Since the release of the first major PlayStation 4 exclusive of the year, inFamous Second Son has seen a side story being told in weekly instalments. Three weeks ago, I took a look at where this collaborative effort between Sucker Punch and 42entertainment had already taken the game, at the midpoint of the six week long Alternate Reality Game, which tried to blur the lines between the game and parts of the internet in inFamous Paper Trail.
Signing up for an account or logging in via Facebook on infamouspapertrail.com gained you access to a portal through which you could look at, analyse and investigate further from evidence collected in the game. These would in turn tie back into inFamous Second Son and send you on a variety of straightforward missions.
Unfortunately, at that point in time I found the whole effort somewhat lacking, and playing through the second half of the Paper Trail I saw many of the same problems. The missions within the game are generally very short and lack any real challenge, as they either send you on another convoluted chasing sequence of the White Rabbit – particularly annoying when they seem to lead you right back to where you started – have you maybe follow a van for a few minutes and similar menial tasks. There’s nothing much to challenge you in the slightest within the game itself, with that aspect all dependent on the puzzles in the ARG that you access via a web browser.
Here, there were again some rather tricky puzzles to figure out and solve, as you trawl through reports and other websites to find the crucial point of information you’re looking for. One had me trying to overlay images accurately enough that I could combine them to create a number, another saw me piecing together a shredded flier to find a passcode. They did a good job on this front.
However, it generally stuck to the same formula as the first half of the ARG, very often sending you to the DUP intranet, having you find and tap in 11 digit FAN numbers. Once you twigged that you were looking for a FAN number almost every single time, the challenge lessened. I’d see a puzzle and spot that it had numbers in and know where the end goal was leading me back to. Admittedly it let them mislead me once or twice because I had jumped to this conclusion too quickly, but I’d argue that was more because following the same or similar patterns time and again had removed some of my engagement.
That’s a pity, because it meant that instead of eagerly pouring through each page that opened up, I was acting like an analytical machine and simply looking for that number. It wanted to try and draw me in to a deeper story within the inFamous world, but I was detached from proceedings and missed a lot of the nuance to the tale along the way.
Even at this stage, I’m hesitant to spoil the identity of the White Rabbit, but her story and the way that it ties back into the events of the main game is certainly an interesting one. It’s primarily through the sixth part of the ARG that I found myself reading about and putting many of the pieces together about what was going on, and finding quite a tragic tale.
A rather nice touch is the allegorical manga comic which is picked up along the way. Each of the doves that you collect features a page of this manga on the front and some note, edifying testament or puzzle on the back, but as the ARG heads towards its conclusion, it’s a pleasing touch to be able to read through them all in order and see the parallels with everything put into context.
The end to the story, however, is a fairly subdued one. Rather than the big conflict that you might have expected going into this, with yet another power to add to Delsin’s arsenal, it sees the White Rabbit slink off into the night leaving a hint that she might play a more central role in a future game. Hers is, after all, one of the several powers that are part of the inFamous world but that Delsin did not encounter or acquire. Instead, Delsin acquires a new jacket and the White Rabbit’s mask to wear.
Once again, I’m left wondering if this might not have been a better experiment and side story to tell in the run up to the game’s release, without the hooks into the game. As a whole, the story worked well, with some seemingly disparate elements coming together at the end, while I quite enjoyed many of the puzzles in the ARG, but the times that it sent me to play within Second Son itself just left me feeling disappointed.
The in-game sections simply lacked the scope to really push the story, and without the ability to host puzzles or really tell much of what was going on in the story within the game itself, I felt it did little to really enhance the Paper Trail’s narrative. Again, it’s a slight shame that these ties could not have been strengthened and the project pushed further, to really raise the ARG to being a more essential story and sidequest to the main game.