Monday, February 3, 2014

Remember Me

When previews about this game started to appear, I put it on my "looking forward to" list. The Last of Us took priority though and I forgot about this game - mostly because everyone else seemed to do so. I also had my month long summer vacation which I spent chasing geocaches all around. The game popped up again as a PS+ freebie later last year - around the time I was getting a bit tired of FFXIV - and this time I chose not to ignore it. After pressing buttons at a slow pace for three months, I was thirsty for some hand-to-hand action.

1. Tying it all together with a theme

As far as merits go, Remember Me has most of  them in visual design and theme. The setting makes for pretty delicious sci-fi - a corporation has found a way to manipulate memories, allowing people to get rid of bad ones and replace them with custom-made good memories. Naturally this has led to a dystopian society, as things developed by corporations are wont to do. The game being about memory and all, it's no big surprise the protagonist Nilin has lost hers. Fortunately this game here is one of the few cases where this actually doesn't feel cheap. The fact that there's a female protagonist in a dystopian future immediately draws comparisons to Mirror's Edge. The game is also reminiscent of Mirror's Edge because of its distinctive visual style. The aesthetic is very different from ME's exceedingly white visual style but the overall atmosphere is very similar.

Remember Me uses a lot of visual effects and filters to achieve its visual style. Generally overuse of filters and glitchy effects might be frowned upon, but it works in RM. Why? It's thematically appropriate. Overall, the game makes full use of the Sensen technology (that would be the memory manipulation tech). Through Sensen, information can be conveniently projected into the game world - and because everything is perceived through it, all sorts of distortions and visual glitches fit in just perfectly. It also extends its reach into gameplay in few segments of the game. By copying the memories of another, the protagonist is able to follow in their footsteps through memory projection. One example use for this mechanic is navigating through a minefield. Finally some of the protagonist's superpowers work by manipulating enemies' Sensen nodes - enemies without one are therefore immune.

Story also works well with the theme. It's not a nobel worth masterpiece by a long shot but better than most any way. It works better as an overall documentary of consequences of technology than it does as a story about people - much like the Joss Whedon's Dollhouse actually. So the plot in itself is not all that great, but the way it portrays how Sensen technology has affected everyone's lives is pretty solid. The moments when the game explores the darkest sides of Sensen are definitely the strongest. I recommend playing it through just for the atmosphere. It's not a long game either.

2. Finishing off with gameplay

While I'd mostly recommend this game for its atmosphere, gameplay in Remember Me ain't half bad either. It's not very original though. The game can roughly be divided into three types of segments: the aforementioned memory projection segments, climbing segments and of course combat. Climbing is heavily railroaded: usually there's exactly one option for moving forward - pretty much what is typical in heavily scripted games already. There's nothing difficult about it either because controls are accurate enough so mostly it's just mindless execution of a predetermined obstacle course. The saving grace is scenery. Although immersion is way weaker than in Mirror's Edge, at least the views are great. There's not really much else to say about climbing in this game.

Nilin cannot use weapons so she has to rely on her fists and feet to do the dirty work for her. The game uses a combo system that sounds interesting on paper: The player is granted two chains to start off with, and can assign Pressens to each attack in a combo. These affect what the attack does. Unfortunately the options are rather limited. The choice is basically between damage, healing and cooldown reduction. The fourth Pressen type is a more powerful version of whatever Pressen preceded it. Regardless of Pressens, attack animations for combos don't change. With more varied Pressens this system might have been much cooler, but as it stands it's very simplistic. As soon as I opened a third combo, I simply had one combo for each purpose: dishing out the hurt, healing and reducing cooldowns. Normal attacks aside, Nilin gains access to a total of five superpowers.

Although the mechanic is simple, it does grant some tactical depth. Much of this is due to clever encounter and enemy design. Nilin's superpowers are not just to make fights go faster - each and every one of  them is truly required. Especially towards the endgame battles become dances around tougher enemies while the player tries to build up meter for Nilin's superpowers and at the same time use cooldown reduction combos to make them available in decent time (default cooldowns are *long*). Finally, because healing is also only possible through attacking, the player really needs to stay on the offensive. Delightfully the game heavily punishes mashing - each attack in a combo needs to be timed correctly. It is also worth learning which combos include area of effect damage. Controls are not perfect, but overall encounters are fun to play precisely because they feel different from each other.

The game also has a few memory remixing scenes, which are kind of interesting. They involve manipulating a memory like a recording, skimming back and forward and changing small things like the position of a table in hopes of altering the outcome. It's mostly a more elaborate version of "try everything" puzzles in some adventure games, but thematically they're cool.  There's not that many things to try in each memory either. Fine additions to the game, but not much else really.


Remember Me is a solid action adventure game that is strong in atmosphere but otherwise not all that special. Although combat and climbing mechanics are not very original or interesting on their own, both are enhanced by auxiliary means: battle encounters are designed surprisingly well, and scenery in the game is amazing. Nilin's story is not that great either, but the way the game handles its sci-fi makes it worth playing. If you choose to pick it up, do yourself a favor and play on the highest difficulty.

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