Adventures on Edwards’ Island

Field Notes
My adventure kicks off onboard of a ferry with a group of friends—Ren, Nona, Clarissa, and Jonas. The latter, we soon learn, is our new stepbrother. As the boat approaches a nearby island, the friendly banter filled up my screen with a comics-style, cute conversation bubbles.

The journey to Edwards Island felt somehow soothing but eerie at the same time. Ren tells us that the island housed a military base at one point. There’s also mention of a woman named Maggie Adler. Our objective appears to be camping on the island’s beach, followed by exploring the nearby caves.

Alex—my character—has a knack for radios it seems. I have a nifty-looking small device that I can tune into and change its frequency while navigating the island. At times I stumble across blitz-from-the-past music stations. It reminded me so much of Fallout’s Pip Boy vintage stations. This added a nice backdrop to some of the deserted locales.

In other parts of the island, I came across “tune-in” billboards, next to what appeared to be sight-seeing destinations. Tuning into frequency 140.1 triggered a guided tour of the nearby construction, how cool is that?!

My radio isn’t your run-of-the-mill gadget. It also seems to have weird powers. The inhabitants of the island developed this interesting technology, where the WAL signals of the radio can trigger and open locked doors and vaults.

After snooping around the island for some time, consulting my trusted and adorable hand-drawn map, I learned that the U.S. army used this place to train troops in communication and radio technology. Their objective was to educate their members with state-of-the-art code breaking, to aid during times of war.

One woman in particular, named Margaret Adler, trained here with a friend of hers at the Fort Milner school. It looks like not many people liked this island, and due to some hole in national security, the government took control of the island, on-and-off.

Maggie Adler used her family’s fortune to buy off as many locations as she can on the island. But why was she doing that? After gathering her letters, I learned that things are not what they appear to be. There’s a dark secret behind this island, which is the reason why Adler was trying to seal off access.

Oblivious to this fact, we made our way to the nearby caves, and while fumbling with the radio, our friends triggered open a rift in the caves, which instigates a series of paranormal activities in the area.

The radio immediately began picking up various conversations by people on the island. Were they inhabitants at some point? Many questions remain unanswered. The only way to find out is to backtrack our steps and follow the notes of Margaret Adler to unravel the mystery.

Impressions of the Game
Everything from how the game is drawn to the way it side-scrolls and unravels graphically, adds to the charm of this game. It’s very unique. Not your typical intense horror game, aside from the handful hair-rising incidents here and there. In fact, it could be described as meditative. There’s plenty of space and ambience to explore and learn suspense-free, meanwhile making you feel like there’s something very unsettling going on.

The voice acting is superb. They’ve also done a fantastic job with the world building. The game isn’t exceptionally large, but the lore was rich just enough to support the narrative.

I also liked how none of it is forced on the player. You’re very capable of finishing the game without paying much attention to the background story. In this sense, finding Adler’s scattered notes around the island is fully optional. But the inevitable curiosity stimulated will most likely make you want to find each and every note.

The game isn’t perfect. The long loading was my least favorite part. I found myself wanting to eagerly go back-and-forth between locations, but I dreaded the loading time. Conversations sometimes run over each other, not to mention the controls can feel funny sometimes. Overall; however, the game is very well done.

I’m not usually a fan of heavily scripted games, but I found myself drawn to characters’ interconnections. I enjoyed their conversational exchanges, though at times they delve into heavy topics.

Station S., Bainbridge Island. Source: Historylink.

Real Life References
Interestingly enough, I found out there are some real life parallels to Fort Milner. A real-life secret radio station, known as “Station S”, which could be the inspiration behind the game. You can read more about this here

FWA Annex, Station S, Fort Ward 1943. Source HistoryLink.

Final Thoughts
I’m not the biggest fan of political themes in games, and at times I do feel like perhaps the game tries to address an over-arching story inconsistent with its scale. That being said, it was an enjoyable journey.

I’m also excited for the sequel, sometime this year.

Her Story & Detective Games

I’ve recently come across an interesting article, “Making the Player the Detective” by Bjarke Alexander Larsen and Henrik Schoenau-Fog (2020), where the majority of mystery and detective games are criticized as being stories of investigation as opposed to crime. In traditional adventure mystery games, there’s little emphasis on actual investigative work. The gamer is often following the footsteps of the detective, rendering him or her a proxy for the plot. In this way, you’re really a Watson and not a Sherlock. Ironically, what distinguishes video games from other storytelling forms is player agency, which gives consumers the opportunity to exercise free will (to a certain extent). However, in many detective games you’re mainly watching the progression of a lead detective deduce their own conclusions (often in direct exposition). It’s similar to watching a movie in some ways.

