Posted: April 12
There are two very engaging plot structures at play in this game; a mystery construction of pipes in the magical realm and an epic political/corporate conspiracy in the technological one, and the desire to see where these went (coupled with some fond memories of The Longest Journey) was what kept me playing. And then it ended quite suddenly, without any form of denouement or resolution, which is solely the reason for my 'not recommended' -- the feeling that stuck with me as the credits rolled being "was that it?". The nature of episodic content is to string you out as long as possible so I wasn't expecting everything to be laid out in front of me, but I was expecting something.
There are also a bunch of design decisions that didn't sit well with me. Zoe (one of the main protagonists) is an incredibly well rounded, emotional, likeable, believable character with some fantastic dialogue, and playing as her is fun, rewarding, and easily the high point of the game, and it's worth playing for this alone (though was it really necessary to see her in her underwear so prominently? Just because it was in the first game doesn't mean you've got to put it in the sequel). However, it causes a rather jarring discontinuity when you're presented the muscly hunk of the second protagonist Kian, who is as generic as they come and has all the personality and humour of a plank of wood with a serious face painted on it. If they were trying to make a point about the opposing nature of the two main characters then it is poorly made, as the opposite of an interesting character does not need to be a boring one. Playing as Kian was a deeply tedious experience.
There are only two main environments (one per character) and while they look pretty nice at first, they're less appealing after the fifth time trudging through them, and it's a far cry from the feeling of adventure and discovery in the previous games. At one point a bunch of paths in the technological overworld get closed off, which serves no point other than to be annoying as you can still get everywhere, you just need to take an even longer route. The magical world's equivalent to this is to feature the most epically terrible stealth puzzle the world has ever seen -- something which the designers attempt to hang a lantern on with a 'so you thought there wouldn't be stealth, but there is and you suck at it' achievement, which is a joke in somewhat poor taste considering how badly the puzzle is designed, and how completely unecesscary it is.
Sadly it's not the only bit of questionable design. There's a big thing about how your choices shape the story, but the choices you're presented with are so highly ambiguous that you might as well flip a coin for them, and then you're told in big letters THIS WAS IMPORTANT. THIS PERSON WILL REMEMBER. What, so all the other stuff I've been doing isn't important? The rest of my interactions are forgettable? The mechanic appears to be that these choices shift the gameplay in some manner, but they can't shift it too much as the story has to follow the same overall arc, so it comes across as kind of pointless. All it means is that you're guaranteed to be denied some content -- some of the walkthroughs I looked at referred to puzzles and sections that I never got to see. Adventure games don't have a terribly high replay value, so all this achieved was making me feel that I'd missed out. The choices feel very unsatisfying, and I think it's because they're trying to make them shape the story rather than the character. In Mass Effect (which I consider to be the gold standard for choice-based gameplay) the choices you make have little to no impact on the main story, but they have a massive effect on how you view your character, and while they may have had minor gameplay implications you didn't feel that you'd missed out on anything, but that's a roleplaying game where the development of your character is important to you. Here there aren't any roleplaying elements, and the choices you're forced to make don't develop your character in any way as the game will rationalise them so that the character you've been given remains consistent.
And then there are bits where the illusion of choice comes crashing down -- there's one bit where you have to chase after a character, but you're not in time to catch them. Only this is in an overworld, so you have the option of buggering off somewhere else. It's okay, they'll wait for you. You can even work your way around and approach them from the front -- but the game then begins its cutscene with you running up behind them.
There are some profoundly interminable cutscenes, invariably of people talking to each other - I was playing on a laptop and there were several times where the screensaver kicked in due to the lack of input, which made me wonder a bit if the creators would have preferred to make a film. It's also distinctly tonally inconsistent. Sometimes it's lighthearted and funny, sometimes it's serious and drab and sometimes there are bits that make me think 'really? was that entirely necessary?'.
There are some interesting moments, and it's possible that once it's complete I'll revisit it with a different opinion, but as it stands I don't feel it a story worth the time it takes to tell.