56 people found this review helpful
2 people found this review funny
Not Recommended
0.0 hrs last two weeks / 5.6 hrs on record
Posted: Apr 9, 2020 @ 8:44pm

Let me preface this by saying that I'm 90% sure that anything negative I'm about to say, the devs' response is going to be something to the effect of "That's too bad; he doesn't understand our art." I'm sure of this because there are several different places in the game where you can see the two devs talking and expressing concern that people won't understand/appreciate their work. Funny, except now here we are.

I loved ASM, and looked forward to SAM for years, all throughout its development hell. I played it at PAX East a few years ago, before it was delayed by about 4 years. I pre-ordered it a month before it came out. Despite my excitement, I made sure to keep my expectations reasonably low. It's a game developed by such a small team, and as much as I enjoyed ASM, I'm very aware it had a *lot* of problems I won't get into here. My point is, I had high hopes but low expectations.

I can't really dissect everything I didn't like about SAM without making one of those hour-long YouTube videos that reviewers make for people with way too much time on their hands, so I'm going to give a few bullet points for why I didn't really care for it. Maybe someday I'll write a super-long review where I do a full autopsy, because honestly these two games meant a lot to me and I have a lot to get off my chest about them.

Pros:
-Improved artwork
-More characters which are developed through the whole game, rather than only showing up for a couple hours
-The very infrequent moments where you are invite to hang out with someone and see an actually-developed cutscene. These are sometimes well-written and interesting.

Cons:
-Very boring/repetitive gameplay. This is a common point of criticism. The Devs (from what I've seen) tend to reply to said criticism with "well if you didn't enjoy the playstyle, you should have played it differently." The game only gives you a single goal ("Write your book") and virtually no metric for how close you've come to achieving it. How many chapters until the book is 'complete'? 10? 20? 30? You're never given any indication. So you have no reason to do anything other than pour as much time as possible for writing your book. Which, while I don't want to spoil anything, I will say that I am unconvinced the length of your book has *any* relevance on the story.
-The sidequests are difficult to find and rarely interesting. Which is why people complain about it being repetitive; you have no REASON to do anything other than write your book. It's rarely even entertaining to explore the cities.
-It's very difficult to understand how time is segmented. First game had a little clock interface that showed if it was morning, afternoon, or night. I often didn't know if certain actions consumed time, and it lead to me wasting days.
-The characters you choose for the book tour are mediocre and fairly one-note.
-You don't get meaningful dialogue options. Nearly every dialogue 'tree' is effectively, "Yes/No/I don't Care/I don't Know". And your choices rarely ever affect more than a single line of dialogue.
(Example: there's one point when you're invited to meet a woman who is planning on getting an abortion, and see if you can help give her advice. The scene plays out with the two NPCs talking over you while you occasionally give a 'yes/no/I don't care/I don't know'.)
-There wasn't really a 'plot'. You're given a premise at the very beginning ("write your book before the book tour is over"), and then you spend ~8 hours mostly doing the same cycle of wake up --> eat --> poop (an actual in-game mechanic which loses all humor after the first time you do it yet have to do ~30 times throughout the game) --> write --> write --> sleep --> wake up. Maybe you occasionally get a cutscene, maybe you occasionally do a 'sidequest' where you aren't asked to make any sort of choice or play any real role (with maybe a small handful of exceptions), but it rarely has anything especially meaningful.
-There's a fleshed-out mechanic for cooking. It involves looking up recipes (which there are very many of), buying each individual ingredient, selecting them, then cooking. This whole mechanic is useless. You can 100% subsist on just eating Leftovers which appear in the fridge daily. Presumably this lowers your "health", but your "health" doesn't appear to do literally anything. Nor does your hygiene.
-I frequently missed potential questlines because I couldn't find the person I was told to talk to. For example, in the last city, I was told to meet Shelly at the bar. I checked the bar, she wasn't there. I waited until afternoon. Still not there. I checked in the evening. Still not there. Another time, I was told Shelly was going to throw a party that night. Cool, I said I would go. I waited until evening (since it was mentioned that the party wouldn't happen until night), then couldn't find where to go. After searching everywhere I could think of, I had to just give up and ghost her.
-There is virtually no development for your spouse, or your relationship with them. More than there was in the last game, but still very little. There was one point where I went exploring a city with her, stopped into a toy store (b/c why not?) and she asked me if I ever thought about having children. Then the conversation ended. I didn't even get dialogue options.
-It doesn't feel like any character has any sort of arc. Maybe I just missed every opportunity to see said arc, but (with the exception of a few cutscenes where two side-characters will have conversations which your character isn't even present for) most of these characters felt like they were one-note at the beginning and one-note at the end.
-There are also a LOT of bugs. Admittedly, the devs keep patching said bugs as they get reported, but as an early-buyer it definitely affected my experiences.

Overall, I'm very sorry to say it, but I wouldn't recommend buying it, even if you enjoyed ASM.

I look forward to seeing what Vagabond Dog does next.
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Developer response:
Keadin  [developer] Posted: Apr 21, 2020 @ 12:25am
Hey Nick,
That's a hefty review to draw feedback on, but I'm going to do my best here. We've pushed a lot of updates since you wrote this, and I'll try and see what's left for us to address as we continue working on the game.

Our recent patches have tackled some of the tedium of the life sim stuff, and we've done what we can (for now) to better direct players to the exciting content. You should feel much less pressure to constantly manage that aspect of the game, but we're still looking for ways to guide players to the juiciest stuff.

I'd contest your argument about the dialogue not affecting things, as the example you cite can lead to some pretty varied results (abortion vs keeping) on multiple different spectrums (reconciliation with him vs single motherhood), as well as detail to be discovered about the circumstance (his/her faults, family situation, prospects).

We improved the awareness of time advancement and decreased the consumption on a lot of activities to better let players have the opportunity to find events. There's also more leniency for activating a lot of the stuff, so it should be easier to trigger.

Overall, we're still updating the game, but I just wanted to let you know that a lot of the things you talked about have been considered, if not solved. If you're willing to give the game another swing and update your review, I'll be able to better know what else we can do to improve the game as we continue to add new features and content.