Fortunately, we’ve seen many titles in recent years where the actual detective work is pushed into the hands of the player instead, and one of those games is Her Story. I can think of two other favorites in this category–Obra Dinn and the Painscreek Killings.

It’s not really to say that one type is better than another. There are still well-made and thought out traditional mystery games, but if you’re anything like me and you love to take reign of the investigation yourself, then it’s always a relief to stumble on a title that fulfills that desire.

I’m not the biggest fan of FMV games so the title skipped my radar for quite some time. I’m glad I finally gave it a chance.

The opening screen begins with a computer interface from the 90’s. It appears that we’re in control of a police station database. Aside from a handful of documents littering the desktop, the main focal point is the database. We’re given a search bar where we can enter search queries to pull out a repository of recorded videos, interviewing a woman.

The first query is pre-filled and after watching a couple of videos, it becomes apparent that a man went missing under mysterious circumstances and the only person at our disposal to investigate is the woman in the videos related to him.

The recordings are fragmented, some of which were recorded over different times. The clip numbers are great clues allowing us to group similar topics together.

The objective is to synthesize the accounts related by this woman, who eventually comes across as not being the most reliable narrator. There are several twists to the story, and upon reaching a conclusion in the end, there’s little confirmation to back it up. There is somewhat of an event in the end constituting closure, but it seems the emphasis is put on the process of investigation itself. Just in real life, you reach a conclusion and that conclusion does not trigger a cutscene to confirm it. You’re surprisingly left with a sense of satisfaction all the same.

My note taking choice for the game was Google Keep. I love using it for gaming as it allows me to easily tag and search my play notes. I’ve segmented my notes according to themes and dates, which was really helpful to quickly draw connections between the clips.

After checking the in-game database report app, I realized I missed a big chunk of filler clips; however, I reached my conclusion. I’m not sure if it’s the former librarian side of me, but I managed to use the right strains of search queries and formulas–just enough to get me to unfold the story.

The ending didn’t come as a total surprise. I kind of saw it coming, but the process of reaching the conclusion using search was immensely enjoyable for me.

Overall it’s a fantastic indie game; definitely a trend setter in its category and I can’t wait to try the developer’s other game!

My final score is 4/5 ★★★★

  • 3/5 for gameplay
  • 4/5 for design
  • 4/5 for Puzzles
  • 3/5 for plot
  • Game Platform (played on): PC
  • Game Link | Click Here

Machinika Museum

Life as a researcher at the museum never ceases to fetch exciting things. I find myself in a dark workshop at a museum. A clear spectacle of the full moon is shown through the skylight above me. It’s dark and quiet at the museum–another long night at the job it seems. In front of me a big newly shipped box awaits with a document addressed to me–“Dear colleagues from the 4th floor […] we have pulled from the inventory this old 3D printer / scanner. It’s an old model, but it works!”.

After tinkering with it for a bit, I realize I’m able to clone various objects in my workshop–like the museum medallion. That’s handy! Bizarrely but quite conveniently, I squeeze the printer into my left side inventory and little did I know, this new printer will become my best friend for the journey ahead, along with a nifty cool endoscope that I can stick into hard to reach places, and a magnetic customizable screw driver.

On one side of my workshop, I notice several packages with varying sizes placed on the floor. It doesn’t look like my management is communicative enough. I’m not given sufficient information other than I’m expected to examine alien objects inside each one of the packages. A letter is always attached next to the package, but upon opening it, I realize that half of what is written is blacked out in confidentiality. What is going on here?! The researcher in me is most definitely intrigued to get started.

Each chapter begins with a package placed on an examination table. The layout and controls are very similar to the Rooms series–a point-and-click, puzzle adventure. Each parcel constitutes a box puzzle that can be manipulated in various ways. At times I wonder if I should have been a mechanic or an engineer instead of a researcher. Several letters warn about the risk of handling these objects. And with each chapter, those warnings are put into context as things slightly go haywire. It appears to be that these items have reached earth from an outer planet. By the 9th chapter, we piece the items together to unfold the full picture.

The game is unique in allowing you to use the 3D printer and other tools. At times the puzzles can be tricky and mind bending, which is great! In several places, I felt the story fell short and the culmination of events at the end was abrupt and somewhat eccentric. And without saying too much, there’s the promise of a confirmed sequel, as the game doesn’t offer a conclusive ending. But since it is purely a puzzle game, the experience of finishing the sequence of chapters feels strangely satisfying.

Would I recommend the game? Yes, especially if you’re a fan of puzzle boxes and the Rooms series, although do not expect the game to be as polished as the latter. It might be worth waiting to get it on sale.

