Protagonist Sam Higgs drives down the road, giving us a peek of the town. He stops, gets out of his car, and takes a look at his hometown of Basswood. He has returned to attend his old friend Nick’s funeral. This is tough for him, however, because he left Basswood and has not seen Nick in two years. This is how the story starts. I played this game thinking I was going to get something similar to Life is Strange since it is from the same developers. I should have lowered my expectations because I was not prepared for the gameplay I experienced.
Sam Higgs is a journalist who left Basswood in a hurry because he is now a social outcast after running a story about the town’s coal mine. This caused a lot of miners to lose their job. At the beginning of the game, you are introduced to pretty much everyone at once, such as former bosses, exes, people who despise Sam, etc. You later find out that the majority of these people don’t even matter later on in the game. There isn’t much character development or continued relationships with these people. Anyway, Sam has one too many drinks at the bar, blacks out, and wakes up with blood on his clothes, not remembering what happened the night before. This is where the game “starts.”
Different elements are introduced into the game. We see Sam’s Mind Palace, which is a crystallized location where he accesses his memories and solves crimes. We’re also introduced to his alter ego, or twin, that is referred to as “Him” or “The Double.” The game doesn’t really tell you why these things exist. You’re just expected to run with it. Sam returns to the bar to piece together what happened. After finding some evidence leading to what went down that night, he enters the Mind Palace to reconstruct the series of events. He then learns that he was in a brawl which then leads him to investigate Nick’s murder. He works alongside Sam’s ex-girlfriend, Anna, to solve the mystery.
Pros and Cons
Let’s start with the cons. This game is very buggy. There were moments when characters didn’t have a body and only their head and neck were floating. I’m so glad I wasn’t asked any questions about what someone was wearing. I would have failed that immediately. The characters and dialogue were stiff and lifeless. They showed no expressions, and their movements didn’t have much personality. Many of your decisions have consequences, but they never feel that impactful. While the foundation of the story is there, it feels like it needs more development. The story goes from one extreme to another without any explanation in between.
Now for the pros. The visuals are striking. My favorite is the Mind Palace. It is made with crystallized shapes, or you can end up in a maze filled with elements from Sam’s past. The Double is also a great addition to someone who has trouble making his way in life and needs advice. I didn’t quite understand who he was or how he got there. He’s just unveiled as Sam’s “imaginary friend.” He lives inside your head offering advice that often goes against what Sam wants to do. There are moments when The Double will offer Sam advice and Sam responds back while at the same time the world is frozen around him. In other moments though, The Double and Sam can talk to each other in the presence of others, and it looks like Sam is talking to himself. Not sure why it’s one or the other but it’s one of those things you have to just roll with.
While the game looks really good, it lacks substance. This had some elements of a Dontnod game, but it was not their best. This game took about 5-6 hours to complete. To be honest, my only goal and focus in this game were to make sure Anna, the only black woman in the game, stayed alive. I accomplished that, and I’m proud of it!