Spoilers for the Condenser chapter in Beyond: Two Souls
Ok, did the condenser.
Can’t decide if knowing I couldn’t die helped that or hurt it. It certainly took some of the “AIEE” factor out, but it also took out some of the “Damn this would be frustrating” out.
Cuz some of that would have been frustrating. I had the damnedest time figuring out how to kill some of those monsters. A lot going on there. Hard to see the little dots.
This “Not being able to die when things are obviously trying to kill you” is a mechanic that I’ll be pondering a long time.
So let’s ponder other stuff for today. The not dying will keep.
Thought this chapter did a great job amping up the horror. It was a nice contrast between “dark garage kid is scared” stuff with actual OMG MONSTERS! And the reveals were great. From the first doctor all “Die, bitch!” followed by the nice doctor who turns into someone you have to kill (more on that in a minute). Nicely done.
But as good as the game was at building tensions and foreshadowing story and all that (and it was very good), things do sometimes come out of left field, like this channeling business. I was a bit “Wait…new mechanic?” at that. Nicely done for narrative purposes, but that was…kinda new. Still, not a bad mechanic. One thing I like about it mechanically is that they, Jody and Aiden, have to do it together. Unlike other Aiden actions, JODY starts it by looking at the dot (I don’t know what else to call that) and THEN Aiden does his thing. Aiden CAN’T initiate it in Aiden screen. That’s pretty cool. Reinforces their bond.
And can we now put to bed the whole “She’s scared of Aiden” deal? There, all “I was scared you had left me” at the end? She was very much not “Am I free? Am I finally free?” No. Not one bit.
Which was a nice callback to the end of the “Imaginary Friend” bit. At the end, there was a choice “Hug bear” or “Aiden,” and if you hugged bear (as one does), she just hugs it for a while then puts it down and nothing happens. In this chapter, she’s all “Stay close to me Aiden” as a kid would tell their bear when afraid of imaginary monsters. He’s that security, a real teddy bear in a world of real threat.
But, to go back to Divinity and turn things upside down, Jody thinks of Aiden as something that keeps her safe (be it from the monsters, or the kids with snowballs, or kids that lock her under stairs, or evil zombies trying to kill her), but a lot of the time she’s only IN those situations because she HAS Aiden. She’s not the freak at the party but for Aiden. She’s not being asked to go into a haunted, zombie infested laboratory but for Aiden. For all I know (and I don’t know), the monsters wouldn’t care about her at all but for Aiden.
So Aiden is BOTH security and the cause of the threat that she needs security from. What kind of security is that?
But I’ll tell you real fear: I thought I had a game breaking bug. I could NOT find the damn key card for the life of me, so I went online to see which dead guy had it and the first things I see is “Condenser key card: Glitch.”
Turns out I was just looking at the wrong guys.
I did think the condenser was a nice, moody bit of well-done horror. And yes, this chapter finally clarified both that Jodie’s relationship with Aiden is one where she cares about him, rather than being unwillingly afflicted with him, and that there actually are monsters. So it was nice to get some more facts there to pin down that part of the story.
It was informative, also, to see Aiden’s tricks (possession, throwing things around) used…I was going to say “for evil,” but that’s a matter of interpretation since the people Aiden possesses and forces to shoot their comrades and themselves would probably disagree that that was “for good.” Let’s just go with “against Jodie.”
We now know that Aiden, whatever he is, is not a weird anomaly among spirits (except, as far as we know, in that he’s permanently tied to a living human–though there could be others like them we haven’t encountered). He has similar powers to what the monsters have, and can fight them–though you’re right, those fights were tough. It’s hard to focus those dots on the other dots! And if you don’t get it quite right when you try to blast them, you seem to push yourself away from the monster rather than hitting it, which is not helpful.
