Thoughts on: Read Only Memories

Read Only Memories. Удивительно светлое будущее

Read Only Memories is a game that I can easily recommend, yet not in the “you should totally play it” way and more in the “yeah, it’s good” way. It starts great, but ends on a rather “eh” note, which disappoints, yet still doesn’t feel like playing the game was a waste or anything.

The game itself is quite obviously trying to redo the feel a lot of Japanese adventure games in 80-90s had, most notably Hideo Kojima’s Snatcher. It drops the annoying part of those games (where you’re forced to click all options several times, often without clear indication as to why, to get new interaction options), focuses on narrative, but does contain some puzzles and “action” sequences. Instead of having a properly established main character, however, it goes for “player as a main character” route, where you do have few things about your backstory established, but you do everything else. Which… actually detracts from the enjoyment of the story a bit. Without a proper main character with a clear personality, like, say, Gillian Seed from Snatcher, a lot of dialogue directed at you is done in a more “dry” informative and not REALLY interesting way, while the game tries to add it more character by using your robotic partner Turing a lot of lines during the dialogue. To the point where he becomes much more of a main character than your character ever does and all attempts at “buddy cop” interactions, like Snatcher did with Gillian and Metal, just don’t really work in this game. Probably, partially because of that, game just doesn’t feel as interesting and engaging by the end, where events should feel big and important, yet feel like just another thing happening with some predictable twists and a rather boring ending.

It’s also worth noting game’s desperate attempts to address the issues of equality in genders, sexual preferences, races and such. I’m saying “desperate” simply because the way game handles a lot of those questions and its own characters often feels forced and not genuine. To the point where, I think, pretty much all major characters you interact with are bi- or homosexual and often look androgynous. Which could’ve worked with more characters, actual diversity, better dialogue and fleshed out lore (even through environmental storytelling) but doesn’t. It doesn’t detract from the game much, but just feels more like a “political correctness school play” than a story at times.

Read Only Memories. Удивительно светлое будущее

Another weird thing about the game is that while it’s billing itself as a cyberpunk game, the future society it shows isn’t actually cyberpunk in it’s “proper” sense. There mostly no feeling of actual dystopia of expensive corporations vs low level of life for a lot of citizens and such – most locations you visit are pretty nice, most characters you see easily got gene and cybernetic enhancements and the poorest character in the entire game seems to be the player character, who still can by anything in the game without ever caring about money. And while there are social conflicts and “purity” vs “enhancements” clashes, we’re mostly told of them and what we see is very tame and doesn’t feel dangerous or important.
So, in the end, the game just doesn’t deliver on all the promise it builds up at the start… yet is still enjoyable enough to play through and like some characters and moments. So – yep, it’s good, just not as good as it could’ve been.