Video Game Review: Disco Elysium

I don’t do many video game reviews, just reviews of games that I think have a great story and might be relevant to a story-writing, book-reading blog.

And this one. This one.

Disco Elysium is a miracle of an indie game produced by ZA/UM.  It’s usually $39.99 on Steam, and it’s worth every single penny. It’s unlikely to go on sale anytime soon, as it came out in 2019 and is racking up award after award.

You don’t need to read further if you don’t want. This game is amazing. But it needs more disco.

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Non-Spoiler Review

Traditional gamers who are into shooters or platformers exclusively probably won’t give a crap about this game. There’s absolutely no mechanics to it that require skill of any sort. The game is almost exclusively dialogue choices, interacting with objects, a lot of running, and feelings.

So what’s this game about? Well, let me show you a screen shot of how it opens.

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You wake up naked in a busted hostel room, still drunk but with a hangover. You have no memories of who you are, where you are, or what you’re doing. There are voices in your head telling you what to do (each of them clearly a part of yourself).

Upon putting on clothes and exiting your room, you quickly find out that you’re a cop who was sent to investigate a lynching in the hotel’s back yard three days ago. Your primary duties were to get the body out of the tree, question important subjects, not lose your gun, and not lose your badge.

You did none of those things.

The game lets you be weird, spontaneous, and political (I went with the full-on-Ayn-Rand boner because it gave you more money).

You’ll laugh. You’ll certainly feel like an existential crisis.

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Hints and Tips

I’m not doing spoilers, per se, because that’s lame crap. This game is too good and new to spoil.

Decide Up Front about Save Scumming

This game is really easy to save scum (which means to save, try an option that is random chance, then re-load if you fail to roll well enough). The game does not punish you too much for failing rolls, so don’t be afraid if you would rather not save scum.

I did some save scumming. If I felt like it was important enough, I would save scum. A lot of people can make it through without cheating, but I had to get what I wanted, and I don’t feel bad about it.

Beg Money off of EVERYONE

You’re poor in this game. Egregiously poor. I suggest asking literally everyone for money.

Use the Phone on the Third Day

On the third day, you get access to a new area. On that new area, you’ll find an active payphone.

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Despite it being so hard to get money, USE IT ON THE PHONE. IT IS YOUR ONE TRUEST QUEST DO IT.

Make van Eyck’s Jam Harder Core

First, of course, you need to find the ravers in a tent and do their quest, but then you need to find a magnetic tape in a tree and give it to Egg Head. Just type in “Make van Eyck’s Jam Harder Core walkthrough” into Google and follow a let’s play, honestly. I didn’t, but I got lucky.

Put Some Points in Authority

Trust me, there’s one place in the game where you’ll want authority. It doesn’t need to be your primary stat, but you should have a few – it gets clutch…

Prepare for Existential Crisis

Yes. Prepare.

dolores dei

 

Video Game Review: To The Moon

I don’t do many video game reviews, just reviews of games that I think have a great story and might be relevant to a story-writing, book-reading blog.

To The Moon is an indie RPG from Freebird Games.  It’s usually $9.99 on Steam, and that’s not a bad price for it.  However, I’d put it on your wishlist and let Steam email you when it goes on sale; $5 is definitely worth it.  Also keep an eye out for a Humble Bundle including it (this is where my copy came from).

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Non-Spoiler Review

Now, before you get super hype, you video-game lover you, I first must warn you: this is almost exclusively a short story with a tiny bit of video-game and puzzle.  The story is linear, and nothing you do will change it; hell, there’s barely even any score, and any scoring functions you perform are all in your head.

Here’s a pretty good image of what the game will look like:

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You play as a pair of scientists whose job is to alter the memories of dying people so they head off into the wild blue yonder with the belief that they fulfilled all their life’s hopes and dreams.  This means you get to hop through ol’ geezer Johnny’s head and see his past as part of your effort to get him to the moon.  The problem is that he doesn’t – and never has – recalled why he wants to go to the moon in the first place.

There are twists, and I think they’re well done (if a bit sappy).  It reminded me a lot of Citizen Kane (though, I must admit, Citizen Kane is a f*cking masterpiece).

Overall, good game.  Great game?  No.  But definitely worth the time and money I put into it.  It takes about 4-5 hours to play all the way through.

Spoilerific Review

Beware – I will be spoiling both the main twist and the ending before I get through this review.

Anyway, the front end of the game focuses on Johnny and how he had a fulfilling if pretty normal life married to a woman named River.  River is non-neurotypical, and I get the game was going for autistic (though I’m not sure and it never says for sure).  In an atypical fashion, however, you can’t access his earlier childhood memories, and this makes your main characters fail at their objectives… at first.

Then, after some creative thinking, you come up with a way to solve the problem and access his childhood memories in order to instill the desire to go to space into him.  You find out *twist spoiler ahead* that his twin brother died and the resulting ‘blank spots’ in his memory caused him to forget that he promised River to visit the moon.

The twist contained all the elements I like in a twist: 1) I didn’t see it coming and 2) There was evidence for it that you didn’t quite put together before it was told to you.  It was great.

My problem with the twist is that it came with the result that the twin brother, which you didn’t hear about for most of the game, ended up being more important than the wife.  It made her part of the story feel like a red herring, and I was slightly disappointed that she wasn’t part of the problem/solution.

However, the ending did work out well.  It was happy despite some worrying bits in the third act, and you get to see Johnny launch to the Moon with River by his side.

Give the game a try.  It’s a good indie game, after all!

Video Game Review: Tales of Berseria

I don’t do many video game reviews, just reviews of games that I think have a great story and might be relevant to a story-writing, book-reading blog.