Probably would have gotten frustrating if we’d been able to die–though on that, I felt the tension and alarm worked pretty well anyway…maybe, to callback a bit to yesterday, kind of the way you can feel tension and urgency while watching a movie even when you know the main character isn’t going to die, or like those climbing bits we talked about in Tomb Raider a million years ago, where we agreed we probably couldn’t have actually fallen, but where it felt genuinely dangerous anyway. But as you say, we can table the discussion of not-dying for another time, when we’ve had more time to think about it.
Back to mechanics, I found it’s also a little tough to focus the dots around the ghost-wave so Jodie can channel, so it’s a good thing nothing ever tried attacking her while she was working on that. That would have been very frustrating. “Almost…got it…now just hold for a second…” [Monster attack]
The channeling did seem to come out of nowhere a bit, but I thought it worked…it was a good way to increase the creepiness, as well as being a useful way to get information to us about what the monsters were and what had happened, so I was pretty into it. Although I missed a body somewhere, because in the summary it said “didn’t channel every spirit” or something. Siiiiiiiiigh.
This chapter, with the references to the “infraworld” and the information about the condenser, also help us figure out what other people know about ghosts/monsters/whatever…not ALL that much, it seems, but they know there’s a whole plane (or something) of them, and how to open a hole to that plane (or something). From my understanding, it sounds as if spirits (or whatever they are) can sometimes slip through anyway (hence Aiden, and presumably the sources of other ghost stories through the ages), but the condenser makes it easier for them, and/or actively pulls them? Or something?
The old ‘messing with unseen forces we don’t understand’ story. Hey, it’s a good story.
As old as time, that.
It was well done! Liked it. Good horror is not easy, and I think they pulled it off.
Yeah, Aiden does seem to be like the other spirits. He certainly can do what they do.
As for being attached to another human, it was pretty clear that the monsters didn’t/don’t like Jody. We know they’ve been haunting her since she was a kid, and they seemed to know her. “What are you doing here?” and all that. Yes, they killed everyone, but I got the sense they knew who/what she is. And they had no desire to talk about things first.
Interesting. More, where’d all these things come from? And why are they so mad?
It did make things a little less tense for me, knowing I wouldn’t die.
Though one part I did like, even knowing I wasn’t gonna die, was the bit where Jody is walking through the furniture and things are being chucked at her. There, like the fight with the doctor, I failed a bunch of QTEs, which made her feel like she hadn’t gotten all that training yet (which she hadn’t). I think they made them harder, and that was cool.
But on that…..
Three percentages in this one. “Channeled all bodies,” (who did that? This guy!), I get if you didn’t do that. But only 98% everyone killed the doctor, and only 85% or so shut down the reactor. Now……how’d anyone get around THAT? Did you?
HA! I channeled all the spirits!
All they all were, were grisly deaths. Except for the very helpful firefighter dropping the extinguisher.
What I couldn’t figure was who was actually seeing that. Did Aiden posses Jody and let her see it through his eyes? Or did Aiden give her some power?
The condenser pulls them…or something. Thanks for telling me “infraworld.” I redid that cutscene three times and only heard “mumble.”
Cuz I was wondering on “condenser.” Why call it that?
Well, infrared light, say, has a longer wavelength than the light we can see. To see infrared light, we have to condense the wavelengths into something, say, a pair of goggles can translate into something we can perceive.
That said, infrared light is all around us, all the time. We just can’t see it until it’s, well, condensed.
See where I’m going here? Maybe the monsters are already here, but they can’t interact with us (and we can’t see them) unless they’re somehow condensed.
Hm…condensing the infraworld so it can interact with us…interesting. I like it.
And it could explain other things, too, like maybe Aiden himself is some sort of condenser, making it easier for other spirits to locate and pester Jodie. So, as you say, it’s kind of his fault they bother her, even if he doesn’t mean it.
Or maybe it’s actually NOT about him, exactly, but there’s something about Jodie herself that acts as a natural ‘condenser,’ and that quality attracted or trapped (or something) Aiden when she was a baby, and it ALSO allows other spirits to locate and interact with her. So maybe it’s not his fault, they would bother her anyway, and she’s fortunate to have him around to keep them away, even if he’s not always completely successful at that.
