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Some spoilers for the beginning of Beyond: Two Souls

Butch:

I got nothing. My kids took over the annoying from your kids. And I caught a bug or something and, at about 4 PM, decided I wanted nothing more than twelve boxes of Kleenex and to sleep until Sunday.

And can you play like that? No, no you cannot.

Today ain’t looking good either as Junior has ANOTHER end of the year concert/arts night/party. Last week was just the school, this time it’s the all school band.

This year has been ceremoniously ending since Christmas.

So hopefully you played and we can talk. Remember, I finished “The experiment.” Nothing more.

Feminina:

OK, so right after the Experiment, that part in the Embassy, when you’re running around punching Kevins and throwing drinks in peoples’ faces, wasn’t that the BEST THING EVER? OMG the fancy dress heists and group hugging that goes on there!

Oh, sorry, you didn’t do that.

Also, it didn’t happen. Probably.

I did play, though! I did the Experiment and the Embassy and the Party. Because I wanted to keep up with you and you were ahead.

Hm. Thoughts. Well done, although the faces do nudge a little close to the uncanny valley at times. The child Jodie was fun…she was such a brooding 6-year-old, reminding me very much of my own 6-year-old when he gets moody and heaves big sighs. I had her just shrug when they asked if she could do the experiment, because it seemed fitting. That was kind of awesome. Shrugs should be dialogue options more often!

And it worked to have her be a kid in the first scenes where you can move, because kids are always getting distracted and wandering around looking at stuff they’ve presumably seen a million times before exactly when someone is waiting for them, so it fit the story better than it often does, when someone says “we’re ready for you, commander” or whatever and you’re all “just a second” poking around your office in full armor before you go give the order to attack the zombie fortress, opening all your drawers and looking at the books on your bookshelves while the NPC is probably thinking “what the hell is wrong with the commander? There’s nothing in those books that’s relevant to this moment!”(Little does he or she know you were looking for an inspirational quote to rally the troops.)

Anyway, decent intro. I’m still getting used to that mechanic where you kind of just move towards the white circle to activate something, instead of clicking, but it looks like they’re trying to move a bit away from the visual cues on screen and make it more of an experience of “I’m seamlessly influencing this without having to be prompted about everything I can do” or whatever. I didn’t entirely get there, but I have the sense that we’re supposed to eventually just know how to move the entity (Haydn? was that what she called it?) without needing the reminder of the controller icon, and then the idea will be that we can just do things without there ever being an indication onscreen that it was a controller move…so someone watching would almost just see a movie playing, you know?

Maybe I’ve overthinking this, though. There will presumably always be dialogue options and stuff that will have to be prompted on the screen somehow.

So…good solid entertainment so far.

Other thoughts?

Butch:

Don’t do that, with the pretend-spoilers.

I did see enough of it to know there’s at least a fancy dress! Whoo hoo!

Dress ball before the first act even starts!

And we diverge. I nodded, as…more on this in a second…I sorta figured I’d aim to please.

And yeah, I dug that about this bit. Kid tutorials are the best (Fallout 3 started with you as a toddler. You did your skills when you found this cheesy kids book called “You’re SPECIAL!”) They make such sense in context.

The spirit is Aiden, I think.

And yes, weird little mechanic. And yes, while I like not having X pop up over and over and over, even when you’re 50 hours in and you fucking KNOW X does that, I’ve already found it leads to me doing things accidentally, which cannot then be undone without reloading. For example, I reloaded cuz I didn’t know you had to hold down X to do certain things like keep watching TV, and I wanted to see what was on TV, so I reloaded and held X, cuz, for some reason, once you stopped watching TV you couldn’t start again. Which makes no sense. It was still on.

Thoughts:
Well, besides the whole “have to keep doing things, and/or doing things or not in the moment” being weird, a have a couple of themes. (As for the last, at the end of the experiment there was one option: “X Stop” so I did what one does when prompted: I hit X and stopped, thinking that was what one does. But in the outcome screen, only 66% of people stopped the experiment, showing I could have done nothing and something would have happened). THAT is gonna take some getting used to. I think the game is playing around with our ingrained “Do the thing you’re prompted to do” ideas about games.

Which….

So I was playing Jodi rather straight. I was behaving, I nodded, I tried to get the card things right (Did you? Or did you botch them?). I was a good little subject.

Then Aiden happened.

And I was good. Looked at the cards, got them right. But when it was time to knock down the blocks, I did, and then said “Hmm…better practice….” and did, and then got into it. There was sound, and motion, and I just kept knocking shit down. Even broke the window next to the poor, crying woman’s head, which was kinda mean of me. I got INTO it.

Which was kinda mean of me.