My final score is 3/5 ★★★

  • 3/5 for gameplay
  • 4/5 for design
  • 4/5 for Puzzles
  • 2/5 for plot
  • Game Platform (played on): PC
  • Game Link | Click Here

Inheritance of Crimson Manor

I found myself playing as private assistant to a famous railroad owner, known as Hadley Strange (a very strange name indeed!) and it seems that I have been working for him for the past 10 years. As soon as I arrived at his beautiful mansion, I found an envelope addressed to me at the gate with cryptic instructions to follow. Something about helping Hadley Strange with a mission of his or bringing it to fruition.

Where was everyone, I thought; why is this place deserted? Well a newspaper by the door gave me the answer I was looking for. It seems an accident took place, which resulted in the mysterious disappearance of 5 members of the Strange family.

The Victorian manor is a joy to navigate and it is packed full of secrets—hidden passages, underground cellars, and a fascinating shape shifting library. It appears that Mr. Strange is a very peculiar sort of person with many secrets. One telegram found at the parlor addressed to his name reveals a research he’s been working on outraged the Victorian scientific society and as a result was rejected.

It’s difficult not to point out the resemblances between Crimson Manor and Resident Evil—from the map layouts, to the mechanical puzzles, to the overall atmosphere. It felt like walking into a more polished Spencer Mansion. Am I complaining? Certainly not! The massive house was a joy to explore. They’ve done an excellent job with the setting.

Each room was littered with puzzles. I would say straight forward puzzles—nothing too complex. At times, they were buggy, but nothing a quick exit and re-login couldn’t fix.

The entirety of the story is related through the family’s correspondences and journal entries. At times the game tries to be inventive and uses environmental storytelling. Around the half-mark I pretty much predicted what the ending(s) is going to be.

Overall it was a decent game, but I found myself feeling slightly bored at the lack of action. To be fair it is purely a puzzle game, but then I didn’t really get the same reaction playing The Da Vinci House or The Room games, which were also puzzle games. What made Crimson Manor slightly disappointing for me was how the tension builds up slightly at the beginning, giving you the impression that there’s something sinister going on, but it never really delivers to fulfill the atmosphere and vibe it’s triggering. On Steam, it is categorized as a horror game, which only contributes to setting false expectations for it. I would describe it as more of a mystery/puzzle adventure. The only eeriness you get is from navigating an empty house—no jump scares, cut scenes, or queued animations. It’s a good choice of game for someone looking for a relaxed puzzle mystery.

My final score is 3/5 ★★★

  • 3/5 for gameplay
  • 4/5 for design
  • 3/5 for Puzzles
  • 3/5 for plot
  • Game Platform (played on): PC
  • Game Link | Click Here

DyingLight + DLC (Lore)

The following is a thorough and detailed summary and timeline of what transpired in the game DyingLight and its DLC, “The Following”. The post includes information on the characters, events, enemies, and lore. DyingLight 2: Stay Human is to be released on February 4th, and takes place 15 years after the events of its prequel.

Disclaimer: I take no credit for researching or creating the information written here. The content is fully researched by its rightful owner, Game Harry, which can be found on the YouTube channel: Gaming Harry. The purpose of this post is to summarize the video’s timeline to make it easy for myself and possibly others to stay up to date with the events of the game before the launch of the sequel.

The Main Plot Line

Kyle Crane, one of the Global Relief Effort’s (GRE) agents was dropped in the fictional Turkish city Harran. A viral outbreak, which turns people into zombies has taken place, but Kyle’s mission is to locate Kadir Suleiman, a man who stole a classified file from the GRE and is using it to blackmail them.

Shortly after dropping in Harran, Kyle gets attacked by both zombies and a group of men who belong to a gang. In the process of getting away, Kyle gets bitten by a zombie and as a result becomes infected. A woman named Jade Aldemir finds Kyle and rescues him, where he’s taken to a shelter called “The Tower”. At the shelter, Kyle also meets Jade’s younger brother, Raheem, who teaches Kyle the basics of Parkour.

When Crane’s infection escalates, he goes to meet Dr. Zera, who administers him with a shot known as Antizin. The medication does not cure the infection but tries to keep it in control. He then learns that Dr. Zera is trying to find a cure for the virus, but the gang Kyle met upon his landing, known as Rais’s gang, has been stealing all the Antizin they could get their hands on once it’s dropped by the GRE in Harran. The Antizin is used by the gang to extort people in the city. Another Antizen drop was scheduled at sunset, and Kyle is asked to help by setting traps around the building as a distraction while the Antizen is picked up.