The Tales series of Japanese RPGs are released by Namco.  I’ve played Tales of Symphonia, Tales of the Abyss, Tales of Symphonia 2, Tales of Zestiria, Tales of Berseria (ta-da!) and will probably play tales of Vesperia sometime soon.

With zero doubt, Tales of Berseria is the BEST of the series.  I don’t have to play the others to know.  You can buy the PC port on Steam, and it goes on great sales every so often.

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Non-Spoiler Review

This fantastic game has an epic, long story that follows Velvet – a girl whose life is upended when her brother in law sacrifices her little brother in a strange ritual to purge the world of evil.  In vain effort to save her brother and stop the ritual, Velvet becomes a demon and is imprisoned on an island.

And that’s all just the introduction.

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This quest for vengeance doesn’t match the completely lighthearted, save the world BS that comes standard with the rest of the Tales games.  You’re out to fucking kill a guy who’s currently a hero of the planet, and you don’t care how that goes down.  The game definitely has its emotional moments, and there were times I put my hands to my face in surprise and out of empathy for the characters.  The least likable characters in this game were more likable than the best characters of Zestiria.

As far as gameplay goes, the Soul Gauge mechanic was fantastic.  You could button smash pretty effectively if things got out of hand, but you could also learn your characters and become adept if you wanted to.  The simplified item system in Berseria got rid of what made Zestiria unapologetically atrocious.  The only game whose play and stats mechanics I think was better may have been Tales of the Abyss with its fields of fonons.

Spoilerific Review

Berseria starts off as one of the best emotional whirlwinds of the Tales series, and it keeps going.  Pretty soon after Velvet escapes prison, she sees a little boy who looks JUST LIKE her dead brother.  Because she’s basically emotionally screwed, she steals him from the woman who owns him (yes, the kid’s a slave) and runs off on her stolen ship.  The kid doesn’t remember being her brother, and in fact doesn’t talk much for the first part of the story.

Velvet continues on her search for Artorius, her murderous brother in law, only to find out that he’s become basically the Pope and hero to the entire planet.  He’s allowed the demons to become visible, and now ordinary humans can fight off evil with the help of enslaved malakim.  What’s more, Artorius plans to rid the world of evil once and for all by changing the hearts of men to no longer produce malevolence.

Velvet, as a demon who feeds off anger and malevolence, doesn’t like that.

So she travels the world looking for ways to stop Artorius’s plan.  She meets other people whose goals at least temporarily align with hers to help out.  In one rather emotional section, a young girl named Kamoana has been purposefully turned into a demon by Artorius’s church – but why?  Velvet doesn’t care, so she abducts Kamoana, kills her mother, and vows further hatred of Artorius.

After rescuing other demons in similar situations, the crew discovers that the church has to create a specific kind of demon – therions – in order to feed a new, important malakim called Innominat.  They must fight to capture all the therions, but it is too late – Innominat has arisen, and it is the actual Laphicet, Velvet’s brother!

In a weird twist of fate that actually made me squeal with delight, the Laphicet Velvet had been traveling with turns out to be not her brother, but her unborn nephew who was killed when Artorius’s wife – Velvet’s older sister – was slain as an earlier part of the ritual.

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Anyway, it all turns out fine, but I won’t spoil the ending… it was pretty good.

Cheers!

Video Game Review: Doki Doki Literature Club

I don’t do many video game reviews, just reviews of games that I think have a great story and might be relevant to a story-writing, book-reading blog.

Doki Doki Literature Club (DDLC) is fantastic on so many levels and, I believe, relevant to this blog.  Also, it’s free on Steam.  Don’t download or play if you’re not in a psychologically sound state.

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Non-Spoiler Review

Just so you know, this game has such epic twists that it might blow your mind.  It’s actually really hard to talk about DDLC without spoiling pieces.  In fact, the freaking sell page on Steam has some spoilers if you’re looking even halfheartedly.

So, here we go, nonspoiler…

DDLC is a fantastic, anime-based dating sim that uses the player’s choices of words when creating a ‘poem’ to determine which potential mate he gets to spend more time with.  The characters are vivid, and their personalities more 3-dimensional than their adorable portraits.  This game is not for the faint of heart.  Just remember that it’s not over until the credits roll…

Spoilerific Review

Warning: Spoiler as hell.  If you MIGHT even try this game, turn around now.

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This psychological horror fest starts off slow, but after the first re-load (yes, the game requires multiple re-starts for it to give the full effect), it goes off the freaking rails.  What starts with Sayori’s on-screen suicide turns into a horrifying sequence that only gets worse.

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Slowly, your actions – no matter which choices you make – seem to take a toll on the characters’ psyches as well as the game’s functionality.  The world falls apart, deleting characters, sequences, pieces of the game, and drawing you into one mistake after another.

NOW IS A GOOD TIME TO QUIT IF YOU’RE INTERESTED AND DON’T WANT EVEN MORE SPOILERS.

You have to play through the game a few more times, waiting patiently as some functionalities are (purposefully) broken.  It gets more and more meta, requiring you as the player to take more actions in the file system and with reloading as it goes on. It simulates being broken very well.

Eventually, you learn that there is one character who has learned more than the others, and she’s never been an option for you to choose before.  Club President Monika has been lurking behind the shadows in attempts to get you all for yourself – and she doesn’t care who or what you are.  She always knew who you were, and she loved you for that.

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After Monika MURDERS everyone by deleting their character file, she takes over the game and refuses to leave.  You must do the right thing and kill Monika yourself by deleting her.

Anyway, that may sound confusing to someone who hasn’t played this game.  This psychological horror game is just so fantastically done, and I can’t recommend it enough.