And I didn’t stop until I hit X and Jodi screamed AIDEN! STOP!

So, without really meaning to, I played Jodi and Aiden differently. Which was kinda cool that the game kinda…not “fooled,” but you know…me into doing that.

Did you figure out you could possess that guy?

Feminina:

No! I didn’t possess a guy! Although I did see a circle on someone’s throat (um…later, possible spoiler) and wondered about that. Would that have been possession?

I did the cards correctly, and then thought “maybe I should mess this up,” but they moved on from cards before I got another chance. But I did go all poltergeist in the testing room, throwing things around and smashing the window and freaking out that poor woman. Although I noticed that the “percent of players who do X” summary at the end (interesting, that, reminds me of Life is Strange, although isn’t this game actually older?) said “leave Kathleen alone” as what I did, so I guess we could have actually punched her or something? Pulled her hair?

Which would have been even meaner than all the stuff I actually did, so yay me, I’m awesome.

I MEAN WELL. Sort of.

The summary is interesting, and has me obviously thinking about replay, but also thinking about the game in a meta sense, as a game, every so often. Which is in interesting contrast with the attempt to merge our action more seamlessly into the game in the playable chapters…do they want to stress the fact that this is a game, or downplay it? What’s the mood they’re going for here?

I think actually this whole game reminds me a lot of Life is Strange, which I guess means that Life is Strange was reminiscent of this. Which is not a bad thing.

Butch:

Ok, so as I was wandering around as Aiden, trying to get to other places that I thought might have interesting shit (Like the guy who was bitching about the vending machine. I thought, “Maybe I’ll just make it give him all the chips!” but I couldn’t. See? I’m naughty as Aiden), I did go into the control room. There, I found some tech dude and a controller prompt comes up. Hold L1 or L2 and pull the sticks apart. “Ok,” thought I, “Wonder what happens if I do that…” So I did, and POOF! Guys eye’s go all weird, I’m back in 3rd person, and I’m controlling the dude! No blurry shit or anything! Just like Jodi! I couldn’t find anything to do, and it took me forever to figure out how to uncontrol the dude, which I eventually did by trying to leave the room, only to POOF back to first person Aiden and hear everyone say “You ok?” and the dude all “Yeah…yeah…I think so…”

So that’s a thing. I couldn’t find anything for the dude to do.

So I tried to possess everyone else, and no dice. I guess it’s only certain dudes. The dot on the throat sounds familiar.

Yeah, I saw that, too. I, too, got the “leave Kathleen alone” stat, which made me say “Uh…what? Freaking the shit out of her and making her sob was ‘leaving her alone?’ Ooookaaaay….”

But see? We both instinctively played Aiden differently. There was no reason for us to go all poltergeist in there. Indeed, the dudes were explicitly telling us/Jodi to stop. But neither one of us did until JODI told us to stop.

Huh.

But here’s a question, and don’t spoil if you know, cuz I don’t: Did you get the sense that Jodi was just kinda born with abilities that the scientists don’t understand and they found her and are trying to understand? Or did you get a sense that they “made” her somehow? Took a normal girl and made her able to do the stuff she does?

Cuz that would really color how you feel about William Dafoe there. Is he just an innocent scientist who’s trying to understand a natural mystery? Or Dr. Frankenstein?

Good question about the mood they’re going for. I found the stats a tad jarring. It was an interruption, and I don’t really like knowing, or even having a hint, of what could have been in a game like this. Sure, we’ve played games with choices that are obvious (Save Iron Bull’s friends or not…you kinda know what’s gonna happen either way), but a game like this you don’t necessarily know, and I think it should stay that way. And I don’t think you really need that to encourage replay. Every player knows all this makes SOME kind of difference, and might be tempted to find out what. But telling/hinting kinda sucks. Didn’t like it in LiS either.

But it isn’t a bad thing to be like LiS. And this is a nice niche genre of games to keep an eye on and be verbose about.

Feminina:

It is an interesting choice, to focus on the fact that you’re playing a game, and that other people have also played it. It’s different than a lot of games.

I mean, there are lots of games where you obviously know that other people have played it and you talk about it (our entire body of work is based on talking about games we’ve both played!), but where within the game itself, the conceit is that yours is the only game that matters. Right? Like, my Divinity game exists in a parallel universe to yours and we can compare things we did and read about things other people did, but there’s no actual connection within the game.

Whereas this approach, by telling you explicitly right in the middle of gameplay that this is what you did and this is what x% of other people did, it brings the fact that this is a game, it even brings the other players, directly into MY version of the game.

Which is…I’m really not sure what it’s MEANT to accomplish, and I’m not sure what it DOES accomplish.

