While rummaging through my Steam library I came across Remember Me, a game I’ve looked forward to since the initial trailers. I hit the install button knowing only that it had a customizable combo system and had something to do with humans having memory chips to store memories a la The Final Cut. I’ve only played the first two chapters but I want to talk about some of the ideas that make this intro really effective, and some stuff that was implemented poorly. While the premise is interesting I’ve already run into some poor character development that is uninspired at best and downright problematic at worst.
The game opens with an ad for the Sensen, a brain implant that allows users to edit and upload their memories as if they were movie files, then cuts away to a woman writhing in agony as her memories are ripped from her brain. This is Nilin, the protagonist of the story and the player character. This is a perfect example of narrative driven mechanics. Typically I would lambaste this game for using the trite amnesia trope but it weaves it so flawlessly into the central theme of the narrative, that being memory manipulation. This opening also provides vital information to the player. Memorize, the company who produces the Sensen and who wiped Nilin’s memory, is established as the antagonist while simultaneously giving the player a reason to dislike them. The ability to delete or alter memories is seen quite a few times as well, reinforcing how routine memory manipulation is in this future. This isn’t by accident either. It is key that the player understands how memories work in tandem with the Sensen in order to uphold the suspension of disbelief. Without the understanding that memories can be edited, uploaded, and deleted the entire story falls apart. In just the first five minutes, Dontnod has asked the player to ingest a ton of information but does it all discretely with repetition creating a smooth introduction to a vastly alien environment that feels just familiar enough to ensure players’ focus is kept on the story and not the setting. This is good writing. In fact, this is great writing. I wish more companies would approach story telling this way instead of simply having a protagonist suffer from amnesia simply because it is the easiest way to begin a game in medias res.
Shortly after escaping the Memorize facility Nilin meets an old friend, who of course she doesn’t remember, and is reacquainted with her combat equipment before she was captured. Specifically, she has her Hunt Glove again. These gloves give the user access to the memories of whomever they use it on. It’s legal uses are based in medicine and law enforcement but they are more commonly used to steal and delete memories. Nilin happens to be a remixer, somebody who excels at using the Hunt Glove to modify memories. As soon as Nilin receives her hunt glove she is attacked by a bounty hunter, Olga, and Nilin instinctively uses her glove on her. The player is thrown into a minigame where they must amend a memory of the bounty hunter. To be exact, we are changing how she remembered the events from a few hours prior. A doctor at Memorize is trying to wake Olga’s husband from a coma. The care and procedures are quite costly and the reward for bringing Nilin in would be more than enough to cover it all. As Nilin rearranges aspects of the memory she causes Olga to remember the doctor killing her husband, thus giving her a reason to hate Memorize and join Nilin’s resistance. There is so much wrong with this, not only on an ethical level but on a practical one as well. Nilin just infused a ton of emotional pain into Olga without batting an eye. The memory manipulation is also non-consensual which means her change in motives was non-consensual. Nilin basically forced Olga, against her will, to aid in the resistance against Memorize.
After this, Nilin breaks into a monologue that begins with fear towards her new found abilities but somehow ends with elation. With a melancholy she grasps the total power she wields, the capability to warp anyone’s reality, and confesses that nobody should have that power. This lamentation is quickly pushed aside as pride rises in its place. “If this ability really is the core of who I once was, then I must[…]master this talent.” At this point, Nilin still has no idea who she is or who her “friends” are. She has sided with a resistance force despite not understanding what it is they fight for and she has stolen the free will of another human being. Yet she feels justified in using her ability despite everything that has happened. She reassures herself that she must use this awful skill to reconnect with her past self, yet she denies Olga that same freedom. Presumably, she will deny many more this freedom as well. Accepting this role over a longer time span would have been more understandable but the quick turn of opinion is underdeveloped, causing Nilin to fall just short of a fleshed out character.
Hopefully the story corrects the mistakes it opens with regarding Nilin and her guilt and fear revolving around her expertise. As I stated earlier, I have only completed two chapters but so far the emotional toll of exploiting people through their memories hasn’t been given the proper amount of weight or consideration. On the other hand, the entire first chapter is a great introduction into this world told primarily through visual storytelling that ensures the player is comfortable with the bevy of information presented. Hopefully this weak character development doesn’t carry throughout and it gets the same attention that the thematic aspects already get.