During setting the traps; however, the man known as Brecken gets attacked by Rais; as a result, Kyle must take his place to secure the Antizen instead. He reaches the Antizen drop, and when he radios in the pick up with the GRE, they tell him to destroy the Antizen except for one to keep it for himself. This way he might be able to force a meeting with Rais, by buying the Antizen from him directly and confirm his identity (that he is Kadir Suleiman). When Jade contacts Kyle, he lies and tells her the dropped supplies were looted.

At the tower, the group debates over who should go to Rais to ask him for the Antizen. Kyle volunteers to go. He makes his way to Rais’ area, meets him, and finally confirms his identity. He also meets Rais’ quarter master, Kareem. Kyle is deliberately asked by Rais to complete a set of shady and unethical tasks and if he completes them, he is promised two crates of Antizens instead of one. This was obviously a mission to get rid of Kyle, but when he survived, Rais does not stick to his promise and gives Kyle 5 vials of Antizens instead of the two crates. Rais then asks Kyle to bring him Jade, who he wants to fight in an arena for his gang’s entertainment.

Kyle contacts the GRE to tell them he does not want to work with Rais anymore, but they remind him of how important the stolen file is and to stick to the objective; in other words, deliver Jade to Rais as he was told. Instead, Kyle cuts ties with the GRE. He returns to the tower to tell Jade about failing to get the Antizens and chooses not to fill her in on what Rais’ plans. At this point they also find out the GRE will be halting the Antizen supply drops.

Jade and Kyle invade the facility Rais uses to store the Antizens but find nothing. What they do find is a collection of plastic explosives. Shortly after, Raheem uses some of them in an attempt to eradicate a nest, to which Kyle already warned him not to do, but the mission goes wrong and Raheem gets injured. He then gets bitten and turns; Kyle has no choice but to take him out.

The situation gets slightly out of hand when Jade overhears a conversation between Kyle and Brecken to find out what has happened to her brother. She takes off without warning. Meanwhile Dr. Zera gets kidnapped by Rais and his thugs.

In an attempt to rescue Dr. Zera, Kyle gets captured himself by Rais and then thrown into an arena to fight several infected. After he survives, Rais reveals that he already knows Kyle is working for the GRE and tells his men to publish and leak the file they’re after. He then informs Kyle that that what’s inside the file is data revealing the GRE’s plans to use the virus and weaponize it for profit. Rais then tells his men to get rid of Kyle. He manages to escape and injures Rais instead. When he finally finds Dr. Zera, it’s already too late, but before Dr. Zera falls he tells Kyle that he gave Jade his research, which must be delivered to another doctor named Camden, who is located in the old part of the city.

The ministry of defense plans to firebomb the city in order to control the outbreak, then claim there were no survivors. Kyle hooks up with a new group in old town and tries hard to bring attention to the world that there were still survivors in Harran. Every attempt Kyle makes is stopped and the signals are removed, which only indicates that the defense already knows there are survivors but chooses to look the other way. Kyle then uses a radio tower to send one final signal, which puts a stop to the raid plan.

The GRE contacts Kyle and instructs him to return Dr. Zera’s research in finding a cure, and in exchange they will extract him from Harran. He cuts all contacts with GRE. When he returns, he finds out that Rais has kidnapped Jade and when Kyle finds her, Jade has already been bitten and is turning. Rais gives them a single shot of Antizen, to which Kyle decides to administer in Jade, but she chooses to save him instead. She then turns into an infected and Kyle has no choice but to put her down.

Kyle then faces one of Rais’ men and then delivers the research sample Jade was carrying to Dr. Camden. The latter tells Kyle that he’s very close to finding a cure but needs the rest of Dr. Zera’s data, which is currently in the hands of Rais. The GRE struck a good deal with Rais already. In exchange for the file, he’ll get extracted from Harran. Kyle refuses to let that happen and then finally faces Rais and kills him.

A GRE chopper arrives on site, but Kyle defies them and chooses to return the data back to Dr. Camden, who is certain at this point that a cure will be made. Kyle stays and helps the remaining survivors of Harran.

The Following (DLC)

Kyle and his group encounter a survivor that informs them that there is a group of people who are immune to infection, even if they get bitten and then refer to someone called “the mother“. Although not totally convinced but desperate for a lead to follow, Kyle decides to investigate. Dr. Zera’s research progress isn’t going well and the Antizens are growing scarce.

