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Quantic Dream, the studio behind the hit, “Heavy Rain,” has released their second title, “Beyond: Two Souls.” This beautiful game is the perfect combination of cinematic story-telling and gameplay to create a game that has the player fully engaged with the plot and characters.
The story of “Beyond: Two Souls” is told out of order, but there is a timeline in which each chapter rests. As more chapters are completed, the timeline becomes clearer.
Jodie Holmes was born with a gift that has prevented her from living a normal life. She is linked with an entity named Aiden. In being linked with this entity, she cannot control some of his behaviors, which lead her parents to hand her over to Nathan Dawkins, a researcher in the Department of Paranormal Activity (DPA) at the CIA. From there on Jodie is in the care of the DPA as they try to figure out what Aiden is and how he and Jodie are linked.
The gameplay of “Beyond: Two Souls” is one that fully immerses you into Jodie’s story in directing Jodie and Aiden with little interference from cut scenes. Jodie has the ability to defend herself and the game will go into slow-motion in order for you to direct Jodie’s attacks, evade enemy attacks or interact with the environment.
However, “Beyond: Two Souls” really shines when you control Aiden. Aiden can phase through matter so Jodie can see into rooms and interact with objects or simply over hear other character’s dialogue. He can also move objects, open doors, suffocate people, relive a person’s final moments, communicate with the dead, and even heal wounds.
The amazing thing about “Beyond: Two Souls” is the amount of choices that you can make. Dialogue options and quick time events (QTE’s) each have an impact on the route the story will take. Each choice will bear consequence either immediately or at the end of the game. For example, if you kill someone (as Aiden), it may or may not ruin a mission. Moreover, if (as Jodie) you experience or avoid a traumatic event it may or may not affect your future relationships.
Whether the difference is apparent will be clear on the next play through where you can choose differently and see where a certain choice or combination of choices leads Jodie and Aiden. A negative aspect of having the option of choices is simply choosing to do nothing allows for the game to make the choice for you. One can argue that this makes the game become too easy. If you decide to do nothing, the choices made are Jodie’s alone. This means the player has no investment in what happens to her or the characters around her.
The performances of “Beyond: Two Souls” were accomplished using motion capture. The title stars of the game are Ellen Page (Jodie Holmes) and Willem Dafoe (Nathan Dawkins). Willem Dafoe’s performance is authentic and moving but Ellen Page, while a capable actress, seems to just be playing her quirky self. The parts of the game in which Jodie feels real are the times when we see her growing up as a little girl dealing with abandonment and powers that she does not understand. Any time Ellen Page interacts with Willem Dafoe, the performance is immediately elevated, but separately Jodie’s character falls a little flat.
Jodie’s relationship with the entity Aiden is strained throughout the game. She both hates and loves Aiden. She both needs and doesn’t need him. If certain QTE’s are completed successfully, then Jodie is quite capable of handling herself in a tough situation. If the player cannot complete the quick time events properly, the Aiden will have to come to Jodie’s aid most of the time. Essentially the player’s ability to react will decide whether Aiden steps in with his powers to aid Jodie or not.
The musical score of “Beyond: Two Souls” was composed by Normand Corbeil (composer of “Heavy Rain’s” score) but left incomplete due to his death. Composer Lorne Balfe (composer for “Assassin’s Creed’s” score) took over to finish the score with Hans Zimmer taking the role of producer. “Beyond: Two Souls”’s score is hauntingly fitting for the game’s subject matter. It is a mix of emotional yet thrilling pieces which reflect the hardships Jodie and Aiden face throughout their story.
In part two, Aiden’s mechanics as a single player experience as well as a duo player experience through the “Beyond: Two Souls” app and with the PlayStation 3 controller will be explored.
Image credit: Beyond: Two Souls via Facebook