Maybe he’s her familiar.
About the channeling, yeah, I’m not completely sure whose eyes we’re seeing those snippets through. Some of them felt like they could have been the last memories of the dead person she was focused on, like “and then I saw Fred thrown violently into the air, and now I’m dead” but some of them definitely seemed like the last moments of the dead person she was focused on, as seen by someone else. And who else was there?
Maybe they were just impressions left on the air, or something, and the connection with Aiden allows Jodie to perceive them. There is that theory about ghost sightings, right, that they’re the result of intense emotions leaving an imprint on the fabric of spacetime or whatever. (I don’t know that I when I encountered that theory it specifically used the phrase “the fabric of spacetime,” but dude, it should have.)
So maybe that’s what’s going on here…it’s not the memory of any specific person, it’s just the imprint of an event marked by unspeakable horror. On the fabric of spacetime.
Yeah. ‘Condenser’ is a weird term for the thing that makes the monsters come/happen/whatever. A loaded term.
Still don’t know why Aiden seems benevolent. Every other thing seems to want her dead. Or…well…do they? They do, I suppose. Or do they just want to stop her? Or tear Aiden away?
I read each channeled memory as being seen from a different set of eyes. We often saw the very body we were channeling land where it now lay. So it couldn’t be from the dead person’s point of view. Odd.
Fabric of spacetime still doesn’t explain why the presence of these things leads to horror when Aiden doesn’t. Usually doesn’t. He sure fucked up that town. For me.
By the way, I’m assuming that this time you AREN’T in the 2%. Or are you?
Um…I think so, actually. “Failed to shut down the condenser”? Yup, that would be me.
Just trying to stay away from the crowd, you know?
So, yeah, back to talking about failing. It really seems like that’s a point where someone would have died and had to try again, in a game with death and reloading as a mechanic, but I just kept fighting (badly) with zombie scientists and then…I’m not sure. I was walking out of the building.
I’m not sure how that works, logically, because I got out somehow, and I said “don’t build another one or next time there won’t be anything left” or whatever. So it was destroyed, and how did that happen if I didn’t do it? How did I get out?
Hm. I was so puzzled thinking back on this that I looked online, and the internet (GamePressure.com) says if you fail to defeat the entities, “Jodie will be taken outside and the building blown up by soldiers.”
So I guess someone came to rescue me, even though I was the only one who could safely venture down there? Probably they all died and I should feel bad? I don’t know.
It comes back to that point about how to manage story progression if you can’t die, and you have to get to a certain place in the narrative. If you don’t have to win a fight to get there, what’s the alternative?
Because in an important way, it doesn’t matter how bad you are if you can die and come back. Sooner or later you’re going to get it, even if you’re terrible at combat (as I clearly am). But if you can’t die, and they don’t want to just have the fight go on forever (two days later, I’m still trying to duck when I should be punching! the suspension of disbelief over how I’m still alive has become agonizing!), they have to figure out something else.
And we talked about how sometimes losing a fight might actually turn out for the best — for others, like the residents of that destroyed town, if not for you. So that’s one way to handle it: put in a bit of a twist, make an alternate story.
This didn’t feel quite like that, though–it felt a lot more like “if you can’t win this fight, screw it, someone will come save you.” Which is possibly lazy, if they didn’t bother to work out an alternate path that was interesting, or is possibly the harsh but fair consequences of not having figured out how to fight effectively.
I will say, I guess in defense of the way things flow, that aside from the puzzlement of not knowing exactly what had happened (which honestly was kind of lost in the conversation with Dawkins, such that I didn’t really remember it until now), it didn’t FEEL like a crushing failure.
It just felt like “this is the next thing that happened in this story.” They didn’t go out of their way to say “eight good men just one day from retirement died to save you, you pathetic loser” or anything.