Upon reaching the countryside, Kyle stumbles on survivors there, who set up a cult and call themselves “Children of the Sun(aka The Following), worshipping what they refer to as “the mother”. Eventually Kyle gains the trust of the “faceless”; a group of high leaders of clan, who reveal to him that there’s nothing supernatural about their immunity, and that it is in fact a type of elixir in their possession that behaves similar to the Antizen. The “faceless” also share they’re currently working on a cure and invite Kyle to work with them. Once they succeed in their mission, they’ll give Kyle his share of the cure to take it back to Harran.

He is then assigned to work with a man named Attila, who’s working on a project for “the mother”. He also learns more about her and finds out that her real name is Jasmine and that she was the wife of a military colonel. Her husband participated in the initial experiments which lead to the outbreak, and he was bitten and died. Before taking his own life in a ritual, Atilla gives Kyle a code.

Meanwhile Kyle also learns that Rais’ men are still operating and in full swing. They’re approaching the countryside in search of the cure themselves. They blow up the dam, which is the mother’s base. By the time Kyle reaches there, everyone and everything is destroyed. Shortly after, Kyle meets Jasmine; the mother. She removes her mask and reveals to Kyle who she really is—a volatile! Unlike the other infected; however, she remains in control, particularly during daytime and turns violent in the dark.

She informs Kyle that all military experiments are hidden in the dam, and that the elixir was not a cure. In fact, upon consumption, it turns people into volatiles. She believes the only way to solve everything is to summon the sun god (basically a nuke!)

At this point in the game Kyle must decide what to do—either to agree with her, use Atilla’s code and launch her sun nuke, wiping out everyone and everything in Harran to eradicate the virus, or defy the mother and will be forced to drink the elixir.

If the player chooses the second option, Kyle will fight and kill the mother, takes whatever is left of the vials and leave the dam, upon which he realizes he is turning into a volatile himself.

Gaming Harry’s lore video covers interesting aspects of the game that are worth clarifying.

Rais – Kadir Suleiman

Rais used to be a colonel in the military, hired by the GRE to establish control in Harran at the onset of the outbreak. Part of his responsibilities was to protect Dr. Zera and Camden while they searched for a cure. Rais agreed to the GRE’s terms in one condition—that they would extract his disabled brother, Hasan, from Harran. The Ministry of defense did not agree to his terms and his brother was eventually killed by the infection. Utterly raged by what has happened to his brother, Rais abandons his military post and his responsibilities towards the doctors then reinvents himself as Rais and establishes a gang for himself. He and his gang members took control of Harran’s quarantine zones and eventually stole the GRE’s sensitive file—code named, “tempest”.

The Global Relief Effort (GRE)

The GRE is a humanitarian organization related to the ministry of defense. They’re tasked with dropped relief and medical supplies to people throughout Harran. Prior to assigning Suleiman, they deployed a man named Amir, the same man who saved Jade and Kyle at the beginning of the game. He is also the man who helped Camden and Zera escape the city, although the men got separated, which explains why each doctor is working at a different part of the city. The GRE sent Kyle after this. They weren’t certain that Suleiman was Rais and needs Kyle to confirm his identity. Rais later tells Kyle that the GRE wants to use then sell the virus for profit.

When Rais leaks the content of the file to the world and reveals the GRE’s true intentions, the latter finds itself in a tough situation, and in order to save face, they tasked Kyle of helping Dr. Zera to search for a cure. Obviously this is just to trick the public into thinking that the GRE was fully invested in pursuing a solution to the outbreak.

The Outbreak

Although it’s unclear what is the origin of the game’s outbreak, the military experiments in the dam are pointed out as the instigator. According to Gaming Harry, it is possible that the elixir they have been experimenting with infected test specimens, who found themselves out of the testing area and spread it to the entire city. The onset of the outbreak in Harram is captured in the Dying Light novel, “Nightmare Row” by Raymond Benson.

The Infected

The stages of the virus can be seen in the variety of enemies in the game. The first stage is depicted with fast running enemies, who still seem to be aware and alert. They pound but do not appear to be inclined to bite. The second phase are biter enemies. They lunge at their preys, but at times can turn back into virals.

Special mutations include:

  • Toads: Spit acid
  • Bombers, who explode
  • Goons—very tall but slow
  • Demolishers, the largest beasts
  • Screamers infected infants
  • Bolters–docile that feed and hide
  • Volatiles—the most aggressive

Volatiles are a little different from the others. They’re recently turned infected, that seem to have been integrated into a nest or a hive. They only come out at night, as they’re extremely UV sensitive. There are standard volatile enemies and there are alpha ones. The latter have more damage resistant. They also seem to be immune to camouflage (when a player tries to use zombie bits to blend in). The third type of volatile is the Night Hunter, which is considered to be the deadliest.