It seems to me that these days, a lot of the best and most innovative games are found down towards the cheaper end of the market.
Over on the PS4, I think the most fun I’ve had has been on Mercenary Kings, which came free with my Playstation Plus subscription. I haven’t reviewed that, incidentally, because I’ve got a long way to go before I’m even close to completing it.
But the big budget games like Watchdogs or Infamous: Second Son don’t grab me. Just by looking at them, I don’t feel like I’d be playing something particularly fresh, but rather just the same old, same old with spruced up graphics.
The game I’ve been playing the most these days looks like it could be a SNES game and it only cost me £6, but with a 9/10 review on Euroganer, I decided to give small Toronto Indie studio Vagabond Dog’s RPG, Always Sometimes Monsters a shot.
Always Sometimes Monsters Review: What Is It?
It’s an RPG about choice. At the start of the game you’re faced with a number of different potential characters to choose from and from there, the story is one of a down-on-his luck character having 30 days to make it to his ex’s wedding in a bid to win her back.
Along the way, you are faced with a number of moral and ethical dilemmas to get by, as well as having to spend time working menial jobs like loading boxes in a factory and working in a slaughterhouse to get by.
What Did I Think?
Well the first thing to say is that the game offers tremendous value. For £6 I managed to get a good 7 hours of play-time out of it, which is not to be sniffedat at all. On that basis alone if it was anywhere even approaching good, it would be
worth the purchase.
And it is good, but perhaps not quite as good as some of the reviews suggest.
I didn’t find myself as intensely troubled as some reviewers by the moral dilemmas on offer. For example, at one stage I was faced with a choice of winning a car race either by going through a series of mundane tasks to win the car parts I needed to improve my chances (such as coming out on top in a boxing tournament, which seemed like it would be long-winded and fiddly) or cutting my opponents brakes and potentially causing his death. I chose the latter. And while all his kids were there to witness his death, I found the whole thing quite amusing, rather than beating myself up over a bad decision made in haste.
Now that particular example is perhaps telling of my experience with the game as a whole.
For the first half of the game, I was engrossed, and found myself playing through it at some rate. The choices were interesting, and the gameplay mechanics – such as the need to maintain stamina by buying/catching and eating food – were fun to carry out. And the story was interesting too; I wanted to get from one place to the next in a quest to win back my girlfriend, who I got the choice of naming at the start (I chose Nerys by the way, while my own character was called Sutekh).
And in those early parts of the game, I felt that what I did really did matter and influenced the game.
Later on though I wasn’t so sure. There didn’t seem to be any real consequences for my actions, and by the time I got to San Verdano, it felt like almost all the choices I made looked like they had become irrelevant.
Some of the story-arcs of characters – like the publishers wife or the girlfriend of the guy in the trailer park – went nowhere, some of the things I was supposed to be able to do – like get extra work with my union card or get a job working as a bouncer in the strip club – didn’t happen, and also, the stamina meter stopped being an issue at all.
That was a bit disappointing, and so was the way the game ended.
Without wanting to spoil it for those who want to play it, having saved it first and then played through a number of different scenarios from the casino until the end of the game, it all pretty much led to the same conclusion.
And to me, that’s the big problem with these games that suggest you have a choice in how it will develop; you don’t. All roads will kinda lead to the same place, and that’s especially true of a game that starts with a flash forward to the end.
Nevertheless, those issues aside, the game was one that I wanted to play through until the very end and actually see how all the different potential scenarios would play out, and that counts for a lot.
Always Sometimes Monsters: Final Thoughts
So ultimately, I would say that it was flawed but still ultimately quite enjoyable.
Well worth the £6 but don’t think it’s quite as good as some of the critics are saying.