I felt compelled to write up another review about a game I’ve just recently finished, if only because it reminded me of my Dystopia Utopia vehicle research and it has been sitting in my library for a while now. I also wrote about Dontnod (the developers) in my first company research post; they came up with this fantastic game, but are also famously responsible for the narrative adventure Life Is Strange. During my vehicle research, I found Paul Chadeisson. He was a concept artist working on the game back in 2013 and I absolutely loved his work. It took me a while to realise the connections between stumbling upon his website, this game, and Dontnod.
Once again, as with my previous game review, I’m not going to spoil anything about the story itself, but rather focus on the game mechanics and level design. However, for a general sense of the game, I will explain what’s obvious in any trailer or quick summary: the setting is Neo-Paris a little less than 70 years from now in 2084 and memories are an uploadable, shareable, and manipulated commodity. It has subtle nods to other classic sci-fi works such as Total Recall or 1984. The people of Remember Me can have their good memories saved for future generations or bad memories just completely removed as they continue to live in an artificial bliss while the underclass suffers.
The protagonist of the game is a woman named Nilin, who starts off with having all of her memories wiped. This is a classic trope throughout video games, where the main character suffers from amnesia and thus the player can learn along with him or her. There aren’t any decisions throughout the dystopian adventure, such as there are in a game like Mass Effect. Instead, the game consists of combo-chaining fighting with some very clever memory-altering scenes spotted throughout.
There isn’t really a way to fail these missions and alter the story, which means it’s just a matter of figuring out what “glitches” in the memories to alter until you find the right combination. I thought it would have been neat, from a story perspective, to make these events have more impact if the player doesn’t get it right or changes something more than they need to.
As the game progresses, new kick/punch “preseen” talents can be bought and added to the active combos. There are four categories: health gaining, full attack, special move timer reduction, and chaining bonus. Without going into detail about each of them, this sort of system allows the player to customise their fighting experience and make the most of their abilities. Some fights will require heavier self-healing, while others depend on your reducing the cool-downs on your special moves. By creating specific combos depending on the scenario, it gives the player a little more control over their fighting experience, which was a pleasant discovery.
Beyond the combo-chaining, there are also quick-time finishing moves and final fight events that pop up every now and then. These were a little less fluid than I expected, since the game didn’t pre-warn the player they were going to show up. Personally, I’m not a fan of quick-time events – after I’ve fought off a big baddie, the last thing I want to do is fail because I pressed the left mouse button for a punch instead of the right mouse button for the requested kick. I find them frustrating and feel like the game could have done without them. The “press E” for a finishing move worked nicely, though, since it included one of a few different animations and felt far more a part of the fighting as a whole.
One part of this game that I loved, is the way you can get around the city and see the beauty that is this game’s environment. Nilin can climb, jump, dive, and parkour her way around Neo-Paris with fluidity and grace; in my opinion, this is one of the best ways a developer can show off their game and add a little more interest to their travel mechanics. Hints are given along the way about which items Nilin can hold onto, making all the movements a lot more intuitive than if the player was just left hanging off a sign trying to figure out where they can go next.
The PC version of the game had less-than-enviable controls and the gameplay itself can get a bit repetitive, but I feel like the story and design of the game can make up for those. The camera also drove me absolutely mad sometimes, since it didn’t always follow the direction you were telling Nilin to look it. I don’t play fighting games as often as I play RPGs, so I can imagine some people might have enjoyed the game more if it included a better in-depth fighting system.
On the whole, I still enjoyed the game a lot and admire what Dontnod accomplished with it, but I think they could have made it so much more than it actually was if they’d blended the fighting elements with fuller RPG mechanics and real player choices.