Drop dead gorgeous.
With all the talk surrounding Assassin’s Creed and the lack of female assassins in the upcoming game, it was surprisingly poignant to preview a game that features two fully-clothed female protagonists. Somehow or another, Daedalic Entertainment found the budget to feature Adelaide and Emily in their murder mystery, The Devil’s Men, coming out for PC in Spring of 2015. Writer and designer Kevin Mentz hopes players look beyond that and enjoy a steampunk tale heavily influenced by player choice.
In an alternate history, a small town in England (read: not London) was once the site of a World’s Fair, but in 1871 the section of town devoted to showing the latest technology and culture is home to ruins, crime, and poverty. Adelaide, the daughter of a famous detective, is living on the streets here and plays witness to the murder of a family friend so she teams up with Emily, a member of The Colony gang, to find out who did it and more. Emily is not just a runt in the ranks, though, and she has committed murder before a stark contrast to the pristine Adelaide.
As the tale plays out, players will be offered multiple avenues for choice from dialog to puzzle solutions. Even the way puzzles are solved will influence later events in the story, so the game should invite multiple playthroughs. Despite there being one definitive ending to this story, the path there can change with each new game. In one instance, Adelaide offered evidence against Emily to a local detective, forcing Emily to break into the detective's home and solve a safe puzzle to steal it back. Another instance, however, featured Adelaide’s decision to fork over fake evidence, nullifying the necessity to break in completely.
Players will not be forced to choose between good or bad either. Because they control both characters, some decisions made for one character’s benefit can directly harm the other, such as the aforementioned evidence Adelaide gave to the detective. All these decisions will not only affect how Emily and Adelaide feel about each other but also how other characters react towards them. Mentz said that he eschewed creating many circumstantial characters and instead wanted a smaller supporting cast, each of whom will appear several times over the course of the story. This encourages better character development both within the basic narrative and the one players influence.
The ugliness of crime and murder are made palatable by simply stunning visuals. Some of the animation sequences weren’t complete for the build at E3, but it didn’t matter—just looking at each frame was a joy. The 2D characters are illustrated similar to a Chomet animated film, yet the environments are fully 3D, utilizing technology which projects illustrations onto the objects. You’d think we’ve never seen an adventure game before, but when Emily moved from one room to the next, and the perspective on the objects in the room changed, another viewer and I audibly gasped at the beautiful transition. It should be seen to be believed.
The brief demo I witnessed shot The Devil’s Men to the top of my awaited list of games from this year’s E3. The story appears engaging and varied, and the visuals are stunning. People may be murdered left and right in this tale, but at least it will be pleasant to watch!