A story is one of the most important parts of a game. Sometimes without a story, a game is nothing or boring. Not every game needs a story to be good, but if a developer is going to put one in make it memorable and worth sitting through.
Disco Elysium’s story is the best of the bunch this year due to the sheer amount of detail and lore set within the game. The characters are not only well written, but add to the story and make the entire journey worth finishing and it’s something you will remember and contemplate long after the game is finished.
David Cage has been well known for fascinating stories that talk about the boundaries of the human mind and what humanity is capable of. Our destructive nature and so much emotion that goes into making us what we are. Detroit is easily his best work with fantastic characters, tense scenes, and gripping dialog with moral choices that will test any gamer and really make them think and regret.
Detroit is a game about the fight between Androids and humans. There’s always been a theory that eventually AI will surpass us and get the upper hand. Isaac Asimov wrote about it a lot and created stories in which he blurred the boundary between human emotion and algorithms. Detroit does an amazing job doing this with a well-crafted story and really questioning the absolute core of humanity and addressing problems that we are facing in the real world today with racism, classism, and prejudice. You play as three separate androids and each has its own goal and path. Markus starts as an android serving an older famous artist and lives in an upper-class society. Kara, who is a maid for an abusive drug-addicted father in the slums of Detroit, and Conner, who is a brand new prototype android that is used in investigations for the Detroit Police Department.
Like all of David Cage’s games, each level is a scene in which you play a different character, the scenes rotate, and as you make your choices you unlock new paths that involve hatred or love for your character or cause. The player walks their character around and can interact with some of the environment by manipulating objects via button commands (like all of David Cage’s games) and each scene is played out with quick-time events and missing them can actually impact the storyline as well. It’s a very sensitive timeline with different outcomes for each character. I honestly can’t get too in-depth with how my timeline went, but let’s just say none of my characters survived and part of this is because the timeline/path system isn’t explained well enough.
As you make choices and either succeed or fail in quick time events characters around you will hate you or love you and there are a few levels of this. If a character hates you too much, and you try to really fix it towards the end and it feels like you’re succeeding, once you unlock that path you can’t really change it. There is an arrow at the top-right screen that will point up or down when a choice is made and small arrows are little movements and large arrows will sway in bigger increments, but we never know how far that is as eventually, you will get a status update of how that character feels instead of a meter. It would be nice to know so if we go too far down a path we can just keep going down that way instead of trying to change things and ultimately get an ending we don’t like or weren’t working towards. The story does feel very organic despite all of this, and I think it’s because of how many micro choices you can make. However, no matter what choices you make once down a certain path you can’t fix it.
Outside of this core path system, the is more story than gameplay. The entire game is made of quick-time events and nothing else. This is really a game where you enjoy the story more than gameplay, but it works well here and has for all of David Cage’s games. I actually sat through the entire game and didn’t stop because of how interesting the story and characters were. There is a constant sense of urgency, fear, dread, and sadness, I even teared up towards the end of the game! You never quite know what your exact outcome will be as I made some choices on the fly and I realized if I chose another option things would have turned out fairly bad. It really tests you as a person and how you think and feel, especially for how political the game gets.
Visually the game is second to none. Outside of God of War, there is no other game this generation that looks this good. The facial animations are incredibly realistic with beautiful skin textures and minute details and twitches in faces that I have never seen in a game before. It just looks so amazing and is sadly overlooked. The voice acting is phenomenal thanks to the B-grade actors that were used here, and they’re actors that you say, “Hey! I know that guy from this movie!” but don’t actually know the actor’s name.
In the end, Detroit: Become Human is one of the best games storywise I have played in the last 10 years. While it severely lacks in the gameplay department, it thrives in story and character and fantastic visuals. I highly recommend this for all gamer types as stories are the fundamentals of video games and are what make video games such a unique medium.
The story is probably the second most important aspect of a game next to the gameplay. A good story can be memorable, impactful, controversial, enlightening, frightening, and any other emotion humans can feel. We didn’t have many games with memorable stories this year, but there were some out there that stood out.
Horizon: Zero Dawn
Horizon told a story of humanity years after we destroyed ourselves and the aftermath we would suffer. The story was focused globally and internally with the main characters trying to discover who they are making something of themselves. Horizon’s story was memorable, kept you drawn in, and multi-leveled in many ways.
To the Moon is a 2D, 16-bit adventure game that follows two scientists who are fulfilling a dying man’s last wish. They use a strange computer to go into his memories to find the link that will allow him to go to the moon. To the Moon has a heartwarming story with a beautiful sweeping musical score, but lacks any type of real gameplay.
