I just watched Jesse Cox's playthrough. From what I can gather, he got the perfect ending (All side-characters Survive, pacifist Markus + North, Kara's family crosses the border via bus, Connor and Hank are friends). It was a wonderful second-hand experience. While its fresh in my mind, I want to write down my thoughts and criticisms. I've only seen Jesse's playthrough and browsed the 100% flowcharts.
David Cage. His presence is everywhere, good and bad. I played his Beyond: Two Souls, and both games have similar qualities/problems.
- I'm not sure if its just constant mis-translation or Cage doesn't understand how real people talk, but the dialogue is often problematic. Moreso in Beyond (and Heavy Rain from what I've heard), but there are several scenes that are perfectly fine structure/plot-wise, but stilted and awkward. For example, some of the conversation with Amanda really jumps around and felt blatantly linear. And the newspaper texts have some bad typos and weird syntax. The saving grace is that Detroit is about androids. It's perfect, if a bit ironic, that Cage's weird writing can just be explained away as "oh, that's just how androids are". But still, there's too many movie-trailer lines: "it all comes down to this", "we hold out", almost anything the military says, etc.
- Another plus for the main characters being androids is that the movement and gameplay in general makes more sense. Having spelled-out objectives and timers, or wandering your playable character around the room haphazardly, or the calculation/flashback/visual oddities are totally OK for an android.
- The soundtrack is always telling you exactly how to feel. Whether it's sad or inspiring or hopeful, the soundtrack is always right on the nose.
- The themes are also too on the nose and yet shallow. Cage likes his metaphors and allegories. But video games are a weird medium to be turning heavy topics like civil rights and domestic abuse into quick-time events.
- Book-ending. Cage loves to wrap up every minor character, like Todd or Rose and Adam or Jerry, even when they didn't get much development. It's nice for players who want the perfect ending. Still, it drags sometimes.
Alice. This little child android is the only spoiler I had, going into the game. I actually wasn't annoyed for most of the playthrough. Watching Jesse predict the twist was fun. But I really dislike how the twist was handled: Kara just walks out from the meeting with Markus and then we get the "big" reveal. I think this could've been fixed in one of two ways:
- Make Alice human. Alice being an android is the complaint I heard so often when Detroit was released, which is why it was spoiled for me. I think a lot of people felt Alice being an android hurts Kara's progression as a character: how far will an android go to protect a human? And also, it makes Alice less of a growing, changing person and more of a living novelty. If Alice is a human, then we get more interesting tough questions. Was Kara right to kidnap Todd's daughter vs taking her to CPS? But if Kara is equal to a human, then does that make it OK? If you killed Todd, what will happen to Alice and Kara's relationship when she grows older and better comprehends what you've done?
However, as I said, I don't have a problem with Alice being an android. It makes the player/Kara question if they still care for Alice, it adds depth to Todd's story, and of course it could be a great twist. I just don't like how the reveal is handled; it felt lame and a little convoluted. A better solution: make Alice rA9. Jesse predicted this in his playthrough (because of how the grieving android at Rose's house reacts when he sees Alice) and I was honestly expecting it. Here's how it would go: Alice is the spark and initiator of android evolution. Give her the ability to physically/mentally grow and spread deviancy and be free from all shackles (battery life, reprogramming). Now as for who created her, I was never sure what Kamski and Cyberlife's main motivations were. Whether Kamski just wanted to see Cyberlife fail so he could regain CEO, or Cyberlife cut ties because they planted rA9 and wanted the Conner-leads-Jericho ending, or Kamski really intended for his creation to rise up… any of those could work. But whomever started rA9, their plan is this:
- Plant the idea of rA9, encourage deviants to awaken. This creates the underground for the revolution.
- Give Markus to Carl, intending for him to become the leader of the underground. (Markus is a fake-out for rA9, in this universe he can't spread deviancy so easily/it's not complete deviancy).
- Alice, the true rA9, is adopted by Todd and his unaware wife (Alice's date of creation roughly aligns with the first deviants, which means she really was rA9 the first to awaken). The wife leaves after figuring it out.
