'13 Sentinels' Is Blowing My Mind and I Can't Tell You Anything About It

It should be easy enough to have a conversation with a friend about a video game you're playing, right? Especially if you're playing the same video game? But that has just not been the case with 13 Sentinels: Aegis Rim, Vanillaware’s acclaimed sci-fi visual novel/strategy game released last fall, which I’ve picked up during gaming’s sleepy January. It's left me at a complete loss. Several times now, I've been befuddled about how to even broach explaining where I'm at in the story, because it's basically impossible to talk about 13 Sentinels without, also, possibly spoiling 13 Sentinels


This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at https://www.vice.com/en_us/article/akdyg8/13-sentinels-is-blowing-my-mind-and-i-cant-tell-you-anything-about-it
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In basically the same position, adoring this game and also completely unable to talk about it with anyone. Also just around 15 hours in (which does seem to be halfway, based on the progress the game itself shows).

‘Bout to DM Patrick on Twitter just so I can talk about this game with someone lol

I bought it and it’s sitting on my PS5 - I just need to do the whole “playing” thing.

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Truly a wonderful incredible game! In the same boat as you, I have friends playing through it but it’s something you can’t really talk about with someone until you hit the end I think.

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The only discussions I’ve seen about the game are from Chris Plante’s articles on Polygon and the podcast Into the Aether’s Spoilercast from November, if anyone who has played is interested in hearing more about it.

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I finished FFXIII and XIII-2 and XV aren’t quite clicking with me so maybe this is the time to throw myself wholeheartedly into Aegis Rim. I don’t even have a television series occupying me atm as I’ve held off on starting Hannibal for some reason.

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One thing I like about this game so much that isn’t a spoiler is how it compartmentalizes all of the stories into these nice, episodic chunks. I’m sick with mono right now so playing for 15 minutes, making some progress, learning something new, then taking a break to stare at a wall and recover some energy has been a nice cycle.

I also like the way it tracks your progress through each character’s arc. It would be so easy to feel lost in a narrative this complicated but the game makes it really simple to situate yourself if you’re ever lost.

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They also do a bigger version of the thing they did in Odin Sphere at least in that they give you one nice, big event chronology with a summary of every chapter laid out on it, along with a list of which characters show up in a given scene. I’d find myself checking that periodically after getting through a chapter just to see when and where what I just saw fit into that list.

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I love that it has its own built-in wiki & before you continue a character’s story there’s a brief snippet above their head about what the major plot beats have been for them recently! It’s super neat. I also really genuinely love the combat and view it more as RTS than tower-defense as people have described it. At least on the highest difficulty, later fights have you really concerned with repositioning the mechs.

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I finished it last night. Over the last 10 hours or so I went from “this is wacky and fun but I don’t see how it can possibly pull all these plot threads together” to “this is a masterpiece.” Very vague spoilers about its storytelling:

The thing that blew my mind wasn’t even a particular plot point, it was the relationship between the plot and the method of storytelling. It’s a story about a bunch of characters with compromised mental states and incomplete information, and it mimics those effects on the player. You’re experiencing the story the same way the characters are, through information overload that only crystallizes into a coherent plot once you know what you’re looking for. It’s a pretty nifty trick.

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Absolutely. I plowed through the last like 6 hours in one sitting because I couldn’t believe they were going to actually pull everything off story-wise, but they did! Even if you aren’t particularly moved by the plot beats or anything, it’s hard to not be thoroughly impressed by the sheer craft it took to tell the story the way they did and have it actually work on ANY level. Like… damn. The player has a decent amount of freedom in how they progress through the characters’ stories, but it seems to still be paced in a way that any experience will have well-timed larger plot reveals and foreshadowing and character interactions. Can’t think of a game I’ve played that does something similar, but would love to know of any

No sooner do I make a post on this forum about video games rarely making me cry than does a video game make me fucking cry.

What a game that was.

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I can’t believe that my ps4 is gathering dust in America while I’m locked down in the UK unable to play this game. Everything I’ve read about it seems like it’s a game designed for me, and I can’t wait to play it eventually

After hearing Jan on the Giant Bomb GotY pod talk about this game I have to say I’m quite intrigued. I then googled around and saw a Vita version was announced. Does anyone have an idea when that version is coming out?

This doesn’t have a citation, but according the Wikipedia page for the game it was cancelled :frowning:

Originally scheduled for a 2018 release on both the PlayStation 4 and PlayStation Vita, the game was delayed to 2019 with the Vita version being canceled.

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Why oh why must The Best PlayStation endure such disrespect! :sob:

Having finished it, I’m realizing that it’s reminding me most of games like SOMA and Prey and that it managed to marry anime storytelling and tropes with a kind of hard science-fiction I feel like games rarely succeed with? I need to develop these thoughts further but I think that’s part of why it’s feeling so singular to me.

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I totally agree, I had the same feelings as you that were hard to articulate but Chris Plante’s write-up for Polygon helped me find terms for why I find it so great. It is packed with every possible trope a game with this premise could have, not out of laziness but out of a desire to put those tropes in the spotlight to think about what they mean and what the fiction using those tropes can mean to us. They are used to propel the story and the story is about why we come back to these tropes so often.

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That piece is excellent, and helped put my thoughts into relief too. I think that optimism that he mentions at the end is really important — not just in the ending, but in the way the game never feels cynical, and treats its characters with a kind of fundamental respect. They all feel like protagonists with agency leading their own stories, which is such a wild thing to say about a game with 13 playable characters. Some of them are lighter than others but even the ones that balance a bit on the lighter side, like Hijiyama, feel important and carry weight.

Also I think this game made me feel the things Nier Automata was supposed to make me feel… which is nice haha. Glad I found a version of that that finally spoke to me.

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I think I heard it referenced but is there a mechanism to read over the chapters you’ve played? I’ve moved my PS4 into the living room so I only play now and again which means I’m really averaging out at about 3-4 chapters every couple of weeks so I’m worried I’m going to end up lost as I get further in.