As Nilin, our protagonist, awakes she’s in an inconceivable amount of pain; who can truly understand the experience of having your memories ripped from you skull and your personality scrubbed clean like a knife scratching away rust. Layer upon layer of your being wiped away until – nothing. All that’s left is an empty shell of a being, doomed to shuffle through a world of unimaginable torment. Before Nilin suffers such a fate, Edge, a cryptic but well-connected individual, grants her the opportunity to escape the world’s most feared detention centre – a place where they strip your down to nothing but an hollow frame – before it’s too late.
Le Bastille, a prison that personifies everything which is wrong with Neo-Paris circa 2084. As with all world-altering technology, the ability to digitise, buy, sell and trade memories are the by-product of an idealistic promise. Memorize, the corporation behind the memorial technology, would allow customers to share their memories and bond their souls to a higher level of understanding that we, over 70 years prior, could not comprehend.
Unfortunately, it was not as clean and transcendent as the opening promotional advert would have you believe. Things went wrong; terribly wrong. The minds of some involved became fractured and fragmented condemning them to live in the darkly named Slum 404 – a ghetto of errored souls. It’s just the surface of a world that Remember Me crafts so vividly and without fault that it’s sometimes difficult to believe it couldn’t become a possibility. As a Cyberpunk premise, new studio on the block Dontnod Entertainment have taken the world we live in and extrapolated it like veterans.
Whether it’s the slums, the more prosperous areas around the Eiffel Tower or inside the memories of others, Remember Me is a visual marvel that sees a unified yet varied stylish design. The amalgamation of traditional Parisian architecture and a futuristic – almost glitchy – highlight lends itself to a fresh and unique artistic approach that is accompanied by a suitably striking soundtrack.
The voice work is a little underwhelming in places, which is a shame given the strength of some of the dialogue, but the dynamic battle music is brilliant as are the additional sound effects always in earshot. Although the design is vivid and bold, Remember Me is occasionally let down by some quality assurance hiccups and is disappointingly tawdry in some places with regards to graphical fidelity.
The manipulation and remixing of memories plays a key role both narratively and gameplay wise but remains on a strongly linear and direct path – not that it ever becomes an issue or feels forced, but those expecting an open-world environment will be left wanting. At several core plot points you’ll dive into the mind of another and rearrange their memories to change their perception on life to, at time, drastically alter their futures.
Memory remixing is done by rewinding and moving through the given memory (using the left stick) before activating a detail to change and thus adjusting their memory. It always has the same final outcome and seemingly singular correct path to reach it but the intrigue arises from watching how scenarios play out when you alter the predetermined actions. More options and differing solutions would have been a welcome addition but perhaps would have been at the expense of the emotionally driven modifications.
Whilst the most exciting draw initially seemed to be the remixing of memories, it’s just one aspect in a beautifully executed set. Stealing memories to gain access to important information is common though spliced with Remembranes which provide real-time replays of actions made by the host of the original memory. This comes in handy for finding the right path to take or hazards to avoid and acts as an alternative means to a traditional videogame mechanic – something that Remember Me does consistently well.
Free-flowing combat has been an ever-increasing feature of third-person action-adventure games over the past years due to its exciting and satisfying nature. Remember Me opts for a blend of this with custom combat combinations to deliver a devilishly fun fighting mechanic. The combos are predefined – which is the main disappointment with the system – and you assign unlocked ‘Pressens’ to each button: ‘Regen’ ones for boosting your health when a hit lands, ‘Power’ for increased damage and breaking enemy blocks, ‘Cooldown’ to speed up the regeneration of S-Pressen (which I’ve cover shortly) energy, and ‘Chain’ to duplicate and double the power of all previous moves.
Their placement within each combo must ensure it remains unbroken (meaning you can only place one of the two attack buttons sequentially) but which button press is which Pressen is key farther on depending on which enemies you are engaging with. Some enemies block more – requiring Power Pressens, whilst some damage you when you hit – meaning you have to hit them with Regen Pressens.
Although most of Nilin’s punches and kicks feel a little lightweight and not impactful enough, the S-Pressens are an entirely different story. Remembered as you progress through the plot, each of the special attacks has their own powerful use and wonderfully mix up combat to add truly special moments within fights when timed and executed following lengthy combos. Whether it’s sending a memorial virus through your enemies with a ‘Logic Bomb’ or overloading their memories in a finishing move it adds that little bit of spice to what could otherwise have become rather rhythmic and monotonous battles.
Simplistic platforming sections never act as more than a stop on continuous walking and puzzles that are far too infrequent are just more examples of aspects that could be considerably improved upon – something that there’s a little too much about Remember Me. Having just two buttons for attacks does limit your options somewhat – despite the S-Pressens, whilst your movement is far too often limited for someone who is able to scale buildings with relative ease.
Nevertheless, with an engaging plot, likeable and interesting characters, ideal pacing and variety, and strong lead female role – amongst a range of diverse characters – Remember Me has all the components for something really special. It’s currently a bit weak in a few areas but the foundations are there for some hugely impressive follow-ups if Dontnod so wish. Despite it’s odd shortcomings, Remember Me is immensely enjoyable and a valiant debut; well worthy of a next-gen sequel.