So they’re kind of going out of their way, I think, to avoid the success/failure divide. Mercifully, for terrible, terrible players like me.
Related note: this would be a good option for video game newbies! As well as for experienced yet terrible, terrible players like me.
Did you at least kill the zombie doctor?
Wait, shit, you didn’t even get to the bit when you’re running and running on the catwalks, trying to shut the thing down? You didn’t even get that? You didn’t make it past the ice corridor?
You were taken outside by whom?
But yes, I did the whole deal, very tense, blew the thing up, got the same cutscene you likely did, hugging Dawkins, etc.
But yeah, in the catwalk part, there were all SORTS of places that you’d likely die in a game where that could happen. In addition to lots of monsters, there were QTEs where you had to jump gaps in the catwalk (which was very high), jump to swinging things, jump OFF swinging things, as one does. Nathan Drake or Lara Croft would have died nine times each.
I did the QTEs, but damned if I know what would have happened if I had failed, cuz it wasn’t just a “get bonked and fall” deal, it was a “fail to jump a gap that would lead to a 200 foot fall” deal. Like, I’d jump it but with less style?
I shall never know.
But….we’ve played many, MANY games that are narrative heavy where death, even repeated, frustrating death, is commonplace. Shit, even in your first game, DAO, I can recall more than one fight that took me a couple days (remember Brood Mother?) and 27 or so failures (remember the end of the forest with the werewolves?). I even coined the term “reaper moment” for that very thing: the very, very hard thing in the narrative game.
There’d be an easy way around that whole “they don’t want you to die 27 times” problem: make shit easier. That’s really the middle ground between really hard and impossible to fail. Make it so you CAN kill the reaper in a couple tries.
Or just one, with the threat of death. Remember in TW3, the fight for Kaer Mohren? That fight that must’ve been 45 minutes long that ended with Ciri going all screamy for the first time? 45 minutes, didn’t die once, but the whole time I was a mess cuz I knew I could die. It led to absolutely perfect immersion: tension like hell (which Geralt would’ve felt) but with no interruptions for dying 27 times (or even one time). Perfect balance. We talked about it then.
So just saying “Meh, I’ll make it impossible to fail to keep the story moving” is really saying “I don’t want to think hard enough to get that balance that CDPR did in TW3. Which is kind of lazy. It CAN be done.
Yeah, that’s kinda cheap that ‘someone will come in and save you’. Maybe I will come to regret destroying that town, or you will regret NOT destroying that town, the same way we might regret our decisions about the teens at the party. But here, we both got to EXACTLY the same place, not the same place with town/no town or the same place with scared, mad teens/not scared, mad teens. EXACTLY the same place. Knowing stuff, dead dudes, blown up condenser. Period.
Well, I know you saw this cuz you didn’t have to go to an option screen to see it:
When we started a new game, it asked us questions like, what language, etc. One option was “I play video games regularly (or something)” vs. “I never play games (or rarely, or something).” I picked “I play games, dude (or something),” and I’m still not able to fail. Shit, I’m doing better than you are. So damn, if you’re saying “this would be a great option for newbies,” I wonder what would have been if we had picked the option for newbies we were actually offered.
Cuz usually there is an option for newbies. Most games we play (if you go to the options screen which you never do) even have a setting easier than “easy” called “Explorer mode” or “Story mode” or some shit. I suppose you CAN die in that, but it’s really, really hard to die.
So, again, GUARANTEEING success is not really necessary to keep things moving.
Well, but maybe that’s actually what they were trying NOT to do, is “guarantee success.”
Maybe they were thinking “people who are actually good at this mechanic deserve something cool, so let’s give them an extended sequence of excitement and drama, and if they aren’t good at it they won’t DIE, but we’ll just skip all that extra stuff (which, let’s be honest, they would probably suck at anyway since they clearly suck at games)”.
