Your Guardian Angel
Quantic Dream wants you to experience games differently from the norm. Over the past years, they’ve been trying to create this method of narrative driven storytelling with titles such as Heavy Rain – pushing a distinct interaction between the players and characters over gameplay and quite frankly it works. Heavy Rain was an involving title that kept you on the edge of the seat with the majority of it’s gameplay just basic quick time events and dialogue interaction. Bringing their signature layout, Quantic Dream returns with a whole new game – Beyond: Two Souls. Does it deliver the same sort of experience we felt back with Heavy Rain?
Beyond: Two Souls portrays the life of protagonist Jodie Holmes – played by Ellen Page, a woman whom shares the human world with a supernatural entity named Aiden whom is attached to her from birth. The story spans a whopping 15-years of Jodie’s life from her toddler days all the way up to adulthood. Quantic Dream has set out the narrative to be told in a non-chronological order so every chapter shifts back and forth on the timeline. Confusing at times but once the pieces start falling together, it unveils the mystery behind your unanswered questions.
Similar to Quantic Dream’s Heavy Rain, the mechanics in Beyond: Two Souls is set out almost identical to the previous title. Everything is pretty much quick time events and player choice based – which may not appeal to many gamers. Focusing on narrative is not a bad thing as the simplified gaming controls make it more accessible to non-common gaming folk.
Jodie and Aiden are both playable characters, which you can switch between back and forth a majority of times throughout the game. Playing as Aiden allows you limited freedom as you fly around Jodie – still attached to her with some sort of link. As a spirit entity, you can fly through walls, people, interact with objects Jodie can’t and also.. possess and kill people with the ‘Darth Vader’ choke. The various things Aiden can do are limited though and only can be accessed if the story is moving in that direction – so you can’t really choke everyone. Jodie’s movements are also somewhat limited as the mechanics are based on environment interaction and basic level movements.
Beyond: Two Souls is restrictive because it wants to follow down a set path with lots of major detours but in the end – it still leads to the same point. The major detours are based on your choices in dialogue or your performance and decisions in the action sequences / cut scenes. It was not recommended by David Cage to replay the game but I just had to see what effect choices make. Whilst they are not major branches from the storyline, they gave enough ways to make the story unique to your play-through.
In one scene, where Jodie was homeless and strapped for cash – you could option to start busking in the streets so you can make a few bucks. The story seemed to push you that direction but after walking past an ATM. I decided to use Aiden’s power to boost my income… the bad way. This triggered a whole new deviation from what you would see if you optioned to start busking instead of stealing but later shifts back on the set path before another possible crossroad in the story.
“I’ve never really been a fan of her work but the game really captured the emotions and personality she lent to it which makes it quite believable.”
The game succeeds in telling a compelling story from start to finish. After the first few chapters, I really felt quite immersed in the relationship between Jodie and Aiden. The real life coming of age and relationship scenarios really helped you build a solid link to Jodie like Aiden and it’s moments like these that make you care for the character. Ellen Page’s performance in portraying Jodie was amazing, I’ve never really been a fan of her work but the game really captured the emotions and personality she lent to it which makes it quite believable. It’s a shame however that Quantic Dream didn’t really help build Willem Dafoe’s role as Nathan Dawkins – Jodie’s surrogate father when her parents decided to ditch her in the laboratory. His character was under-cooked and the climatic ending didn’t really serve his role well which was quite a disappointment.
The only other major downside to Beyond was it’s buggy release. The game was prone to constant freezing and save issues. At one point, it wouldn’t even load the main game anymore and I had to restore the installation files. Talking to some other reviewers, they also had constant issues with freezing in the game. Luckily I made it to the end without anymore major issues and let’s hope Quantic Dream address the issues with a patch.
Beyond: Two Souls was the first game that really made me craft my own story based on my personal choices. The excellent and engaging story and superb actor performances also helped mold this into one of the best experience this year despite the issues. It won’t be everyone’s cup of tea but it’s well worth a shot before trading your old PlayStation 3 in for a brand new next-gen console.
Developer: Quantic Dream
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
Platform: PlayStation 3
Review copy provided by the publisher
Beyond has an engaging story filled with great performances from Ellen Page. If it had a little more polish on the technical side, the experience would have been far better. Despite the issues, Beyond is a must play before you trade in your PS3