Finally gotten around to doing my first full playthrough (time conspiring against completing the game until now, and as such my opinion may have holes on it based on parts I haven’t played), and I’m not entirely sure about what I think about it. It’s very well written, and the characters are interesting, there are a few areas which make me feel unsatisfied, I guess? Spoilered everything just in case.
I did manage to catch a glipse when the first few chapters were available, and I did like what I read back then. However, that may have been partly the cause of me being unsatisfied. The story itself was great, the twists and turns were nice. The characters were relatively well fleshed-out and different. The game bit was where it faltered. It might be that I’d read the pre-meeting Murphy chapters a few times (before and after release) affected this, since the post-meeting Murphy chapters appeared to be the victim of this, and they were a bit underwhelming.
For a game where one is a detective, I never really felt like it aside from the first few scenes at the start. The case work was limited. Having played through the game, I can see why that’s the case in-story, but I suppose if it would have been nice if there was more of the detective stuff. Most of the game seemed like being herded from one location to another then another. Talking to Bobby outside the PC’s house was a breath of fresh air, since by that time the plot felt like a bit of an escort mission, though again there was no agency in how to bluff Bobby off, as far as I could see. The PC might say that “we need to be proactive”, and one does nothing. Especially compared to the mild choices possible in the first half (going to speak to the witness, or look over the scene), the railroading in the latter half appeared even more starkly.
I admit it is largely advertised as a character-based piece, which it is great at (though I haven’t gone through all of the routes), the investigatory stuff seems like a very minor side note. I’m not suggesting something as indepth as Highlands, but I think the absence of the investigatory was stuff was exaggerated by how it also seemed like the stats didn’t really do anything. There are minor hints of stuff in the future, but the character gets fed information. Tina or Verda goes and does it for you (or, later, “The Agency”. The PC can be furious at the team not listening to them, but can’t seem to draw any suspicions about them whatsoever. It would be nice if the PC, potentially with high stats, got somewhere close to figuring out than it was more than just an “ordinary” killer. High deductive could get hints that their “team” is assisting in a coverup, high science could hit the blood lead earlier (though they’d have to be wrong about it, they could cotton on that it’s the connecting factor). I assume that stats don’t have a large focus in favour of the storytelling, which is a reasonable choice, but it would be nice if there was a bit more than “oh I know what dopamine is”, or "I found this (which turns out to be relatively inconsequential since you can’t do anything with it). Say the team gets more wounded, or more bodies pile up in future installments.
This might have been mentioned, but over time I got more frustrated with the main ROs and the lack of agency. Bemusement, wearniness, teeth-grinding cooperation or cold professionalism didn’t necessarily always seem to be an option. There’d be a bunch of reactions along the line of terrified, absolutely excited, being a sarcastic joker, exploding angrily (and doing nothing about it) and there might be one where the PC just nods in an almost-gormless manner. That wasn’t so much the case with the PC’s mother, at least. Similarly for the agency, it’s largely either be appalled at what they’re doing or rejoicing at the supernatural, no real option for pragmatism in the “I don’t like this, but I don’t feel like I have a choice nor do I want to rock the boat”-way. Similarly, I can’t recall there being any options for paranoia and doing something about it other than freaking out. The PC just seems to accept it and does nothing. Perhaps a high-combat PC could start carrying a pistol or pepper spray around, or something at least?
I know the plan is for there to be a series and there needs to be some relationship between the PC and the main cast in order for them to work together, but it would be nice to be as frosty to them by the end as they were to the PC at the start. I guess it would have been nice if the friendship values or the teamunity values got applied more evidently.
I’ll probably have to go back and play it a few more times, but after my first playthrough I still find the “normal” characters more interesting than the team. I did the Ava romance, and while it was nice, the path didn’t really seem to fit for a PC trying to be equally cool and professional (and potentially forming a bond as a result of that); the choices I got were either smirking about it or constantly stumbling on oneself. Consequently, it did seem a little sudden at the end, too, and the “Or am I in charge” question made me wish it was a genuine question and not tongue-in-cheek.
I don’t mean to be overly critical or a jerk about it, thought I’d give my honest opinion, aware that I’d might need to go through it again to get a better view of it. I’d be interested in Book 2, but at this stage I’d probably wait a few months for a sale and for the reviews to come in.