Maybe this is their attempt to have a meaningful consequence for failure that isn’t dying and reloading. Which…I don’t know…it’s not actually THAT meaningful since I had no idea what I’d missed until you mentioned it, and as I said it’s not as if they were up in my face about “you screwed up the QTEs so you didn’t get to go to the condenser shut-down party!”
Except that I guess “3% of people failed this particular task” is kind of doing exactly that, so on second thought I take it back. The STORY didn’t say that, but the summary did. Which goes back to our earlier conversation about why they offer these summary screens, and maybe that’s another part of it. There aren’t significant story consequences of failing, but you will be told that you managed to screw up something 97% of people had no problem with, so that’s a consequence. Perhaps a consequence worse than game-death, even!
I mean, whatever, we all die all the time, but being SCORED? Having my performance compared to that of every other person who’s ever played this and noted as a failure?
That’s hitting me where it really hurts! Well, not so much me personally, but somebody who cares more about their trophies and stats than I do.
Oh, and yes, I did kill the zombie doctor, if you mean the first, possessed guy. It was the waves of later zombie doctors that got me.
Yeah. And, let’s face it, the threat of “I’m going to die and feel failure and have to redo all of this when I really should stop and make dinner” isn’t the same as “Whelp, guess I missed a cutscene.” So it lowers the tension somewhat.
Not so much you, not so much me, in terms of caring about trophies. And it’s one thing to have “Shut down the condenser” (cuz it’s pretty obvious that “shut down the condenser” is the unplayed path) but a lot of the time it’s just “unplayed path.” For all you know, that unplayed path was “Failed to brush teeth, had root canal.” You don’t know you’re missing something good. If it was something like “You: didn’t hit the tennis ball. Not you: Got to go to a fancy dress ball, then got naked” then it would be much more of a sense of failure. Unplayed path sort of undermines that.
But the doctors…so you never even GOT to the catwalks?
So when did you first kill the entities? Later?
Kill the entities? Uh…maybe never? I don’t know. I mean, I zapped them as Aiden by sending the little dots at the dot, and chased them off, but that was earlier in the condenser chapter, right?
Or…maybe that was in a different chapter entirely, in which case never mind.
But if there’s something more to it than zapping them and running them off, like they die dramatically in an explosion of flame or something, then I can confidently say that I never saw that, so maybe that death animation was your REAL reward for being good at QTEs.
And yeah, I agree, it’s one thing to say “you failed to shut down the condenser” and have the obvious unplayed path be shutting down the condenser, but with some of them (“climbed through the window” compared to…what?) it’s a lot less definite what the other option was (a door? an air vent? escaping through the sewer?), and almost impossible to say by looking that one was a ‘better’ path than the other.
And as you say, the “undiscovered paths” where you have no way of knowing WHAT options you didn’t get to pick either of, who knows if we would have cared about that or not. Doesn’t seem urgent.
Uh…maybe? Yes, that dot thing making them go poof is what I’m talking about, so maybe it was earlier?
They kind of got a bright flash or something. Not really died. Figured they died.
And right. Unplayed means just that. And it’s not always easy to assume. Shit, sometimes you don’t get to see EITHER path (that DID happen to me, in the Embassy chapter), so who knows?
Doesn’t seem urgent at all. So hardly an incentive to do every QTE.
OK, yeah, I think I did that. Fighting the monsters with the dots.
It’s all about blue dots with Aiden. Zoom around and look for a blue dot to mess with!
I do find myself mildly curious about the other paths, and this game is a lot more replayable than the last several we’ve done, but even so I probably won’t actually play it again. There’s something about just making your choice (or failing your QTEs) and living with the results.
“That’s how it happened for me, and that’s how it is.”
Unless the unplayed path has the good arrows.
Ooo that’s cold, man. The good arrows. COLD.
I blame Mr. O’.
Although I can’t really blame him for my poor performance in this current game. That’s just bad fingers, I guess.
Well, we CAN blame Mr. O. It just wouldn’t be accurate.
Not that that’s stopped you before.