Beyond: Two Souls: Not Quite a Review

I can't emote any more than this.
     Quantic Dream's David Cage somehow got a huge backing to make this game and I am kind of curious how he keeps getting the funding.  Touting elaborate motion capture and real actors!  Let's push the boundaries of interactive experience!  A meaningful journey!

     So what went wrong? 
  • Story? 
  • Dialogue? 
  • Lack of real gameplay?
  • All of the above? 

This is the script?
Beyond Two Choices.

     Playing as Jodie is quite a bore.  She is always limited to wandering around in a small area with only a few things to interact with.  There are plenty of QTE's that kind of get confusing because you are supposed to flick the right thumbstick in a specific direction, but it sometimes gets messed up and requires the opposite direction and it is only guesswork to get through.  She has frustratingly clunky controls for the few times you use them.  I hope they give us a run button in the future.  Those scenes that make you walk down ridiculously long corridors at a snail's pace were horrible. 
     What's even better is that all of her quick time events can't even be failed because the story must go on.  You won't die.  It may add an extra scene or two, but it will all lead to the inevitable end, regardless of what actions or choices you made.  Hell- even the dialogue can be skipped- it'll pick something for you if you aren't fast enough.

     The biggest loss of the game is the wasted potential of Aiden.  A spirit type character linked to Jodie that can posses people and interact with objects.  But...  once again, you are severely limited.  Only certain individuals can be possessed, only certain people can be choked, not enough real choices are given.  Interactive objects are few and mostly arbitrary- and why you can't do more is infuriating.  They give you all this wonderful power as Aiden and nothing to use it on.  What minimal actual gameplay there was with him left me extremely disappointed.  They cut off the most interesting

     The choices actually mean nothing they funnel you to the end choice of Life or Beyond.  You are funneled through a haphazard story to an illusory conclusion.  Of all the endings I saw, none varied enough for me to believe my choices actually mattered. 
     The most difficult decision I made was to finish this game before starting Arkham Origins.

Stan needed more screen time.  What happened to him?

Beyond Two Snores.

     The story itself is told in a non-linear format, haphazardly jumping back and forth in time.  We don't get any chances to see character growth while these people are placed in odd circumstances.  When stories are told like this, it makes me think they just had a bunch of ideas that they couldn't really tie together, so they cut them up, glued them out of order, and filmed it as a jumbled mess.
     There are seemingly irrelevant moments that, with Quantic Dream's history, could've been grouped together by a better writer and linearly enacted by a better director.
     It seems that they had the scope of right ideas and just never worked them all the way through to the end.  There were moments where I was genuinely interested, but they were far and few between.

     As for Ellen Page's acting?  It was ok.  Not even kidding.  Jodie is an amalgam of all her typecast characters rolled into one blank face, staring into the distance and raging at a system that really isn't always bad.  How many times can we see Page give the indifferent look?  She didn't have enough emotion, she was too bland.  She is a cardboard character expressing at most half smiles and some mediocre yelling. 
     I found the characters of Cole and Stan the bum to be far more believable, and much, much more interesting then Jodie herself.  You meet all these other people that are at least somewhat intriguing and then they disappear, never to be heard from again. 

     Poor Willem Defoe.  He is sorely underused as Nathan Dawkins.  He gets a surrogate father role and a clichéd tragedy that leads him on a foreseeable path.  It's extremely predictable and makes me wonder why they even got a named actor at all.  He is more appealing and definitely more convincing than Page, so why didn't they give him more to work with?

     In the end the acting coupled with the poor storytelling is just enough to be barely convincing.  How could I be convinced when all the characters have to tell us how they're feeling instead of showing us?  It got to be too boring.  Approximately 25% of the game is watching characters during awkward silences.

Cole needed more screen time as well.

Between Two Mediums.

     All in all, this is clearly more movie than game.  This would've been much more interesting if it was distinctly either a movie or game, but the combination ended up suffering.  To try and be the best of both worlds you need to incorporate the best elements of both, not mostly one with a dash of the other.  Maybe someone will innovate and pair the mediums better after this.  It feels like Mr. Cage wants to be a great writer/director but can't quite muster the skills, and so it comes off as a bit pretentious.  Although, I must say he is getting better, this is still a vast improvement over Cage's last game Heavy Rain.

     Perhaps Quantic Dream will focus more on the game aspect with whatever they have lined up next.  Maybe they can hire a couple writers to help clean up the script as well.  I understand the idea of life and death being explored here, but what should have been implemented was a way for us to be impacted by those lives we've met and lost.  This was a missed opportunity and I hope they learn to meld the mediums of film and video games better in their next endeavor.

     If they wanted me to believe I had a meaningful journey, maybe there should've been actual choices and consequences, not just pretending by telling me the choices mean something- that the game means something.  I can't feel invested if the game plays itself.

     And maybe miss Page should've backed The Last of Us instead of Beyond.  It was handled far better with plenty of growth and emotion. 

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