I actually played through this game. I know what you’re thinking. It only takes two hours tops to complete a single play-through of this game. What’s the big deal?
First of all, it’s not a JRPG (Japanese Role Playing Game), MMORPG (Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game), or ARPG (Action Role Playing Game). Criticize me all you want, but I like what I like and it’s REALLY RARE for me play a game in any other genre than the ones I like. In addition, I am particularly proud of the fact that I’m generally not susceptible to hype and media brainwashing. I’m always suspicious of claims that games are amazing, especially if it’s an action game or first person shooter game, but when gamers sing accolades about a game that doesn’t contain any real physical violence to speak of, I will pay attention. I honestly don’t know what made me want to try it. In fact, since one of my best friends kept raving about it, I really didn’t want to play it. He and I almost never love the same games, so if he loved it, I’d probably hate it. (Seriously, I can only think of four other games that we both love: Xenogears, FEZ, FFXI, and FFXIV:ARR. There are probably more, but I can’t really think of them, so you get the idea.)
I mentioned in my first impression post about this game that the multiplayer aspect of it really stressed me out. So much so that I had to quit playing. Since I hadn’t completely figured out how to play, the pressure to perform adequately with other players was overwhelming. The next day, I explained this experience to my friend and he helped me out a little by explaining what the circle button did (sing) and how I could use this to interact with the game. Armed with my new knowledge, I sat down with the intention of completing the game. Instead of dreading the appearance of other players, I was now looking forward to it.
I had a friend throughout the majority of the rest of my playthrough. The inability to directly communicate with the other players forced me to really think about how to cooperate with them. I felt like I was interacting with another being from another world where our only mode of communication was through action or gestures. The new age music throughout the game only served to reinforce that feeling. It is said that actions speak louder than words and if this game does anything, it proves that. I often felt more connected to my silent partner on the screen than I do in games like World of Warcraft, where I can talk or type to the people I’m playing with.
So it stands to reason, then, that when I was alone, I felt VERY alone. I never felt lost per se because the goal was almost always in front of me, but the feeling that I had to overcome obstacles alone was unmistakable. People who play this game often compare it to the journey of life with a spiritual ascension at the end of it. I think this is a good analogy. Sometimes you have help during challenging times and other times you feel very alone. One of the times in the game that I was alone was in the “underwater” level with the seaweed and the monsters. With no other player to follow or work together with, along with the dark colors of the environment, that level was dismal and terrifying. The other part of the game where I was alone was during part of my climb up the snow-pelted mountain. Thankfully, I wasn’t alone for entire climb, just part of it. In fact, the game mechanic that impressed me the most in this game was during the time that another player and I were trudging up the mountain. We shared body heat. If we walked close together, we weren’t quite as frozen and had slightly better freedom of movement. If we moved apart, we slowed down considerably because of the lack of body heat. Ultimately we both got pelted by a flying monster and were sent flying in different directions, so I had to journey to the summit alone. How I craved another person’s body heat at that point!
The final level of ascension was amazing. It was like having one of those dreams where you’re just flying through the cosmos, able to go anywhere, see everything, and do anything. I didn’t want it to end. I am looking forward to playing through this game again. I’m pretty sure that multiple playthroughs will be unique experiences since you never know what kind of person you’ll be paired with or when you’ll be alone. Maybe I’ll get a partner during that scary underwater place next time. I can only hope…