April 21, 2014 8:30 AM | Anthony Swinnich
The PAX East 2014 demo for Always Sometimes Monsters did not test my twitch reflexes. I didn't have to solve any complicated puzzles, jump on any platforms or blow any enemies to smithereens. Mostly, I walked around, talked to people, made dialogue choices and performed in-game manual labor. And, truth be told, it was one of my favorite experiences of the whole weekend.
I would tell someone who has never heard of Always Sometimes Monsters that the game is like an RPG without the battle system. All of the wandering the world and character development is there, just without the need for hit points and mana pools. Of course, that means the onus is on Vagabond Dog to fill the game with something that will keep people hooked. Here, the story will need to carry the weight of the experience. And so far it seems like it's going to be up to the challenge.
In order to showcase the possible diversity the game allows for, the main character and their situation was randomized for each playthrough. I ended up playing as a black female named Alabama who was in love with an asian female named Precious. After reliving the first meeting between these two characters, we're thrust forward in time, to a point where things in life didn't exactly go as planned. The writing career you were so eagerly working toward didn't pan out. You're jobless and angry. And most notably, the love of your life has slipped away from you. The game chronicles your attempt to right the path you're on and gain back the one you miss.
I was surprised at how compelling the gameplay was considering how much was simply based on choice. You're given a job by an old friend, and while it's demeaning work, you accept. You can choose to do as little or as much of the job as you'd like, though what you choose to do will affect how the rest of the demo unfolds. The characters in the world will react differently to what you've done, changing the direction of the story and the path of the character. And the writing itself was good enough to cause me to flash back and reflect upon on several moments in my own life. If the full game is that powerful then it's going to be a game that truly produces what the kids these days call 'the feels'.
Always Sometimes Monsters will be heading to Steam on May 21 for Windows. The $9 is 10 percent off, so the game will cost $10 once the launch sale ends.