Today in San Francisco, director Kotaro Uchikoshi and the rest of the team behind Zero Escape 3: Zero Time Dilemma revealed a bunch of new details for the upcoming adventure game. Which is crazy-exciting news for those of us who have played and fallen in love with 999 and Zero Escape: Virtue’s Last Reward.
Kirk was in the audience, and he passed along a bunch of notes, which I’ve interpreted and wrote up for your pleasure. They’re generally spoiler-free, but we’ll be talking about the gameplay mechanics—fair warning!
First, a new trailer:
- It’ll be out June 28 for Vita and 3DS. The game will hit Steam, too, but there’s no release date there yet. There will be dual audio: you can switch between English and Japanese at will.
- Nothing official yet, but the team slyly hinted that the first two games might make it to Steam in the near future as well.
- As you probably know if you’re a Zero Escape fan, this one is set at the mysterious Mars testing facility where... things happened. Presumably it’ll take place directly after Virtue’s Last Reward, even though it’s set decades in the past. If you’ve played the games, you’ll get it.
- The nine characters are Phi, Sigma, Akane, Junpei, and five newcomers: Diana (mentioned in VLR), Carlos, Eric, Mira, and... a little boy with a big helmet named Q. HMMM. These characters be separated into three different squads, and you’ll be able to switch between the teams as you play through the story. Each team is trapped in a specific ward of the facility, where they’ve gotta figure out how to escape.
- The developers say the story will be told through cinematics; there’s no more lengthy prose. All of the dialogue will be voiced. “You can play the game without reading,” they say. They’re also trying to make it as accessible as possible to people who haven’t played the first two games.
- Here’s the main gimmick, as described by Kirk: “The narrative trick is that every 90 minutes, a drug is injected from the watches everyone’s wearing that causes them to wake up and lose all their memories. The story can be played out of chronological order thanks to this mechanic, so you start from a ‘floating fragment’ screen that shows you the various scenes in the story.” It looks like this:
- As you complete each fragment, you’ll see how they fit into a larger narrative chart that you can uncover as you play.
- Make sense? No? That’s the idea. Explains Kirk: “The characters don’t know where they are in the timeline, and neither does the player. When you complete a segment it goes into the larger decision tree, which tells you where it actually happens in the story. So the idea is, you play a fragment, the fragment plays out, then you go back out to the floating fragment screen and it shows you where the thing you just played fits into the narrative flow. You might start a fragment and see only two characters, but not yet know how the third died. Then you’ll play the earlier fragment later, and learn what happened.”
- There’s a Zero, of course. This one’s got a weird gothic beak mask. And of course, he’ll make your characters try to kill one another. They’ve all got watches and have to murder one another in order to obtain the passwords that will let them escape the facility. Sound familiar?
- Like previous games, Zero Time Dilemma will do its best to fuck with both the player and the characters as much as possible. And, like in previous games, you’ll have to make some interesting decisions. Here’s Kirk’s description of the playable demo they saw, which sounds absolutely nutty:
The demo we watched started with Sigma locked to a chair while Zero monologued at him. Phi was next to him locked inside an incinerator. Diana stood between them and had to make the choice.
The cutscenes are in 3D, with a moving camera and actual in-game objects. The gun next to Sigma’s chair has 3 live rounds and three blanks. If Diana pulls the trigger it’ll shut down the incinerator whether or not the bullet is live, but she has a 50/50 chance of killing Sigma. In 3 minutes, the incinerator will start and kill Phi. If Diana pulls the trigger, the door will open but Sigma has a 50/50 chance of dying.
They decided to pull the trigger and told us it’s completely random what happens - they actually don’t know how it would turn out. The game calculates the odds each time. In this case, the bullet is a blank, Sigma lives and Phi is also saved from the incinerator. They say some of the choices throughout the game will have randomness like that. “When he says he doesn’t know how it’s gonna end, he means it.”
They ran the scene again and this time Sigma died from a live bullet. They swear it really is random.
I’m sold. And going to do my best not to learn anything else about Zero Time Dilemma until it’s in my damn hands.