Loving the concept of book club. I thought Binary Domain was an excellent pick for the first game. I had never heard of it before and find it fascinating, both as a “historical piece” as well as the game in and of itself.
Binary Domain feels like one the last in a generation littered with third person shooters. My pet theory is that for the game to get greenlit they kept adding features until it got approved. Like how some described Final Fantasy XV as a game where the developers threw in every feature they thought of, this game feels similar. The sheer number of weird mechanics makes this almost feel indie in some ways.
The voice control system, though it does not work, as astutely noted by the podcast, is an interesting attempt for a future where voice presence will be more natural in games. I was very excited to try it out and hooked up my Playstation Eye. This created the amazing effect of an infinite loop of Big Bo yelling something, the microphone picking it up, and Big Bo responding to himself, even interrupting himself. Unfortunately I had to turn it off.
In general though, I was impressed with the conversation system, especially how it is fluid even in battles. As noted on the podcast, it’s especially nice how the “morally correct answer” is not always the one that will earn friendship. The conversation system, the relationship system (which goes down if you shoot your teammates which is neat), and the ability to choose your teammates leads to a feeling of false autonomy. One that I was convinced was affecting my play throughout the game and potentially my ending.
I found as well that the first chapter made me roll my eyes. However as time went on, I became endeared to the fun and odd Japanese view of non-Japanese cultures. I agree that the treatment of Big Bo feels very much a continuation of a stereotyped role African Americans have had in Japanese games, most notably stemming from Barrett in Final Fantasy VII.
I also loved the bizarre system of having a Resident Evil like stat grids, that either found or purchased through scattered vending machines everywhere in the world. Upgrading character weapon progression was an odd JRPG mechanic that did not quite fit with the game and was easily exploitable. I liked the concept of shooting the robots more generates more money, encouraging a play style opposite of Western counterparts. The effects that stemmed from shooting limbs off also added fun variety. The shooting really fell apart though in how arcadey it ended up feeling, rather than tactics based. The game does support tactics options for your AI counterparts, but I never found them particularly useful.
I also really enjoyed the brief respites from combat in the conversation zones. It added a nice break from combat to get a better sense for the world. I will probably add more thoughts on the story after the second part is posted, but the exploration this game did that stuck with me was a return to an idea of imperialistic Japan. A removal of Western values, where an effective dictator reigned once again. I found it a fun thought experiment, though one that did not go as deep as I would have hoped.