Brad and Donald talk about Beyond Two Souls


Donald: So, first, welcome back to games writing
what’s it been, three weeks?

Brad: Well, it’s been 4 months since I last wrote stuff, but maybe about a month since I realized I was going to stop for a while.

Donald: Well, you are back, and we are all happy about it. Lets talk about a game.

Brad: Yes, let’s! What game should we talk about?

Donald: Beyond Two Souls

Brad: Dammit!

Donald: what did you think of it?

Brad: Well, I’m coming into this with a bit of a bias, because I’m the guy who keeps saying games should be LESS like movies, and here’s a game that’s basically a movie in the format of a game

Donald: You are not wrong, I think I found some game in there. But so you know, I really enjoyed it.
Lets fight

Brad: Ok! So here’s the thing – do you compare it to other games, or to other non-interactive forms of entertainment, like TV and movies?

Donald: At first I was holding it against other games, I soon found that impossible. I then started looking at it like one of those old Choose your own adventure books.

I also play a lot of indie experimental games on the PC, so it’s lack of gameplay mechanics really didn’t bother me. I was more interested in what it was trying to convey.

Brad: CYA is not a bad analogy, actually.

Donald: I think as a game, it kind of fails in every way. The closets you come is when you are controlling Aiden.

Brad: There’s not a lot of gameplay there. At one point, I was running an obstacle course and tried to take a step to the left and it wouldn’t let me. My brother was watching and said “Man, it won’t even let you walk in a direction it doesn’t want you to.”

Donald: That was something I found frustrating, in some places you have little choice in what is happening. Then in other places you can have a wildly different experience than someone else who played the game.

Question, did you go to the bar?

Brad: Yeah

Donald: did the guys assault you?

Brad: Yes – I spent most of the game intentionally making nothing but bad choices, and going to a bar and getting assaulted seemed pretty consistent with that idea.

Donald: if you let the security guard touch what’s his name
Aiden will lose control of him
and they take you back to your room
then when you got to the Date with Ryan
Jodie doesn’t freak out and they get the boots knockd

Brad: You know what, I stand by my choice. Getting assaulted if preferable to sleeping with Ryan

Donald: I agree, he is all the slimeball. But I was just trying to point out that the game has a very wide open narrative
it just doesn’t show you that
in fact, it hides it really well

Brad: Which is kind of a shame. One of the more interesting parts of the game is seeing how differently it can turn out. Not just for the outcomes, but just as a technical achievement. I found it really interesting to think about how they would have to make the game differently to accommodate different choices.

On the flip side, it’s also probably a big part of why you’re limited in so many ways. To go back to your choose your own adventure analogy, if you opened the game up a little more, you’d end up with 1,000 different endings.

Donald: I have a feeling that if you managed to pull back the curtain at any moment, you would see the wizard.
I was told that you can kill the kids at the party
I kind of want to go back and do that

Brad: I remember reading that you’re not supposed to play the game more than once. First of all, screw yo, games are expensive, and also, you put in a trophy for finding all the endings, so make up your damn mind. Second, I suspect that’s to keep it from being too obvious how many interactions actually have any effect at all.

I screwed up a lot. On purpose. I let her get chewed on by dogs, beat up by her training guys, and messed up by evil entities. Part of it was because I didn’t like the game, which made watching the protagonist suffer kind of funny, but another part was to see what would happen when I “lost”.

Donald: And you found out you couldn’t
that had to be heart breaking

Brad: the heartbreaking part was finding out that messing up often led me right to the same place as succeeding did, like taking a slightly different route to the same destination. There was one part on the train, where you run from the cops. You’re supposed to break a window or escape through the roof, but since I was purposefully screwing up, I let them catch her. Then they showed her locked up in a room, and if that happens, you’re supposed to take over the guard and let her go.

But, the game was glitching or something, and I couldn’t steer Aiden to take over the guard.
For a while, it seemed like all I could do was sit there, and I thought, maybe that was what happens – you get caught, and you actually have to sit there for hours locked in a room for the rest of the train ride.
Which would have been kind of neat, but also not much fun… But it was just a glitch. I had to start over at the previous checkpoint

Donald: I broke the window
and got up on the train
that was the moment were I said, “you know, this game is really good looking.”
because, this game IS really good looking

Donald: To your point, I hit a few glitches but they seemed to work themselves out. I got stuck in a few walls with Jodi

Brad: That was the only glitch I hit, and it wasn’t that big of a deal.

Donald: So, all of the mechanics that may or may not be video game aside. What did you think of the overall story arc. And why are you not allowed to pull Ryan’s brain out of his face with Aiden?

Brad: I thought there was way too much jumping around chronologically
to the point where instead of adding suspense or making you wonder how things got to be the way they are, it was just kind of disjointed

Donald: I know I am in the minority here, but I kind of liked that structure
It was odd in places, but it now plays out in order when I think about it.
I don’t think a lot of the stuff would have worked if you had seen it in order
and that is a strange thing to say.

Brad: Yeah, but I think that’s a problem with the plot.
If you have to shuffle the entire order to make it work, that’s not good

Donald: Oh, that thing is hit and miss
I think some of the young Jodi stuff worked really well
and that the Navajo part was so terrible

Brad: Did that Navajo scene even fit in with anything else?

