Remember back in June when I talked about the 2 upcoming June games I was looking forward to? One of them was Remember Me, and despite my trepidations from the various “only okay” reviews I’d read, I went ahead and decided to be positive about playing it anyway. Whatever the game lacked in gameplay, it was supposed to make up for in plot and being visually stunning. So I bought Remember Me, and looked forward to a fun, immersive gaming experience.
Except that never happened.
For me to enjoy a game, it really has to excel at a single thing if it can’t do a variety of things fairly well. In my mind the game it must be either immersive (involving storytelling, art, and narrative) or a gameplay dream (involving physical controls, fun and understandable combat, and properly-gauged challenges). Remember Me managed successfully accomplish neither of these things for me, and often used one to break the other. I’m not exactly sure where I differ from many of the other reviewers I read, reviewers who generally said “gameplay is a little annoying, but the plot and art make up for it”, but this game had too many issues for me to ever truly be either immersed in the world or truly feel like an ass-kicking god.
A Quick Plot Summary
You are Nilin (as in “nil”-in, not “nigh”-lin), a mystery woman who wakes up in the throws of a painful memory wipe. After a daring escape from the evil facility at the hands of a digital stranger who calls himself “Edge”, you follow his instructions to reconstruct your old life and to take down the evil corporation – Memorise – which over the years has turned memories into a commodity. The story takes place in Neo-Paris where the wealthy who live up above the city and are naiive and shielded from the slums literally right below them. In the slums the poor stay poor and are often addicted to stealing memories from others, slowly turning them into violent and unpredictable mutants.
To kick off the veritable shopping list of issues I have with the game I have an issue that these days usually isn’t an issue at all: the tutorial. Typically your first level is a tutorial, and as you walk down a hallway, for example, the game will pause just before an encounter to explain how to do something, how to punch, kick, or otherwise interact with an object. This is very standard. This simple tactic, however, is used in such a way as to completely shatter the flow of the game, and not only is it used in the first level, it’s used consistently (and consistently poorly, I might add) throughout the entire game. Whereas initially it’s less bothersome – you might expect a few occasional pauses as you begin to learn combat basics – the frequent and jarring stops to the gameplay quickly become distracting and downright annoying. When the intent is to teach you about their combo-building system, rather than, say, setting up an initial combo for you and letting you tinker with it later so you can easily continue the current ass-kicking, the tutorial system forcesyou to understand the combo system immediately before continuing – and even then it won’t let you do what you want; it forces you to create the combo they want you to create it.
WAIT. Let me stop the entire game to explain the next buttons you really need to press.
This pause in action is a huge distraction, especially because it frequently takes you into their combo-building screen and/or forces you to read a paragraph or 2 of explanation. There’s nothing worse than getting excited about a fight sequence and then being forced instead to spend 5 minutes reading about and assembling a new combo before you can continue. This issue completely stalled the gameplay for me on multiple occasions. At this point in game development creating a basic tutorial is nothing new and it’s a big no-no to force the player into doing something the breaks their flow.
A Closed-Off World
To be clear (and to attempt a compliment sandwich…at least an open-faced one), Remember Me is absolutely a beautiful game; I don’t think that’s a point on which anyone would argue. Neo-Paris is both fabulously beautiful or run-down depending on where you are, full of practical uses of augmented reality, and basically the epitome of cyberpunk. Unfortunately I feel like its sheer beauty and high level of detail costs the player’s perception of the game. When I see that many details, I want to explore the world and learn more about it; I want to poke into its corners and check behind every building.
Don’t you want to explore all of this?
The open-ness of the world unfortunately ends up being in direct contrast to its level of detail and beauty. Not only is the level design heavily linear, but their methods for keeping you out of closed-off areas are astonishingly simplistic. I ran into more than one invisible wall during my gaming time, and in a hilarious turn of events it appears that a woman who can jump up walls and between buildings dangling from window sills can on occasion not manage a jumper higher than ankle-height when next to certain boxes and crates. Stupid boxes! *shakes fist*
The disappointingly small world aside, the silly tricks they used to keep you out of unwanted areas were, I felt, far below a game of this caliber. I don’t actually remember the last time I actually ran into an invisible wall. That seems so…old school? But not in a good way?