The game is broken up into three acts and during the first two, you are walking around John’s memories and have to find five memory links to unlock the shield surrounding time jumping mementos. As you go further into John’s past you find out why he doesn’t know why he wants to go to the moon. There is some memory block and you have to find out what it is and remove it. Finding these memory links only takes a few seconds because you just click on the few items in the small area. Once you remove the shield you play a little puzzle game then on to the next memory. This all just seems like an excuse to add gameplay to an otherwise visual-only adventure.
Through act two you get to interact with two different mini-games which are Whac-a-Mole and a zombie shooting section and each is uninspired and pretty lame. The visuals are, like I said, 16-bit and pretty average. There’s nothing special here visual-wise, and don’t even expect voice acting. The second best thing about the story is the sweeping musical score. This score is beautiful and one of the best ones I have ever heard. I really wish that this game could have been more, but I understand most indie developers have small budgets.
Overall, To the Moon has a story that will tug at your heartstrings, as well as the music, but the gameplay feels like an excuse to extend the 1-hour story to barely four hours. If the gameplay was a little more engaging I wouldn’t complain about it so much, but as it is, stay for the story and you will be entertained.
Storytelling in games is probably the most important thing. Even if your game has good graphics if there’s nothing to follow why bother? There a few great games with good stories, but most of them were the endings to long-running series. These were the best of the bunch.
A great story isn’t just about plot twists or mystery. Being in suspense and actually giving you the option to make those twists and turns is revolutionary. The Walking Dead has a story that will tug at your heartstrings and even make you shed a tear or two. Being in total control also gives you multiple possibilities throughout the whole series. This is by far the best story this year, and I can’t wait for Season 2.
Dear Esther is a game from indie developer thechineseroom that is a visually stunning adventure game, but it is lacking everything else. If you like slow-paced games, or just want to relax and not worry about anything but moving your character then this is probably exactly what you’re looking for. Everyone else, stay away.
You start out on the beachside with no objectives so you just start wondering. This is all you do in the game while a narrator spews poems at you. There isn’t really a story here except a man is searching for a man named Donelly, and you are writing letters to a man named Esther. As you wander around the level you will see various things like abandoned huts, shacks, and strange writings on walls. I felt the game had an atmosphere that was a mix of Penumbra with a bit of Half-Life 2 thrown in. If you walk into a dark area your flashlight will turn on, but there’s really no need to wander off the main path. If you do you may get a little extra narrative, but it isn’t worth it because you have to walk all the back to where you were.
You literally do nothing but walk. There aren’t any other buttons except zoom and take screenshots. This wouldn’t be so bad if the pace wasn’t so slow and grueling. You literally walk at a crawl and I get that it’s so you can take in the scenery, but it doesn’t really change much until you get into the caves. There’s only so much ocean and swaying grass one can see before you get bored. The only thing you look forward to is the next piece of narration.
The game is stunning to look at, but you won’t see the true beauty of the engine until you get into the caves where you get to witness gorgeous water and lighting effects. This is short-lived because this area is only about 10-15 minutes long and so are the other four areas. This leads us right into the game’s worst problem: It is less than an hour long. Even when you get to the end you still don’t know why you played this game and what the purpose is. The story is very vague and you never quite know what’s going on. This is hardly a game and is more of a technical showcase. If you can stomach this sort of thing then go ahead, but you aren’t missing anything if you skip out.
Dear Esther does try something that most games don’t, but with zero gameplay and only being barely an hour-long it’s hard to justify that $10 price tag. There aren’t even any downloadable chapters which is a real shame. Will I be keeping an eye on thechineseroom’s next game? You bet because there is a lot of potential here, but I just felt it was clearly wasted.
A great story is usually memorable and you will talk about it for years to come. You need good characters, voice acting, and a lot of other elements to make a good story. Usually, there has to be a great ending as well as some twists and turns, but it also has to make sense. A good story is probably the hardest thing to find in the video game world, but there were a lot of great ones this year, but there can be only one.
This was the toughest category this year. With so many great stories I could only choose one. Gears of War may be considered a meat head’s game, but the story branching over the three games is full of great characters and a struggle for survival that eats at your heart. These people are fighting a genocidal race of bugs, and in the meantime, they are losing their loved ones right in front of their eyes. The delivery from the voice actors just makes you care so much about Delta Squad, but overall the ending and story in Gears 3 finish the story with a tightness that most sequels can’t really pull off.
Stories are probably the most important part of a game, and a good story tends to be original, full of plot twists, good characters, and great dialog to go with it. Video games have set the standard for fantasy stories and are probably video gaming’s greatest achievement.
Alan Wake has a story like no other with a rich, deep, and complex (yet easy to follow) story that is ripped straight out of the best horror novels. The way Alan Wake unfolds, and the story is told with plot twists, and loops that keep on coming you just keep on playing just to find out what happens with Alan! This is exactly how a game story should roll out, and other games have big shoes to fill.