Donald: nope

Brad: It was like this extra part that was just like “Oh, this happened too”

Donald: it kind of would have been a cool part to grant Aiden some new powers
I think it was the only part I had no idea why it was there
But I have the most important question to ask you.
Why is everyone who deals with Jodi so stupid?
such as, pissing her off while in a helicopter
When she is mad Aiden breaks/kills things
so why do they keep doing it?

Brad: I couldn’t figure out why they kept giving her military training. “Oh, you can force choke people? Well, that’s pretty good I guess, but let’s see you run this obstacle course.” Why? They should have been training her to be able to influence Aiden more.

“Well, we could figure out ways to make your’s and Aiden’s goal aligned, so he wants to do the things you need him to. But instead, here’s how to box. We want you to be the deadliest 90-pound girl when it comes to hand to hand combat.”

Donald: Well, it’s not like anyone really knew what they were doing with the spirits they were just ripping holes in reality just to see what would happen. Then they send you in to clean it up.

Brad: That’s some good sciencin’

Donald: “Hey we made this thing, can you go destroy it before it destroys us?”
“Oh, hey, we made another one. Mind destroying that one too.”

Brad: Oh sure, no problem… hey, you know what you’re all jerks. Think I’ll destroy the world instead. Guess you shouldn’t have attacked me with dogs earlier.

Donald: You can destroy the world?

Brad: Yeah, if you don’t do the last part, the dark world or whatever takes over.

Donald: Holy crap. I think we hardly played the same game. That is awesome!

Brad: It’s like we watched two different versions of a bad movie. You watched troll 1 and I watched troll 2. Except they tricked real actors into being in it by calling it a game

Donald: I think Ellen Page did a good job. She made some of the really bad dialogue less painful

Brad: I thought Ellen Page and willem Dafoe were both great, though I think their agents should be fired.

Donald: For all the great work Ellen Page did, Ashley Johnson sold Ellie as a person. Also, sometimes I would call Jodi Juno.

Brad: Ellen Page did a great job playing herself. Or at least the version of herself she is in every movie. Some of the conversation options gave a choice for an “ironic” response. I feel like that should have been labeled “Ellen Page” instead

Donald: So, I am being kind of harsh on a game I really did enjoy. But I really like ghost stories
and you don’t find many games telling those

Brad: It gives me hope that EA might make a sequel to Haunting starring Polterguy.

Donald: Did it show you what Aiden was? Since you destroyed the world? It might have been the only twist in the story that made me go “oh….well that is really cool and twisted”

Donald: I am going out on a limb here and guessing that you are not a fan of Beyond Two Souls in any way.

Brad: I’ll give some credit where it’s due – by calling this thing a game, David Cage managed to get Hollywood talent and a big budget to make something that in any other context would have been a straight to DVD movie. And he didn’t even have to edit out all the annoying crap to get it down to a reasonable length. And a lot of people, like yourself, ended up enjoying it, probably a lot more that if it had been a straight-up movie, or a “normal” game. Critically, I’m not a big fan of Beyond Two Souls, but commercially, that’s pretty impressive.

Donald: You haven’t played The Last of Us yet, but I bet David Cage found that game very depressing
since it manages to hit all the character acting he dreams of but also be a game.

Brad: “What’s with all this interaction? why isn’t there a prompt telling me the only thing I’m allowed to do?” I also like how the control scheme changes at times, just for the heck of it. Running is done with the stick, until it’s done by pressing R1 and L!

Donald: I think the R1 and L1 were supposed to represent her limbs? I don’t know.

Brad: For me though, as a game, it falls short of most games because of the whole non-interactive thing. And as a piece of non-interactive entertainment, like a TV show or movie, it costs $60 and takes about 12 hours to complete. That’s a season of Breaking Bad, Game of Thrones, or any other really great TV show. Or the entire Lord of the Rings trilogy. You could even watch Star Wars Eps 2-6 in “machete order”, which is supposed to make the prequels a lot less painful.

It wasn’t awful, but there’s just so many other things I’d rather do with that kind of time and money. Beyond Two Souls is a really bad movie that doesn’t get better just because you have to occasionally use the controller.

Donald: This may be a case of “it’s not for everyone.” I am enjoying going back and poking at the systems, just to see how much content is really there. I liked Beyond Two Souls

I would play it any day of the week over watching the Lord of the Rings Trilogy
because those movies SUCK

Brad: Ok, well now you’ve just outed yourself as a crazy person

Donald: Peter Jackson didn’t read the book. Or he has trouble comprehending some of the major themes

Brad: “Beyond two Souls is really good” says crazy dude who hates Lord of the Rings and Star Wars

Donald: I don’t hate star wars
I hate what it has become
I am foaming at the mouth

Brad: Best mash-up ever – a movie where Han and Faramir have adventures shooting things first and not wanting rings

Donald: I would watch that. You could get Christopher Nolan to direct it.

Brad: Ben Affleck could play Han. Oh, and there should be a scene at a fast food joint – the clerk asks “you want fries or rings?” then Han shoots him.

Donald: We are on to something, lets hope David Cage doesn’t steal this idea
I don’t know if we accomplished anything here, but it sure was fun.

About Donald Conrad

Donald Conrad is an avid father and a dedicated gamer -- or maybe that's the other way around. He loves his games, and he loves his family, and he's pretty sure he loves sleep, even if he doesn't remember what it was like. Follow his life confusion on Twitter @ConManEd