in a muddle-up order it's difficult to say if there is a link there or not.

With a spectacular performance from Ellen Page and Willem Dafoe, and amazing voice-overs. Beyond: Two Souls -while it does have faults and hiccups- is a game people should play at least once. It is a unique experience with great use of emotion, where you will never forget the first time you played as Aiden.


+ Highly emotional

+ Excellent use of voice

+ Unique experience

-  Lack of consequence and threat

-  Lack of challenge

-  Choice have little impact overall

- Some chapters are a bit of a grind