Stop me if you’ve heard this one.
Justin Amirkhani and Jake Reardon sit at the corner table of the Crusty Cream doughnut and coffee shop and wax philosophical about cliché game mechanics. To a silent observer curiosity may be piqued, but this self-referential scene actually takes place within the four walls of Always Sometimes Monsters, Vagabond Dog’s game which hits Steam later this month. Although the cynical world they’ve created is anything but cliché, it is still approachable and intriguing at every step. The incomplete build I played was actually quite lengthy, so much so that when it was over I didn’t know what to do with myself.
Always Sometimes Monsters starts with a party thrown by your character’s publisher; through a crafty selection process the player chooses the character that best represents him or her and the lost love chased throughout the remainder of the story. As I stated in my write-up last month, players can choose between male or female and a handful of races with sexuality determined by the similarly diverse partner selection. You may not get to customize your avatar, but trust me when I tell you that you haven’t seen these folks before.
The game really begins after this party, a year later with you unable to pay rent, unable to finish a book, and missing the love of your life. Then, Dubstown lays in wait. You know you need money and you need to leave town, but how you manage it and how long it takes is ultimately up to you. Both available cities I visited shared a number of features in common: Pawn Exchange where you can sell random items, Bacon Barn where you can fulfill your bacon love and refill stamina, Crusty Cream where you can have a coffee or eight, and an employment agency, which offers job choices to pass the time.
The scenarios you encounter and conversations you have deal quite heavily in morality, but this is no inFamous or Mass Effect where you’re trying to build a meter or anything. Sure, character interactions will change based on your decisions, but you’re not saving the world here. I’d say this more closely resembles The Witcher in that the choices you make often stand alone (so far) and the more objectionable ones make sense in their context. I blackmailed a doctor to help a friend who couldn’t afford drug treatment and I was complicit in a rigged election. Money, health, and progress are the orders of the day, though, and when you are in need, you come faced with decisions you wouldn’t ordinarily make.
Although I played Always Sometimes Monsters for hours, I’m still yearning for more but I’ll have to wait with everyone else. If you want something to tide you over, and Let’s Plays aren’t cutting it, I recommend the small EP released by Laser Destroyer Team, the band behind the soundtrack. It’ll scratch your itch until you can get your hands on the good stuff.