Posted in Gaming, Steam Challenge

Steam Challenge: Analogue: A Hate Story

-Welcome to this series where I resolve to play my Steam games backlog! Here are my discoveries!-

2015-05-03_00002

Game: Analogue: A Hate Story
Time Played: 3.4 hours

Warning: This post will contain spoilers. There’s no way I can write about this and beat around the bush. 

I received this game (or rather visual novel) as a gift – thank you! Please don’t think my feelings towards this game mean I didn’t enjoy it, or don’t appreciate your gift. I did complete the game at 94%, so I saw the story out until the end! 🙂

I almost hesitate to write about this game because I don’t like to blog about things that could rile up social justice folks. A game like this is impossible to talk about without some sort of personal bias that reflects on your choices and feelings towards the story and characters.

What Is It?

2015-05-03_00003Analogue is a visual novel wherein the story progresses through interactions with the two AI characters, plus a little hacking at a command prompt to keep things interesting. You are sent to inspect a newly-discovered spaceship wreck and determine what happened to cause the ship to disappear for 600 years.

You were only supposed to get in, download files and get out, but when you activate the ship, you come in contact with the computer AI, which is represented by a girl’s avatar. Due to malfunction, you can only interact with the AI through yes and no prompts. As you talk with the AI, she unlocks logs and letters stored in the computer’s memory, which unfold the story of the noble families who once lived on the ship when it was still functional.

If there’s one thing I must laud about this game, it’s the clever way it builds the story by slowing filling in the blanks. You start with a wide overview of two noble families and slowly start to drill down into their affairs to see how everything fits together to lead to tragedy. The pacing wasn’t always fantastic (sometimes the AI would unlock an overwhelming slew of entries at once), but the presentation was clever and kept me looking for ways to unlock more.

Examples of where confusing dialogue really needed more spacing.
Examples of where confusing dialogue really needed more spacing.

Some technical thoughts (sorry, the editor in me). The writing was decent considering it’s a visual novel. However, there were places where dialogue was hard to follow because there wasn’t enough paragraphing to break up actions and spoken words between two different characters. Some more spacing would have improved the overall flow immensely.

Aside from the two AI characters, there really wasn’t much characterization of the side characters. Despite the fact that these were personal journals, documents and letters written by many, many people, most of it all had the same voice and tone, which made it really hard to differentiate between who was writing what. It didn’t help that the names were all very similar (they seemed to follow a dynastic naming convention), so I often got confused about who was who, despite the family trees provided. Yes, this game needed family trees, and neither of them helped me much.

The Moral of the Story

To put it politely, Analogue’s story is rife with adult and suggestive content. The core focuses on life in an extremely misogynist society, and paints a picture of a corrupt culture that has degraded to the point where everything is about politics, power, greed and lust. Due to this, it was really hard to identify with any of the members of the noble families – for me, they were flawed beyond the point that I could justify or sympathize with them.

Shots were fired...
Shots were fired…

I didn’t like the story. But I don’t think I was supposed to. This wasn’t a happy, feel-good romp through rainbow land. Each piece of the story only sent me deeper into disgust. There were actually places where the game insulted me personally because I am an “old woman” (over the age of 18) who is not yet properly married – just to make sure to drive the point home that life on that ship really sucked for women.

No, this game didn’t try to make me like it. But that wasn’t the point. And it accomplished making me feel what it wanted me to feel about the world it painted for the most part.

So, the characters. You have Hyun-ae, who was a girl waken from the past and brought into this really messed up future society. The story likes to dwell on all the terrible things she had to endure, letting you watch a spirited girl be physically silenced, stripped of identity, and forced to play the perfect second wife to the Emperor (only there to pleasure him and give him a son). She has a lot of character development, and I get the feeling the whole story was built around her with the idea that by the time you saw all the things she went through, you could forgive her ultimate actions.

Just your imagination.
Just your imagination.

The game never really went into how Hyun-ae ended up as the computer’s overriding AI. However, I found her character unlikable from the start. She’s clingy, constantly apologetic, cringingly trying to please to the point where I wanted her to just go away. Every now and then, you’d hit on a topic where you actually saw some backbone and opinion come out – usually on topics of women’s equality and the inhumane treatment of women.

The other AI, *Mute, was annoying in a different way. She was coarse and foul-mouthed, though you could tell under her rough exterior, she did care about some people on the ship. However, I found it kinda odd that the main AI of a ship, being in female form, was allowed to be so bold and forthright in a society where women were supposed to know their place. It didn’t make a lot of sense to me.

Apparently, these two AI were “pursuable” characters in your traditional visual novel romance sort of way. Sorry. Wasn’t interested in either of them, and not because they were girls. I just didn’t sympathize or identify with either. And the cosplay part (“Oh, please dress me up. It’ll be fun!”) was kinda creepy.

As for the ending – spoilers, you were warned – it’s revealed that a badly emotionally and physically abused Hyun-ae decided to exact revenge on the people who hurt her… by disabling the life support systems of the entire ship. Thus, killing everyone on board, including herself (she was doomed to die in a few years anyhow, so this was not a personal sacrifice).

Now, the picture I got of this ship was that it was more like a city than a ship. You had corrupt nobility, but there were also glimpses of the commoners (often shown as corrupt as well). So, a lot of people died on this ship due to Hyun-ae’s actions. A lot of people who had nothing at all to do with what was done to her.

Sure, the society was corrupt (that was constantly shoved in your face). Maybe the people on the ship were beyond saving. But who was she to decide that? She carried out a planned and intentional mass murder.

And what do you, as the reader, get? A teary-eyed Hyun-ae asking you to understand why she was pushed to do what she did. Then she goes and proclaims how much she’s in love with you (really?) and that she knows what she did was wrong, but please, please don’t hate her (really?).

Uh. No.

No, I really don’t think so.

Up until this point, the game hasn’t been super biased in allowing you to choose your responses. But what really irked me was when I told her, “No. I don’t understand.” Then she kept on and on pleading, then I was given the choice again – Do I understand and sympathize with Hyun-ae for killing everyone on that ship?

The options were something like “Yes” and “No – I’m insensitive” or the like. That just pissed me off.

I eventually felt bullied into choosing “Yes,” though I had to think about it for a long, hard moment. I found out later, if I chose “No,” Hyun-ae would stop talking to me, and the game would conclude giving me no ending.

I gave her a happy ending even if she doesn't deserve it.
I gave her a happy ending even if she doesn’t deserve it.

Wow.

So what this game is saying is that this was a totally justifiable answer and you’re just supposed to accept this?

I know there are different endings, including one that you can side with *Mute. But most of them cater towards patting Hyun-ae on the head like a good girl.

Yeah, no.

I told Hyun-ae that I had no interest in returning her feelings for me… (“Oh, gosh! You saved my life! I thought I was going to die!” Irony much?) But I did give into her sniveling in the end and took her with me. I should have left her on the ship, which I was really tempted to do.

I guess I’m not like Hyun-ae. I’d feel bad about condemning someone, even an AI, to eternal death on a forgotten ship in the middle of space.