Creatures Such as We

In real(ish) life, we're in charge of hospitality at a sort of retreat, on the moon. Which to us people in actual real life is pretty awesome as it is. We're also fans of a video game called "Creatures Such as We", in which the hero characters are undead fighting against the oppressive human hordes. We've gotten to the end of the game, and are flabbergasted by the death of the sidekick NPC; and then it turns out that the next guests at the retreat will be the very same development team for the game, plus a representative from a larger company that's looking to buy them out.

There's just so much that could happen with such a setup that I'm not sure where to even begin. I'm fairly confident that, no matter what the author did, someone's going to say "but what about this, how about taking the story in this other direction." Which maybe is actually feeding into the themes of the story, since our hero's number one question (which you may choose to ask, or not) concerns the death of the sidekick NPC and how he really wished for the game to have gone in another direction.

Anyway, what actually happens is the story of the hero's relationship with any one of the six guests, with discussions of game-related issues along the way. Representation, the "death of the author", do video games qualify as art ... it's almost a by-the-book recitation of all the hot topics plaguing the gaming industry these days. It seems to me that these are topics that can't really be brought up as serious discussions without having them completely take over the work.

Of all the topics, though, I think the one that the game really wants to address is the issue of the relationship between the game, the author and the player. After all, our hero wants a new ending to the game he's just played, one in which the beloved sidekick survives. I've only played through once, and I wonder how greatly divergent the possible paths are, but the storyline I trod ended with the game-within-the-game being given a sort of upgrade to accommodate player design, with the possibility of saving the NPC sidekick from his self-sacrifice if it is at least your second play-through.

Despite this being supposedly exactly what our hero wanted, I cannot help but think that the new winning scenario in the game-within-the-game feels rather hollow, a little lacking in artistic integrity. Amidst fears of the small development company selling out to the larger, it turns out that they've sold out ... to the hero and his ilk. Or so it seems to me: perhaps this interpretation was not the author's intention. But if it was -- and after everything that's been said in-game, I suspect that she will only smile enigmatically and tell me to think whatever I want to think -- then the statement is very nicely and subtly done.

Again, I don't know how much of this is only the result of my own choices within the game, but it seems to me that there are some subtle parallels between the events of the game-within-the-game and the general course of our hero's relationship with his chosen guest. I like the implication that the lessons learnt on one side can inform the perception of the other.

Finally, a complaint. This game really needs a save-game feature. It is long and complex, and I might not be able to deal with everything in one sitting. Also, the thing I love about choice-based games is the opportunity to explore all the different choices, see what and where they lead; this game is too long and complex to have to play over just to see what one divergent choice can mean. I have glanced at other reviews, though, and it is suggested that the base storyline does not in fact change much, if at all: only the identity of the hero's ... new friend? new lover? My playthrough ended with us just being good friends, no hint of romance at all, but I gather that it could easily head off into romantic territory. Does this say anythig about the relationship between player, author, and game?

For breakfast, I think eggs benedict, with a really rich hollandaise sauce, and your choice of any two of a multitude of sides. Juice, milk, tea, and coffee are all available on request.