Someone’s knocking off the Devil’s Men, one by one, in a quiet little seaside town in the north of England. It might have once played host to the World Fair, in this alternate steampunk version of 1871, but those halcyon days are long gone and the seedy underworld gang known as The Colony has taken control of the fair’s ruins.
The daughter of the renowned and mysteriously vanished detective, Karol Spektor, Adelaide has taken to hiding on the streets of her town to avoid the attentions of The Colony, as they try to spread their influence by ever more ruthless means. It’s this that leads to her witnessing the murder of one of her father’s friends and latching onto the mystery of who the Devil’s Men are and what is happening to them, as a way to try and discover where her father disappeared off to.
However, Adelaide is just one half of the story here, as she must try to gain the trust and help of Emily, a notorious member of The Colony with a double homicide to her name. This might make for a decent story all on its own, but Daedalic have fallen back on one of their favourite tropes of recent times and made both Adelaide and Emily playable characters through the story.
While there has been character hopping at the heart of recent Daedalic point & click adventures like Memoria – which was also authored by Kevin Mentz – and 1954: Alcatraz, as well as Double Fine’s delightful Broken Age, these have generally kept the playable characters separate from one another, featuring parallel stories that might intersect at a handful of moments. The Devil’s Men goes down a different path of more intricately weaving the Adelaide and Emily stories and their viewpoints together, so that they will visit the same locations and encounter each other at numerous points, in a manner that sounds similar to Quantic Dreams’ Fahrenheit (Indigo Prophecy in the US).
With a potentially quite antagonistic relationship between the two characters on totally different sides of the law and class system, it’s a natural shift from this point to then featuring branching gameplay. While Adelaide would be keen to uncover the truth behind a situation, Emily’s perspective would primarily be to protect herself and hide evidence that might incriminate her fellow colonists. The decisions and actions you make as one character can have certain ramifications for the other character and how the story unfolds.
In the brief demo I was shown – with the game blending the same gorgeous Camera Projection techniques as in Silence with more traditional 2D characters and animation – Emily was breaking into Adelaide’s house in order to try and recover something that might incriminate The Colony in the murders of the Devil’s Men. However, this was played out with Adelaide both having taken this item and not having spirited it away from the crime scene.
As Emily snoops around the house in the former instance and hunts for clues, she comes across a locked door to the basement. At this point two choices are open to you, to either use one of your limited number of lock picks to sneak in or break it open with a crowbar and find a safe with a combination lock – or “odd clocks” as Emily called them – to try and open. Doing the latter would get the damage spotted by the housemaid, and spiral off in a further direction, but the former brings Adelaide and Emily face to face once she returns home.
However, if Adelaide didn’t have the evidence, Emily would have broken into the house and found Adelaide snoozing in the living room. As a light sleeper, trying to enter the basement would have woken Adelaide and led to the same scene conclusion. However, even here the dialogue can branch and, as you take control of Adelaide, you can decide whether or not the two women share information or keep it from one another.
This actually plays into the game’s two inventories – perhaps making up for the lack of an inventory within Silence: The Whispered World 2 – which is focussed on the active investigation that is being carried out. There’s an inventory both for physical items and objects, but this lives alongside one for the knowledge that the two characters have accumulated over the course of the story. So, in this way, the decisions that you make within dialogue between characters has a more physical representation within the branching nature of the storyline.
What’s going to be very interesting is how people play the game when they are in charge of the fates of these two potentially opposing characters. Though they seem to be shying away from making each branching decision obvious to the player, I feel that the majority of gamers will still tend to aim for the best possible ending and outcome in a game, pushing Adelaide and Emily to work together. If it can try to muddy the waters, so that the “good” option isn’t always clear, that could be key to breaking that pattern of play.
With some intriguing ideas pushing the branching storyline, this is yet another game from Daedalic that I’m rather looking forward to seeing more of, with its planned release in the summer of 2015. Having two characters to play as is nothing new for a point & click adventure game, but by binding them and their fates so closely together and effectively allowing you to play god – albeit not an entirely omniscient one – this could be a particularly refreshing take on the genre.
Looks intriguing, what platform is this coming out on?
Oh sorry! I’ve added the box out for the game, but it’s for PC only at this stage. As I discussed on Silence yesterday, there’s a chance they could bring games to console soon, but nothing solid is planned, as far as I’m aware.
Ah, thanks. I kinda figured, as most p&c games I wanna play are PC only, but I’m always hoping for a console release :)