Dammit, game. I wasn’t trying to feel today.
This is a game that boots up quick and has a really nice start menu and quaint view of the tower, a peaceful scene—a lie. The beginning is a blurry background with text that tells a story and brings up choices about the character, Henry, and his relationship, in Boulder, Colorado 1975. There was a girl you met in bar, Julia, and if Cowboy Bebop has taught me anything, girls with that name get you into trouble. As some scenes of me arriving at the park start up, in between, I am still answering questions about how my life went with Julia, realizing quickly that I am deciding what has led Henry to this moment in time several years later.
I honestly didn’t realize how tough some of these decisions would be for a game, but as a man who will be married soon, there are some things that made me think. Upon our first meeting I tried to keep it smart, asking what her major was, but I’m the kind of guy who adopts a German Shepherd and names it Mayhem after we move in together. I asked her to hold off on kids, because I don’t like them, and she has the body of an undergrad goddess. I didn’t want to fight when she came in that night four hours late and tipsy, so I ignored her instead of risking anger, but made it up by posing like He-Man for that sketch she did—and I looked awesome. I scared off our attacker the night we almost got mugged, but questioned my decision, wondering what the story could do with that. When Julia got the job at Yale I asked that she commute, wondering why there wasn’t an option to just pack up and go with her, hating my decision when she was sent back home. I was scared, asked her to speak to someone about those issues. Dementia, best to keep that a secret. I couldn’t put her in some home, but was unsure if I could provide the care my wife needed. I trusted that she’d stay sound asleep when I snuck out to the bar, but I should have been worried about my own dumb ass, getting pulled over for a DUI, which led to Julia’s parents taking her back home, to another country. I was alone.
So now I’m out in the middle of a national part, alone, mostly. At least there is time to think, if Delilah will leave me alone and stop picking on me. She’s a cool character, and in five minutes of questions and some basic story, I cared more for both of these women and about what happened to them than I have for any other video game character in the past year. This game is doing that part right for sure.
Mechanically, I hate that I don’t have more time to respond to the conversation prompts, by the time I’ve read everything and had the briefest of thoughts to how I want to respond, the game has decided for me. I don’t think these things affect the story, and that is a bit lame, but it does seem to impact future conversations. It’s a little too easy to get lost and waste time finding ways around, and Christ, I haven’t used a map and compass since boy scouts. I still suck at it. This slows down the pacing oddly in some spots, but I think they want players to take their time and enjoy the scenery. The art style is nice and pleasant for sure, but it is easy to lose an objective and miss things in the background that are important. Atmosphere is clever here, free and open, but alone, with some tense moments and a spot of mystery as the story unfolds.
This article originally appeared on my Patreon page.