Making the right choice is rarely about deciding between two polarizing sides. Decisions are more often than not different shades of grey. While games have attempted to emulate this complex state of morality, few have come close to capturing the feeling of a heart being torn in different directions. Then there is Always Sometimes Monsters: A game that isn’t afraid of making the player feel an incredible sense of discomfort.
Existing in the wake of high-profile, narrative-driven indie titles like Gone Home, it would be easy to pass Always Sometimes Monsters off as “just another game that’s all story and no gameplay.” While it may not present the blockbuster action of something like Watch Dogs, there is a lot more to Vagabond Dog‘s debut release than one might initially grasp.
As evidenced by the video above, Always Sometimes Monsters is not an easy game to qualify. Put simply, the game places the player in the shoes of a regular person still feeling the pangs of a break-up with not a cent to their name. Dubstown – the game’s locale – is hardly an accommodating environment though with drugs, violence and general unhappiness appearing commonplace. This is further hit home by Laser Destroyer Team’s strong electronic soundtrack that manages to mix hints of darkness into its catchy synthpop.
Players go about the day-to-day life of their character as they work (in the form of minigames), socialize and simply attempt to break even at the end of each day. Morality and the choices that the player makes are the game’s focus though. Whether in conversation or through the actions that one takes, their choices affect their character’s life and those around them in often dark ways. Even non-action can have as big an impact on a character’s well-being as a pivotal line of dialog.
Choices are rarely clear-cut black and white scenarios though. More often than not, they come in the form of differing shades of grey, building upon what one might expect from recent Telltale Games titles. No matter how benevolent one’s intentions are when approaching the game, it is not easy to make decisions that will benefit everyone. Someone will get hurt – badly – which brings about one of the most interesting effects of Always Sometimes Monsters.
As a game that makes it so difficult for the player to come out ahead on good intentions alone, it’s not uncommon to catch yourself slowly treading down a dark path as the game progresses. Whether this is simply to keep your head above water by making a little more money or out of a morbid interest to see how an event will transpire, Always Sometimes Monsters makes it incredibly difficult to be a “good” person and isn’t afraid to stop you in your tracks and show you the implications of your choices.
Always Sometimes Monsters isn’t a broad, easy-to-define experience. It can mean different things to different people. Yes, the choices a player makes in the game will have a sizable impact on their experience, but their emotional state outside of the game has just as much bearing on how and to what degree the game hits home.
It’s an experience that will not appeal to the adrenaline junkies out there, but for those looking for a heavy narrative that isn’t afraid to point out one’s flaws, Always Sometimes Monsters represents an important next step in capturing true morality in a game. With developers beginning to place a heavier emphasis on the “soul” of games, titles such as this will no doubt stand as examples to study as the medium continues to change shape.
Always Sometimes Monsters is available now for PC on Steam for $9.99.
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