Remembering to Finish Remember Me

So much good in this game.  So why haven't I finished it yet?
So much good in this game. So why haven’t I finished it yet?

I was very excited to get this game when it was released.  The potential to have Batman Arkham Series-like fighting mechanics outside of the Arkham universe was mouth watering to me.  Gladly to say, Remember Me did an awesome job with it and solves a lot of problems that came with the fight mechanic design in the Arkham series.  However, for whatever reason I haven’t finished it and is therefore an indication for some problems with the game.  Here are some critical thoughts on just a few aspects of the game.

The first thing I’ll talk about is, of course, the fighting.

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The best fluid fighting + combo system marriage ever.

The best thing that RM offers is its clever mix of fluid fighting mechanics and a defined combo system.  The Arkham series was incredibly stripped down considering you only had one button to attack.  This was mixed up with blocking, take downs, and stunning.  Of course, you’re not really supposed to brawl your way through Arkham.  You were Batman.  You had the shadows on your side so a healthy amount of stealth evened out the simple, but well executed, fighting mechanics.

On the other hand, Batman really failed when it came to making its fighting have more depth.  Continuing into its third sequel, the Arkham series still relies on using different items that have only one particular use.  It was fun playing the Mr. Freeze boss fight in Arkham City, but it quickly became obvious that the boss battle was almost the only place where I’d be using more than two items in any given fight.  I haven’t finished Arkham Origins (forgot about it amongst the release bugs) but I have a feeling that they didn’t improve much on the formula.

The way that RM changes the game is giving you customizeable combos you can pull off.  I really hate combos in everyday brawlers like the Castlevania: Lords of Shadow or the Dynasty Warriors franchise.  I can’t remember so many goddamned combos.  Sure, you unlock them over time but at end game you still have access to all of them and can execute them at any time.  What’s really magnificent about RM is that in order to use combos, you must use limited resources in order to fulfill the move list.  These resources are the actual moves.  Over time, you unlock moves and actual combinations.  Combinations won’t be available until you fill them with moves.  Furthermore, each move can do different things like heal or deal extra damage.  There’s already a ton of customization options.  You can choose from shorter combinations to long ones.  Long ones give you better bonuses if you complete the long chain in actual combat, thus rewarding your skill in timing your attacks and dodging opponents.

This is simply way too cool.  However, there’s something about it that is lacking.  It feels like RM didn’t manage to go all the way with this idea.  I’ll have to finish the game in order to figure out what exactly it is.  I also set the game to Hard so fights get really ridiculous for me, which may or may not make fights extremely repetitive for me since I die all the time.

Using the special moves was already pretty interesting.

This is not to say that RM didn’t have its dependence on one-off items or moves.  It did have a small selection of special moves that you could pull off, very similar to the items that the Arkham series used like AoE attacks etc… The major difference is that instead of simply cooling down the skills or limiting them to finite usages, RM allowed you to manage those cooldowns via your combos.  Some moves decreased the cooldown time of your specials.  In Batman, stuff just cooled down, had finite ammunition (the remote spray explosives), or could be used infinitely (yay let’s zip around the map forevar kicking people in the face!).  That’s not incredibly interesting.  Using your specials in RM was an essential part of the game, especially in boss fights.  Therefore, being able to get those cooldowns low enough by spamming your specially crafted combo was very important.

Not too shabby.

I understand that Batman had realism constraints.  For example, how the hell do you explain how a kick can recharge a special move?  In fact, what the hell is a special move?  What the hell is memory remixing?  The setting of the game afforded these magical attributes in the overall game mechanics in RM.

Remixing, where did you go?

Another big pull for this game was the idea behind remixing memories.  Your character, Nilin, is a memory hunter and has the ability to hack into people’s memories (because everyone has a silly memory implant) and mess around with their gray matter—so to speak.  The overall execution of these remixing events are really cool looking and slick.  You get to play, rewind, and fast forward the events of a memory during which part you are able to change a few key elements like seen in the screenshot.  The idea here is that by changing these elements during the memory will cause a different sequence events to happen.  Of course, history has already been written so remixing only affects the victim’s perception of history—their memory.  The concept alone could spawn volumes of philosophical analysis.  However, on the gameplay level, this mechanic isn’t near as robust as the game’s fighting.

Remixing is ultimately traversing down branches in the tree and attempting to get to the end.  In other words, when you get to the point where you die in those Choose Your Own Adventure books you get the chance to rewind to where you picked the wrong page and try again.  Not entirely too interesting.

Also a branching structure, but choices had weight and permanence.
Also a branching structure, but choices had weight and permanence.

On the other hand, games like The Walking Dead also operate under the same branching narrative structure but does not elicit the same feeling of repetition and pointless trial and error that RM’s remixing does.  I think that the core of remixing is at fault.  In other words, remixing shot itself in the foot by trying to be really cool.  I wonder why the resource management aspects that made the fighting mechanic really great bleed into remixing.  You can rewind as much as you want when you remix.

I think what makes the choices in TWD resonant so much more is because they’re harder to change.  Sure, you can savescum the hell out of it and replay several minutes (and possibly very long and torturous, like the Toad’s supposed self-injury in The Wolf Among Us) but even when you finally reach the conclusion you want, but because the save point forced you to replay a lot more than you bargained for it reinforces the feeling of accomplishment or even catharsis.  A cathartic moment does not come if you were not challenged in some way.  Rewinding a memory because you changed the wrong thing isn’t difficult.  It becomes tiresome and repetitive.  Limited the amount you can rewind would be a start to solving this issue.

While there are problems with the remixing, it’s still a very interesting part of the game—if not being the crux of the entire world.  You are a damn memory hunter/hacker person.  Of course you need to remix!  Thing is, remixing doesn’t even feel like a puzzle.  They’re not hard to solve.  Things that aren’t difficult don’t lend themselves to be memorable.  Thankfully there aren’t too many remixing scenes available?  I feel like I’m pretty far in the game (finished getting back my memories and beating the warden) but there were only one or two remixes.  I don’t even remember at this point since they felt so insignificant compared to the boss fights I had, which I still remember each one and exactly how I beat them.

Time to finish this damn game… I hope they come out with a sequel.