I purposefully put off playing Life is Strange for a long time. The premise sounded interesting, but I was skeptical of how developer Dontnod would integrate a sci-fi story about time travel with a high school girl’s coming-of-age story. It seemed to me at first like a cheap way to make a more grounded and mundane story appealing to the gamer nerd crowd. Then I played episode one. There’s a scene early on that justifies this genre mixing, a scene that uses the sci-fi time travel elements to complement and support the coming-of-age story. Every first episode of an episodic series should have a scene like this, one that confidently establishes the game’s tone and its protagonist.
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Lifeline is an intriguing high-concept game for mobile devices (even including the Apple Watch). You receive a distress text from the survivor of a crashed spaceship, and over the next few days in real-time, you must help him survive and escape the desolate moon by providing advice and support.
Her Story is a similarly high-concept game: You use a virtual search engine to find police interview clips of a woman who is a suspect in the disappearance of her husband. Watch the clips and piece together the story at your pace, in your own order.
I remember when any system of progression (leveling up, gaining new abilities, stat points, etc) was referred to as an “RPG element” because those systems primarily existed in RPGs. Now, every game has a progression system. Such systems have become so common that we’ve stopped calling them “RPG elements,” which is for the best. It’s not hard to see why these systems have become so prevalent in video games. They play into our desire for growth. We learn more, and we get stronger. These metrics of self-improvement are considered inherently good, things worth striving for.
But the downside to this obsessive self-improvement is that it makes us arrogant and selfish. After all, if some NPC isn’t going to give me a quest, why should I bother talking to him?
People have said that it’s hard to make a Superman game because he’s just too strong. How do you make fun combat or create any tension or excitement when your hero is literally invincible? In many of the reviews for the recent Godzilla game, I’ve been surprised by the assumption that making a Godzilla game should be easy. Fight a giant monster here, blow up a building there, and presto. Fun! Right?
Gods Will Be Watching is a difficult game. So difficult in fact, that it was patched after release to add in several easier game modes. This was good news to me, so I bought the game and tried the first of the new modes, Puzzle Mode. I failed several times and gave up. Then came Puzzle Mode Lite. I failed several times at this mode and gave up. Then came Narrative Mode, the easiest mode by far, a mode specifically designed to remove most obstacles in the game so that a player can experience the story with little frustration. I was finally able to beat some levels, but not without some hardship. People still died. I still failed to be a good leader, and it irked me throughout. But after finishing the game, I realize now that that’s the entire point of Gods Will Be Watching.