I saw on your twitter that part 3 will likely be the last, and I just wanted to say what a shame that is, especially because I believe you mentioned having plans up to part 5. The vast amount of detail and alternate courses packed throughout the game are incredible, to say nothing of the stellar writing itself, the distinct characterizations, the visceral action; it’s all a blast to read. I’ve explored the majority of the different starting careers and challenges, and I’ve become quite fond of my MC’s, not to mention the rest of the group.
The length of part 2 did take me aback, though less so as I completed more playthroughs exploring different options. I think it’s very cool of you to make a free addition. Personally, I think I could do with having the branching/different origins and perspectives cut in half if it doubled the story’s progress, but I don’t imagine many people would feel the same. This is sort of my hope for Dead Zone, a good middle ground between Safe Haven and the original.
I’m cultivating a killer headache, so I’ll just cap this off with a ramble of some of my favorite parts of the game in no particular order (I haven’t played in a while, unfortunately, so specifics will be sparse).
More words with spoilers
Madison comes to mind first. She’s just so real, an excellent subversion of the stereotypical popular teen girl; I love that she’s a closeted nerd, and I love her pragmatism (her being one of the few in favor of a more aggressive group disposition was a cool surprise). Sidenote, when I had my charisma-deficient teen mc make a speech in favor of raiding, reading everyone’s quietly appalled reactions made me die laughing.
Woody’s voice is a fun one to read, too. He’s funny and likeable, and he’s got a different way about him that I enjoy, where he just says what he’s thinking without a filter. He reminds me a little of Luna Lovegood from Harry Potter. I love his folksy sayings and euphemisms.
Bailey is another I’m fond of. I like exploring themes of mental illness, anxiety, trauma etc. She’s a nice window into those areas, and I hope she gets much more development. The physical quirk of hand-wringing was a nice touch.
I also want to make a quick note that Reilly never gave me my share of the take. He thinks I’ve forgotten, but I haven’t. (Let me shake him down for it!) Actually, by the end of part 2 it likely doesn’t matter (there would be a bartering system instead later on, I imagine,) but it’s the principle of the thing, y’know? If he’d been more prompt I could’ve bought out Thelma’s. Bottom line, he owes me.
My favorite challenge by far is ‘delusional’. It’s authentically written (I mean, it feels that way), and it adds such a cool new facet to so many scenes. I can’t wait to see how things escalate with Ray and the man in the overcoat (was this inspired by the Fallout series’ Mysterious Stranger?) Other psychological modifiers like fear of heights and claustrophobia are super fun, they add to scenes and shape your character, giving you another reason to try different approaches. The passages where an mc of insufficient willpower reacts to their phobias are nice and vivid (and it was a great little addition when the nephew noticed on the elevator and asked after the mc).
The nephew is another significant one, obviously, and he adds yet another fun dynamic to the game. It’s awesome how you can gradually mold him as time goes on (or drive him away, like I did with a murderous psychopath playthrough. His ongoing despair at every innocent I killed in front of him was morbidly hilarious to me. He wasn’t buying my half-assed excuses, either; like all the characters, he’s well written. Kids aren’t entirely, or even mostly clueless).
I’m not sure I can pick a favorite, I enjoy them all more or less equally. The movie star option is a fun idea, coloring the first impressions people have of you. What I like best about the careers is how they inspired me to imagine a new personality for a new mc, and of course how the backgrounds figure into altering the little details further on.
Sidenote, just thinking how it’d be cool if our mc’s were asked about themselves and what they were before the zombies. It feels like few choice games give you the opportunity to connect to characters in that way, where someone else initiates interest/contact with your character first (and just who is spurred to do this would, of course, depend on the actions and personality of the mc in question, ideally). I don’t mean in a purely romantic sense, either. That aspect of the game is a nice addition for more replayability, but, to me, it’s not as vital as some people act like.
The dialogue between choices, where your character responds automatically: those bits being tailored to your personality stats is one of the best things about the game in that it goes such a long way to facilitating multiple playthroughs. By anecdotal contrast, my enthusiasm for a second go-around with Mass Effect: Andromeda died the moment my super srs professional Sarah Ryder started spouting the same dorky snark as casual Scott.
Also, I know I said I’d prefer less variation and more story, but I do love the plethora of approaches we can take in any given situation, as well as our motivations behind those decisions. All of that really enhances the experience of simulating different characters.
Anyhow, I hope you reconsider about ending ZE:SH at part 3, but I totally understand if you don’t. I can’t fathom how complex a project this is already, let alone three parts later. Either way, I await your future works with enthusiasm.