Playing With Imagination is a series where I talk about video game stories and plots. Many video games have incredible stories and are often overlooked in our society. Today, I talk about Detroit: Become Human from Quantic Dream.
Playing with Imagination: Detroit: Become Human
Ever since games like Dragon’s Lair, the concept of an “Interactive Story” has become pretty popular. Of course, you have game genres like First Person Shooter, RPGs, Platformers and Sports games that are still made, but this genre has both fans and detractors. Some enjoy the idea of playing a story, enjoying the narrative and drama, while some don’t see the point in making a cutscene video game, even though most of these games do let you control the character.
Quantic Dream has made its name for gripping tales, ever since Indigo Prophecy AKA Fahrenheit and making it big with Heavy Rain, their magnum opus. Their recent venture is a sci-fi story called Detroit: Become Human. This might be one of their best adventures in a while and contains one hell of a tale. I won’t give all of it away, but I will give my thoughts so far. So let’s get into it.
The year is 2038. Lifelike robots known as Androids share their existence with humanity, serving as assistants, butlers, and try to coexist with humans. However, while the city of Detroit is typical compared to today, many are showing these CyberLife androids that they’re the ones in charge. In addition, many of them are acting out of their initial programming, being referred to as Deviants.
I love a good future story, seeing the What If Possibilities. Though I can’t see Androids being in 2038 (maybe 10 years later?), this is a distinct, possible future. Nothing is hugely impossible. It feels believable, which is what I want my sci-fi future story to be. Sometimes, authors go too far. Stuff like Back to the Future or Blade Runner aren’t even close to today, (BttF is 2015 and Blade Runner is 2019, next year) but this seems more likely than those. That kind of Sci-Fi, within reason, are some of my favorites.
As far as the story itself, it’s been a thrill ride. While it’s a bit slow in the beginning, you do get timed actions. Basically, the common things you’ll do is explore the location, lifting things, investigating crimes, and so on. Then, you’ll get suspenseful moments where one mistake can cost you.
Losing a character is game changing and the entire arc will forever be altered. Of course, you can start over from a certain chapter, but most players play the whole way through. However, if all of them die, it’s game over. It gives the player more of a reason to protect each character, since waiting too long can set you back.
I should mention some of the actions are a little cryptic, specifically whenever the PS4’s touchpad is in use. Going from Heavy Rain, I came across a point where I didn’t know what button to press. All I saw was a dotted icon with an arrow. It kindly pointed out that I had to use the touch bar, but not until I fumbled around trying to figure it out. I felt that warning should have come way earlier, but perhaps Beyond: Two Souls used it? (I have yet to play it so I wouldn’t know)
That’s the only issue I have. The only other complaint, I guess, comes from the fact that it’s purely a cinematic game with some moments of character control. Usually, it’s Connor, where you play an investigator. It’s the kind of genre where you like them or you don’t.
Again, this goes back to stuff like Dragon’s Lair and Night Trap, where there’s not a lot in terms of gameplay. Nothing wrong with them, but to each their own, I guess. It all depends on whether you will enjoy the story, but there’s plenty of other games out there.
So let’s focus on the main trio.
Connor is an android working for the police department and one of the first we see. We see immediately that humans and androids don’t get along. When Connor has to save a young girl in a hostage situation with another android, the mother is horrified that an android would even consider taking the job over a human.
Also, I get the first twist where despite convincing the android to release the girl, the deviant is shot in the end. Yes, it’s that kind of game.
Anyway, Connor is intriguing enough, since he has a peculiar voice and doesn’t seem to comprehend that everyone is hateful towards him for being an android. Most of them don’t yet, but this moment is the first instance of androids rising up against their masters and sets the stage for the future.
Throughout the story, we see him get involved with a police lieutenant that hates him with a burning passion. The two are forced to work together, but their hostility threatens to tear him apart.
His story is entertaining since you do police work. I like being an investigator in games and I enjoy seeing Connor’s polite, innocent, yet naive attitude throughout the story. A lot of fun sequences happen, like negotiations and chases. This is the part I enjoy playing the most and always have fun in his situation.
If Connor’s arc is investigative fun, then Kara’s is the polar opposite. She’s a housemaid who is taken in by an abusive father and his daughter, who fears him. After an incident, she and Alice flee for their lives, going from one nightmare after another.
Her arc is also great since it has a ton of bonding between adult and child. Sony seems to be doing this a lot lately, with God of War and The Last of Us. Family bonding in chaos seems to be a theme going for them. In any case, Kara is a good character, who struggles to cope with her new emotions and environment. Having to survive in a world that loathes androids to the point where they’re banned from certain places.
Plus, there’s a lot of child abuse in this part. From her father and a few other characters as well. Their relationship is heartwarming and at times tearful. It can get dark in a hurry, but this is an M rated title (with loads of cursing, mind you)
Markus is an android serving a painter named Karl. Despite living with a caring owner, he still sees animosity from humans. When his son breaks in to confront his father, an incident leaves Markus to be accused of a crime he didn’t commit and is thrown into a trash heap, finally realizing that he wasn’t as protected as he thought.
His story is what drives the plot the most. We see a potential rebellion taking place and Markus could be the focus of all of that. He is also the only character who isn’t hated by his owner, which has the most devastating effect seeing him go from a caring human to certain death in a heartbeat.
While he’s not as interesting as the others, his story is important. all three of them are vital since some sequences have characters intersect. While I haven’t finished the game yet (even if I did, I won’t spoil the whole story. I’m maybe halfway through?), this is an enjoyable adventure seeing three characters survive in a world that hates them.
Androids vs. Humans
Before we end this, I do want to talk a bit about the most important theme here, and that’s the rivalry between the humans and the CyberLife androids. It’s prevalent all throughout the game, even if this isn’t necessarily a dystopia. Granted, they’re not ruled by an evil government, but most of the typical jobs are replaced by androids leaving little for humans to do (which might explain Alice’s father’s behavior).
One specific scene is where Kara is introduced. Androids are in a store being sold like appliances, some costing over 5000 dollars (wouldn’t be that unreasonable today). I couldn’t help but notice a parallel between this and slavery. Back then, Africans were auctioned like pets and often as mistreated here. In the game, they’re nothing more than something like a fridge or an oven, meant to be sold in stores and likely going through multiple iterations. And if the family doesn’t like you, well guess what? Trash heap you go.
No doubt this might be relatable to some, but it’s a nice bit of awareness in today’s society. Slavery is a hot button topic for most and even though some of the characters are black (most of them come in all sorts of humans, rather than one specific kind), I think having something as simple as robotic slavery is an interesting concept. I feel the whole subtitle, Become Human, is “What makes something human.” It’s a long thought of question that is one worth thinking over.
This is a good game for those that want a cool sci-fi story, but don’t mind the overall lack of gameplay elements. This game won’t be for everyone, especially if you want your games to be less story-focused, but I do want to feature video games that have a wonderful story. Some aren’t as appreciated as I’d like, and as a storyteller myself, I want to give some the idea that video games aren’t about blowing demons up with a shotgun. It’s about heartwarming tales that leave you wanting more.
That’s all for today. Take care, and remember, the inn is always open.
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My Japanese Mythology-inspired short story, Do Not Stare Into The Eyes Of A Kitsune, is finally available. You can buy it on Amazon or wherever ebooks are sold. Help a debut author make his debut worth it.
I announced other works, including a kaiju-themed “mini-novel” (which you can learn about here) and a short story anthology in the near future. This is only the beginning for me and I have more to share.