This was yet another game that was very good until it became apparent it was a giant sequel hook, though at least this one had an actual ending. I’m more sure than I ever was that the final game answers no questions and that’s why fans are demanding the midquel that shouldn’t be necessary otherwise. Right up until it lacked any closure, though, it was once again very good.
That said, Creepy Marketing Guy’s grubby paws are all over this. The Brock Bird’s whole character is now how stupid feminists are, and also rape jokes, because why not, and the White Dragon isn’t an actual dragon, but a hot chick in a skimpy dress who talks about all the strange feelings her body has. Yeah.
CMG (can we use “takeuchi” as a common noun?) also seems to have implemented a random male player character. I blame takeuchi for it because the male PC’s scenes are brief, abrupt, and completely and utterly unnecessary — the whole thing reeks of “okay but we can’t have a game where both PCs are women and only one of them is white.” Kian served literally no purpose in the story, his sequences had virtually no gameplay, and his character lacked any nuance or feeling. He was just a single complete and utter cliche that I wanted to go away.
This game generally was more shakily written than the previous one. It felt very much in love with its own cleverness while not actually being clever, especially in re: that fucking Brock bird, and the way it kept hanging lampshades on its own opaqueness was cringey. I also think the writers had a hard time creating a new person in Zoe and separating her from April — I didn’t feel as though anyone in the new cast was a rich as the old one, with the exception of Olivia. That the game was so short — 11 hours according to steam — didn’t help. Zoe was likable, but bland, and while she was more serious and mature than April, she was also more generic as a result. And the weird decision to have her have no ambitious or goals is one I still don’t understand — I get the sense it’s supposed to be a plot point, but it could just as easily be terrible writing. We knew so quickly in the previous game so many things about April — “ran away from abusive home life to become an artist” is immediately apparently and it tells you so much about the character so quickly. Zoe… has been lazing around being depressed and not having contact with the outside world until she decides to save her not-boyfriend. And while I appreciate the fridging of Reza from an inversion standpoint, surely she would have been motivated to find him even if she had her own life.
With April, I wanted to route for her, see her face challenges, and learn more about her. Zoe, I’m okay with leaving behind. I can’t imagine where the next game goes with her, because she doesn’t have enough character to have an arc. She was interesting because interesting things were happening to her and she handled them capably, but basically any character can slot into that.
Speaking of April, I thought where she ended up was 100% the logical conclusion of the events of the previous game, but I still do not understand what the fuck is going on with the writers. So it’s confirmed in this game that she’s not even kin, so there’s literally nothing special about her aside from being a Shifter. She’s angry and bitter and feels like her life was destroyed by the people who lied to her and used her, and she’s right. I agree! I was strung along, too! The entire last game was one big lie, of course she wants to fucking kill herself. As a player, this is infuriating, as if the game is using her to go “lol, we totally lied to you and wasted your time!” What the hell is it even trying to do? And then it just kills her off, as if to say, “Whelp, you’ll never find out and we don’t care!” (Also, this may have been a graphical limitation, but the way everyone stood still while the bad guy slowly walked up to her and slowly stabbed her and no one reacted was really bizarre.) The game absolutely refuses to do anything interesting, offer any conclusions, or make good on any promises, and it’s infuriating because it looks so good on paper. The story is fascinating and the gameplay is fun, but it never amounts to anything because the game always just goes, “Sorry, come back next time and maybe we’ll tell you how the plot resolves!” And frankly, I don’t think it will. I don’t think the writers know how to tie this together and I don’t think they have a plan.
Zoe’s sequences were equally as annoying. Her story itself does actually have an ending, but it’s not one that provides any answers. And the final scene doesn’t make any sense. Why does Zoe agree to kill Faith? Isn’t Faith ruining WATI’s plans? Why does Zoe suddenly do an about-face and believe Chang when Chang says that, somehow, they need to kill Faith to stop WATI when Zeo overheard the same conversation we did about how Faith’s actions are completely screwing over the Dreamer project? If anything, Zoe should have gone in, met Faith, and told her to fuck shit up even more because it was driving WATI mad. Why does Zoe care about whether WATI’s systems go offline? They’re ridiculously over-the-top pseudoscience evil. She tells Chang, “You’re a terrible person, I hate you, and I won’t believe you… but sure, I’ll do as you say, that makes sense.”
The only really compelling character was Damien, and it just serves to highlight how bland Zoe is. Damien puts everything on the line to save the world and apparently dies in the attempt, given he’s a no-show in Russia. Zoe risks nothing to potentially save her current favorite penis. Yay?
I don’t know Reza and I don’t care about him, and that the game can’t seem to recognize that just because Zoe knows and cares about him doesn’t mean I automatically will is really a disaster. I’m here because I want to save the world from mind control; Zoe is her to try to make sure her fuckboy is okay. We’re never on the same page, and this culminates in the closing where, after not being able to locate Reza, Zoe goes home and pretty-cries despite the fact that the free will of the entire human population is on the line. This isn’t OOC, because there’s never been any indication that she gives a fuck about that and then she listens to Ms. Child Slave and enables the whole project despite all sanity and my express wishes.
Zoe should either have been folded into Damien or Olivia — in fact, I think Damien works the best. That Zoe is a weekend warrior at WATI who suddenly starts having weird visions and uncovers this massive conspiracy would have been great; I also would have accepted her as a 1337 h4x0r who sells illegally modded electronics who stumbles onto the conspiracy.
To be clear, I don’t think this is a sexism issue, because Kian and Reza are just as bland and useless as Zoe is. This is a quality-of-writing thing.
I think this whole game demonstrates exactly why, to quote illhousen, ideas are cheap. This series has been full of incredible ideas, excellent scenes, and even some characters I really feel for. But it’s not a story. It’s not even close. No one involved has the actual skill to bring it together, and the result is that the audience is consistently screwed over. You can’t just have a good idea — you need the people with the know-how to turn those ideas into something great. No one on the team involved in this series seems to have that.
We’ll see how the final game can possibly conclude this clusterfuck. I’m not hopeful. But, that said, I have been enjoying the ride, even if it’s been ending terribly, so I’m willing to see it through.