It’s kind of an “oh, hi other players! I see most of us choose option B here but I’m siding with the minority in this other case! Great! Thanks for intruding on my playing time to let me know that!”

And yet, there’s no denying that one IS curious, and sure, it’s interesting to see that I picked the popular option, and as you say, it shows me that there was something else I could have done (the summary on a later chapter showed me two “undiscovered paths” for things I didn’t even realize I could make choices about!). I’m not sure how I feel about that. As you say, it’s kind of intrusive. But then again, I didn’t have any trouble forgetting about it and getting involved in the scene once I moved to the next playable section.

It really highlights the game-ness of it, I guess, and again, I’m not sure if that’s meant to achieve some specific goal of mood or something.

Oh–I assume we both chose to play in the order the game was originally released, not with the scenes reassembled into chronological order? I figured if that’s the way they’d put it, I’d go with that. But again, having that option of how you want to experience the story, that highlights the fact that this is a story, it’s something you can arrange how you want and others could make different choices. It makes you think about the game as game, and about other people playing it.

Also, interesting that this COULD have been another co-op game, but I chose not to wait for Mr. O’ to be around, and picked ‘solo’ mode. Apparently you can also have one person play Jodie and the other play Aiden, which would be interesting. You talked about playing the two characters differently, and…yeah, that would be different.

As for your question, I think it’s not really clear, but it felt more as if Jodie was born with this, than that evil science had made her that way. I could be wrong, but the place where we were seemed like a normal hospital, with people just hanging out, going to appointments, trying to get stuff out of vending machines, and that seemed more in keeping with “we are earnestly trying to figure out what’s going on with this child” than “this is a potential monster we have created and we are tracking our experiment very closely.”

I mean, I could be completely wrong. There’s no reason scientists who created a monster would have to walk around with Sinister Labs Inc. name badges or whatever. But the general mood FELT to me more like genuine curiosity about a natural phenomenon. For what my impressions are worth.

Butch:

I’m not sure about what it accomplishes either. Because even though we compare what we did in the same game, what we don’t do, or don’t even know, is what most of the world did. 67% of everyone who played. Why do I want or need to know that? It’s interesting to talk about differences with your friend, but to know you’re in the majority or minority choice wise…what? So you can say “Ok, I’m normal/weird?” I don’t get it, either.

But I don’t like the summary page at all. Shit, I don’t even like when a game like DAI specifically highlights the whole “THIS IS A MOMENTOUS CHOICE” choices. Shit, some of the best moments we’ve played in games period are the moments where we were all “wait…shit…I did WHAT?” and it’s too late to go back (but never too late to cheat. When Bairdotr has the arrows). TW3 did a great job at that. The moment I found out the Bloody Baron killed himself, partially because of stuff I did without understanding the gravity of my choices, is still one of the best RPG game moments I can recall in the history of ever. And it would have been icky if it had said 82% of players also had the Baron die.

I thought one of the things Divinity did so well was not even letting you know that there WERE other ways to play it (without cheating). We were both genuinely surprised that we had different Bairdotr results. We didn’t even KNOW our choices mattered! And that was fucking awesome!

Well, we’ll play through. We shall see. It’s early.

I never make substitutes on menus, either. I like to see the vision of the artist.

But people are different even in that regard. People are all “I want what I want,” but they shouldn’t be. I don’t even like giving people the option. You don’t get to pick the ending of a book. You can’t change the order of a movie. You can’t demand the cast of a musical does the second act first. But games (and restaurants) have so many ways to play “how you want.” Even games that don’t have them baked in, you can usually find mods that change things. Often you can find mods that change things. Shit, a lot of gamers get mad when developers make it difficult to make such mods and change things.

But I’m with you. Play what they meant for you to play (or eat the dish how they conceived it). Then think about it. Or bitch on the internet.

I did see the co-op option. And I’m still not sure how I feel about that.

But after I wrote the previous message, I did realize that when I had that dude possessed, and when I came out of it, they didn’t show any idea that this was, or even could’ve been Jodi/Aiden. They were all “What’s wrong? You ok?” and the guy was just…”Yeah..yeah. Think so.” It wasn’t “Jodi..we talked about this. Don’t possess Kevin when we’re doing the experiments.” Which leads me to believe they don’t/didn’t know that she could do that.

Which isn’t necessarily conclusive. They could have done one thing without knowing about the “side effects,” as it were. But it is worth noting that even possessed Kevin didn’t know what happened to him.

Feminina:

“Jodie? Did you possess Kevin again?”

[Shrug.]

But you’re right, they didn’t really seem to have much sense of what MIGHT happen, or to be at all prepared, which suggests that they’re really just trying to figure out something they know nothing about.

