What if a game let you go inside of the heads of characters and manipulate their memories? A year ago a small Paris-based studio called Dontnod revealed a game called Adrift that let you do just that. Adrift separated itself with the pack with the concept of manipulating, stealing, and even creating memories as a gameplay mechanic. A year later, Dontnod is finishing that creation under Capcom, and it's called Remember Me.
Set in Neo-Paris in 2084, players will be immersed in a world forever changed by social media. "The message that we wanted to bring across was [that] the more connected we are, the less bound to each other we are," Game Director Jean-Maxime Moris told Kotaku at Gamescom. "The more we invest ourselves in virtual connections, the less we [really] know each other as human beings."
Moris says that while one trend at Gamescom was throwing social media into AAA titles, there will be no such thing with Remember Me. Although the game (which will be entirely linear) may tackle social media as a theme, it is a personal experience meant to be played without interruption. (Try to keep that in mind as you alt-tab between this article and your pinging Twitter feed.)
As Nilin, one of an elite few memory hunters whose job is to quite literally change or erase memories from individuals, players are exposed to both the seedy underworld of the future and power-hungry governments and companies like MemorEyes, the company that produces a brain implant for sharing memories. The Sense Engine ("SENSEN" for short) is a device that is implanted directly into the back of the wearer's neck and allows them to share not just pictures or text like Google Glasses, but full memories with anyone on the system. And like social media today, almost everyone in Neo-Paris has a SENSEN, so few are immune to Nilin's charms or, well, mind-melds.
MemorEyes has a great tagline: Trust us, we won't forget you. You can guess where that leads.
The game starts out with Nilin waking up in a prison, her own memory taken from her. She escapes and joins up with the aptly named Errorists, those fighting against the corporate and government thugs, but is only helping them in order to find out what happened to her. Along the way Nilin recovers her skills one by one, from basic combat attacks like a ground pound that immobilizes nearby enemies briefly, to Memory Remix, which allows players to literally go into the memories of characters in-game to change and warp them for their own purposes. As a linear game, there is only one solution to each of these puzzles, and they can be replayed indefinitely until players succeed. In the gameplay footage we saw last week, Nilin changes one memory that makes a man commit suicide. And that's only the start.
Not only can memories be changed, but information can be stolen directly out of NPCs, though the method is dependent on specific types of characters. Moris didn't share how players would know which characters had information that could be taken, but it's safe to say that, for example, a soldier at a military base would have a good idea of where his commander might be.
The seemingly open-world environment isn't that; "It's not an open world at all. It's a linear experience, narratively speaking, [and] level-design wise," Moris says. "That being said, there is room for exploration and for collectables, and there might be the occasional alternate path [...] that's a creative choice to retain maximum control over the events and the emotions that we want the player to go through."
Ultimately, that game will be a standard story-driven 3rd person action-adventure, one with plenty of combat, platforming, and cinematic breaks. But it's all done in-game, with fairly quick jumps between playable sections and non-playable cutscenes. The game even uses a point system to upgrade Nilin's Hunt Glove, her weapon of choice that allows for all of her special attacks and memory manipulation. Dontnod isn't quite ready to talk about how the point system works.
Combat involves both hand-to-hand maneuvers and the Spammer as a gun (attached to her Hunt Glove), shooting mind-numbing attacks that can do as little as stun the enemy, and as much as knock them out cold. The attack, which is where the Spammer's name is derived from, literally floods enemy's brain with so much data that it, in a sense, crashes. Moris notes that the game does have violence, but Nilin doesn't actively kill enemies-she only disables them with attacks such as this memory overload.
Moris told Kotaku that just like any social network, not all characters in Remember Me will have a SENSEN, that won't be a major factor in the game. Besides for hinting at future games in the franchise-something Capcom is interested in pursuing-it also hints at the direction of the following games. There are plenty of interesting directions this world could go in future games.
Remember Me has several main themes, according to Moris, from memories and the power they hold, to that of identity and Nilin trying to find hers after her memory is stolen. It looks not only like an ambitious take at imagining a futuristic world, but also a criticism of our current social-network-addled lifestyle, and a question about what it is that makes us individuals.
Remember Me will release in May 2013.