For another open-faced compliment sandwich, I’ll start by saying that when it came to directing you through their world, the camera angles were really well done. I tend to dislike having no control over the camera, but when you want to know which direction you’re supposed to be climbing, for example, camera position can be vital in how frustrating your next move is.
Despite their well-positioned cameras, however, your climbing and ledge-jumping is constantly directed by the presence of a little yellow arrow. I don’t necessarily think this is a gaming deal-breaker, but I do think it’s a totally unnecessary example of hand-holding. If I jump to grab onto a window sill and the camera shifts to point up the side of the building, that’s a fairly good indicator I need to continue going up. An arrow showing me exactly which ledge I need to move to next is both insulting the player and the person who designed the level. Using a basic climbing trope and camera angles should have been enough; a little bit of puzzle-solving 101 would have been completely acceptable.
Note the yellow arrow to the left of Nilin. Pretty sure that’s the only place for her to go anyway.
Remember Me uses an interesting combo-building system I’d never seen before (though it’s totally possible it exists elsewhere); I genuinely thought it was interesting. The basic idea is that you receive a pre-made combo with empty slots (the first combo slots you receive, for example, are for X-X-X). Over time you receive actions called “Pressens” to fill those slots. Pressens have 4 types: Strike, Regen, Cooldown Reduction (for a handful of big-bad abilities), and Multiplier. Each does exactly what you think (to be clear, Multiplier simply makes the previous Pressen do more of its assigned ability), and each comes Pressen is either a Y or an X to fit into your combo slots.
So combo-building? Cool.
But combo execution? Less cool.
Unlike most button-smashing combo-based combat systems (in my recent experience, Bayonetta, DMC: Devil May Cry, for example) a very vague amount of timing has to be accomplished, but you’re mostly focusing on the correct combo order. The combo-timing in Remember Me, however, is slightly slower and requires much more precision. This would be fine, except in a room of 10 opponents you end up spending a lot of time dodging or getting knocked around, invariably breaking your combos and requiring you start again. To their credit, a single dodge doesn’t break the combo, but just like any other attack it requires correct timing to allow you to pick up the combo where you left off.
I found that the combat was a lot more fun with a small handful of heavily armored baddies than a slew of smaller ones. With an AOE only on cooldown you typically end up single-targeting these guys while others knock you around from all different angles. I thought it was frequently frustrating. Maybe I was just bad at it?
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This guy takes to it a lot more easily than I ever did (and I also disagree – I didn’t find the combat nearly as much fun as Arkham City), but it shows how you have to cycle through multiple screens in the Combo Lab before continuing with the action.
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This second clip from the same video better illustrates how forcing a cut to the Combo Lab really breaks up the flow of the game. It also shows how in a higher-stress environment actually executing the combos gets a lot more difficult, and a lot more frustrating.
If you also get to around the 22:15 mark, he talks about how the timing is a bit reminiscent of Tekken, which isn’t a game I’ve ever played, but I assume he’s right since it’s an arcade-style fighter.
A list of other small obnoxious stuff
Interesting sequences being taken over by cut scenes
Interesting allies with whom you don’t get to bond
Protagonist’s uneven personality, wavering between compassion and disgust, violence and fear
Enemies you can’t do damage to without taking damage from them.
Bosses with unclear defeating strats
A Combo Lab that eventually becomes annoying to follow
Forking paths that close you out to exploring the alternate if you choose the one that continues the plot
Terrible character and location names (“Bad Request”, “The Leaking Brain”)
All That to Say
This game (clearly) just didn’t do it for me. It was so close in so many ways; the concept was great, the art and soundtrack were phenomenal, it has a strong female protagonist, and basically any gameplay they based off of memories – the Memory Remixes, memory stealing, or shadowing peoples’ memories via Remembranes – was truly fun and interesting. If they would’ve ditched the clunky combat system and relied more heavily on those memory-based mechanics the game would have been both more fun and creative.
If you like fighter games it sounds like this game will frustrate you significantly less than I; the slow timing required for hitting the combinations wore on me over time and it made the combat sequences much less fun.