Did you notice they were yelling “the door isn’t locked!” to Kathleen even though it was and they eventually had to break it down? So presumably Aiden locked the door at some point, but WE didn’t do that, or even know it had been done. Or else there’s another entity involved here that’s messing with all of us.

Hm.

Butch:

HA! I was just going to bring that up.

Yes, yes, I did notice. Which was also weird. Creepy. This game, at least early on, is doing a good job with creepy.

Oh! Another thing! On the possession deal!

In the opening scene, there, one thing that stood out was, in the aftermath of the SWAT team being killed, the local cop was just there, alive, and seemingly totally chill with everything. This was interesting to me, as he obviously didn’t know who Jodi was or what she could do. You’d figure that, after seeing some serious shit, he would NOT be chill.

Then I found out Aiden can possess people. See where I’m going?

Feminina:

I DO see where you’re going! And I like it!

Although my initial read on that was “dude is in shock,” your take also makes sense.

Because certainly if Aiden can possess people, that’s going to come up again. Or for the first time in my case. The question then becomes, did what’s-his-name Willem Dafoe ever figure out that Aiden could possess people, or not.

Of course, there are many details still to be learned before we get anywhere near understanding that opening sequence.

Butch:

Well, “dude is in shock” did cross my mind, but it didn’t really jibe with “dude is alive.” Whoever/whatever did all that certainly killed the living hell out of everything, and here’s local dude with nary a scratch. And whoever/whatever (which we certainly now think is Aiden, what with being able to move stuff), was unhappy enough at first to break a perfectly good coffee cup and make a mess of local guy’s office.

So him being alive there was interesting in and of itself.

A good question, whether Willem Dafoe knows! Indeed, a question as to whether the player did, or will, as well!

Cuz I’m not sure I “spoiled” this per se. Well, I’m utterly certain it’ll come up again (no way they just chuck that in there for nothing), but it was weird in that learning it when I did was completely avoidable. Indeed, if you just followed Jodi’s instructions, you DID avoid it. She says “Go into that room and tell me what the card is,” and, if you did that, went directly into said room, you totally missed Kevin there. He was in the other room, so you had to say “I’m going to go explore,” and, even then, you had to be right by him to even get the prompt.

Which is an unusual twist in what was obviously a tutorial level. Usually, tutorial levels make it so you HAVE to do every mechanic that you’re going to need/have to start the game. They hold your hand and say “Ok, learn this, and this, and this.” Tutorial levels do not generally throw something in that, I agree, is likely important as hell, and be all “Meh, maybe you’ll find this and learn it, but maybe not. Probably not. Whatever.” Especially when the game overtly did lead you to certain mechanics (you were GOING to know how to use Aiden and move things as Aiden and how to look/open doors. You had to. But you didn’t have to learn this).

Many details to learn, that there are. And more bloggage! We’re getting a lot here! We may like this game very much!

Feminina:

It’s true, it’s true, one can very reasonably ask “why isn’t that cop dead too?”

Obviously the answer isn’t necessarily possession, but the fact that possession is possible does add another option. I mean, it might just be that the cop wasn’t a member of the SWAT team sent to recapture Jodie, and therefore Aiden didn’t personally hate him. He was, as far as we could tell, trying to help, and while Aiden was upset enough to throw his coffee against the wall, that might also have been an attempt at rousing Jodie from her stupor, since she’d been just sitting and staring, but after that she said “they’re coming.”

We saw a whole bunch of other local people in the office, remember, as the SWAT guys were creeping through, but we don’t see them dead either. The dead guys are all in SWAT black.

So maybe the local cops are also all dead and they’re offscreen, or maybe Aiden only killed the SWAT team. Either one is plausible: we simply don’t have that information at this point, which is certainly intentional.

It is interesting that this particular mechanic is discoverable but not specifically laid out for your from the very beginning…

Butch:

This game is doing some interesting things in terms of gameplay fiddling with both how the player plays and what the player knows.

Both of us going poltergeist, both of us left wondering about stuff…

So here’s another wonder: if you, the player, didn’t know about the whole possession thing, do you think, as of the experiment at least, Jodi knows? We talk a lot about what the main character is supposed to know, and, if the main character doesn’t see it, how? But here, we don’t really know what parts of Aiden Jodi understands. She certainly seems to have some control over him. Does she see through his eyes? Cuz one mechanic that WASN’T there was the option to lie AS AIDEN in the experiment. It wasn’t “Hit X to say Star or circle to say wavy lines.” You, the player, saw, and then could lie or tell the truth AS JODI. So does that mean Jodi saw what we, the players saw through Aiden’s eyes? Cuz, if so, then she MUST know he can possess people. But, if not, then…what?

I wonder how that worked in co-op as well. Weird.

So far, this game is good.