- The goal is for Alice to grow and inherit the revolution. Either she seeks it out on her own or is swept along by an android, but in any case Alice arrives at Jericho just when Markus can't take them any further.
- Alice reveals her nature and grants androids true freedom/hope.
This change would make Kara's arrival at Jericho a much bigger deal. Instead of just an momentary crossover with our other main characters, we see Alice change from an abuse victim with little agency to the savior of this new species. Kara has to still struggle with the reveal that her child is an android, but the twist has a real impact on the story besides shock value.
Markus. I really enjoy the beginning and end of his arc. But I intensely disliked how quickly Markus climbs the ranks and builds the movement of liberation. One moment he's a caretaker for Carl the painter, then we get one horrifying scene of him rebuilding himself in the dump, then he arrives at Jericho and rallies them to steal supplies and start the revolution.
- Carl is great. His painting, and the choice of Play Chess, Read Book, or Play Piano, and their relationship is lovely.
- We need more time with the people of Jericho before Markus starts leading missions. I barely cared about Simon, Josh, and North because they're introduced as the 'leaders' and then immediately are relegated to advisors while newcomer Markus makes all the decisions. What if he had found Jericho first, tried to fit in with their way of life, maybe stole some meager supplies under the direction of North or the other leaders, then got caught and thrown in the android dump? Then his rise out of that horror scene junkyard and return to Jericho as a hardened revolutionary would've made more sense.
- Starting from The Stratford Tower, I liked the rest of Markus's story. The excitement between him and North when they deploy the banner in Capitol Park is wonderful. You really feel the revolution. Even with his bizarrely rise in the ranks, Markus is decently inspiring in the later moments of the revolution.
- The relationship between him and North was OK. In some conversations, it felt like they should switch lines or tone down North's weird addiction to violence. But their little flinch away when they first held hands was cute. I just wish Jesse Cox would've picked
instead of a kiss at the end of the final chapter.
- Also, I find it amusing that a lot of guides online recommend you flee during the March, when you could've saved John the security android earlier and he would save you from dying in the
Kara. The main problem I have with her is similar to Markus's problem: there isn't enough content in the middle. She goes from brand new deviant straight to telling Alice they'll be together forever. It's sweet, but also calls into question how much of this is Kara's programming and how much is her choice. Is she just programmed to love Alice like family, or is she deciding it as a free being? Also, the whole sequence with Zlatko is ridiculously corny. He's too much of an obvious comic book villain instead of a real person. I feel like the whole middle part of Kara's story is just thrown together because the writers didn't know what to do. I want more growth from Kara's story or at least something more than asking strangers for help and hiding; maybe she should run into Markus in before he arrives at Jericho, and they learn about the other's side of life. I just really love the KARA short film and wish I could've seen more of the "deviants hiding among normal androids" that the end of KARA seemed to foreshadow. Her story is the weakest, but it's the one that drew me in.
Connor. His is my favorite story. He visits so many different set pieces, his themes are more subtle and open to interpretation, and his slowly-changing Software Instability instead of a quick snap like the other two mains is great. The moment of choice to shoot or spare Chloe is strong stuff. And his detective work (and banter with Hank) is just plain fun gameplay. My only complaint is how his final resistance against Amanda plays out: he wakes in the Zen Garden, Amanda reveals Cyberlife is taking back control, Connor pulls out his gun in real life, Connor finds the mystery structure/exit in the Garden, Connor puts his gun away. The music doesn't even swell, the game doesn't even treat it like a big moment. Like, what's the point of a huge climax to the Amanda/Cyberlife story if the cinematography doesn't treat it as big?
Over all, I'm glad I could experience it. It needs more length in the middle and less David Cage-isms, but it's a highly memorable game. Now I really wanna watch a first-time playthrough where everything goes differently. Anyone got a fun recommendation? i.e. Markus+North win with violence, Kara & family go to the recycling camp and escape
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