Well, Gemini Rue was released the other day, and I was really looking forward to it. I pre-ordered, even. It sounded awesome. But it isn't.
After Emerald City Confidential and Puzzle Bots I should have been prepared; unless Dave Gilbert is directly responsible for it, it's just not worth playing. But I keep thinking "The Blackwell games are so good, these people clearly know what makes a good adventure game, they can't be so terribly wrong again."
But they can be and they are.
Did you read that page about the game I linked before? If not, go read it. It sounds great, right? I get a real Richard Morgan vibe from it. But in the actual game it just feels really directionless and unengaging. I must admit, I haven't played through the whole thing. I played the first two sections as Azriel and the first section as Delta-Six, but nothing had caught my interest at all.
A big problem, I feel, is the complete lack of exposition. Obviously that's intentional for Delta-Six, who's just had his memory wiped, but even there I didn't feel any connection to the character or any motivation to try to find anything out.
This is probably the fault of the Azriel sections, in which you play a character who obviously has an interesting and colourful background, which you have no information about. It slowly comes out in bits and pieces, but that process of discovery is badly handled and doesn't leave you with any questions. You're not hanging on to find out the next thing, because you have no clues about what the next thing may be or even that there might be more information forthcoming.
Now here's the thing that makes this a truly awful game. It's just not fun. A lackluster story in a video game would be nothing out of the ordinary, and even in a more story-driven genre like this there have been some pretty good games with pretty terrible plots (Beneath a Steel Sky is great and it has a pretty stupid plot and an absolutely terrible ending, but like I said, it's great, so go get it - it's free).
What makes this game so bad is the fact that it just fails at even being an adventure game. The puzzles amount to "do the most obvious thing" or "don't just stand around and let people shoot you", and they seem to take a back seat to the other game mechanic, which is combat. Now, I'm really not a fan of combat in adventure games, but I will accept that if done well it could be fun. It's not done well.
Combat consists of four controls. Take cover, leave cover, take a breath and fire. The whole trick to it is to time it so that you take a breath, step out of cover and shoot at the moment when your enemy is out of cover but not firing. It's the same thing every time and it happens over and over again. It is tedious and repetitive and tedious and repetitive.
And before I move on, just one more thing about the puzzles. When there is a whole game mechanic based around moving and climbing on top of crates, you can be pretty sure that is going to be the solution to an inordinately large number of puzzles.
Firstly, it's completely lifeless. The characters just don't feel like people. It's not simply that they don't seem to be speaking naturally, they just sound like people reading a script, not like people who are actually in this world, living this story. If you can't get good voice actors, don't bother.
Secondly, whoever wrote the scripts should have given that job to someone else. There's one point where two characters exchange the following lines (possibly paraphrased slightly as I'm not going to load it up again to get it right):
Oh, just give me the gun.
But what about your vow to never use a weapon again?
Oh right, the vow.
Someone wrote those lines and thought "Yeah, that's a good way to bring up that plot point." and then some other people read those lines out and recorded them and they were put into a video game that they are charging actual money for.
Don't buy this game, it's a piece of shit. Get the Blackwell games though, those are great.