Title: The Red Strings Club
Available On: PC
Publisher: Devolver Digital
Official Site: www.devolverdigital.com/games/view/the-red-strings-club
Release Date: January 22, 2018
Where To Buy: Steam
Modern games tend to put a central focus on how big their open world is or how realistic their graphics are. Though some of these end up having excellent and memorable stories, only a few of them manage to achieve the level of storytelling and gameplay that indies are still capable of accomplishing, especially those that come out of publisher Devolver Digital.
The Red Strings Club is an adventure storytelling game developed by Desconstructeam and published by Devolver Digital that takes a more intimate look at a future filled with AI and cybernetic enhancements. You play as a selection of interesting characters including an emotionally intelligent and sentient AI named Akara-184, a cybernetically enhanced vigilante named Brandeis, and a clever and charming bartender named Donovan who also acts as an information broker.
The story begins with you getting a first hand glance at the implementation of cybernetics and their potential effects as Akara-184 helps shape these enhancements via a sort of pottery wheel. As she is inserting them into the willful customers of Supercontinent Ltd., she is given agency as to which enhancements to give certain people, until she comes upon higher ups from within the company who she is instructed to give exactly what they ask for regardless of ethical consequences.
Before she is able to apply them though, an agent from a hacker group breaks in and helps Akara-184 in some more altruistic endeavors. While the hacker is gunned down, Akara-184 escapes and finds herself at the Red Strings Club, workplace of Brandeis and Donovan. Brandeis hacks into her memory bank and discovers the corruption at Supercontinent Ltd. and the death of his colleague. The two decide to gather there resources and information together and fight back.
This is where the game truly makes the player feel involved in the story. Donovan is no ordinary bartender and is known for making drinks that can make his customers feel whatever emotions he wants. By mixing different alcohols together, Donovan can harmlessly ask his customers questions and get more interesting answers, which comes in handy when his clientele is largely employees of Supercontinent Ltd. With each person, you must read what emotions would garner the best answers to your questions and mix that drink accordingly.
After each interaction, Akara-184 with ask questions to see how you read the situation, as well as a general question about your personal view on the morality of Supercontinent trying to emotionally dull the society as to get rid of harsh crimes. Based on your correct answer count, she can even reward you in different ways that can help you in the future.
After you gather all the information you need, it’s Brandeis’ turn to use his hacking abilities and cybernetics to take down the company. Here you must use his wit and voice modulation abilities to trick people into giving you all the answers you seek and navigate the Supercontinent Ltd. computer system. It acts as a sort of mini-game for collecting different voice samples and information, each giving you more and more access into the system.
The collection of these three different styles of gameplay in combination with an excellent story make The Red Strings Club a truly interesting experience. Not only are they three entirely different styles of gaming, but they each individually could have just been a mini-game in another game but were instead expanded into being an integral part of the story. The bar tending and questioning parts never feel impossible but rather challenging; the pottery shaping and cybernetic implementation felt like I was being asked what I personally felt like was the best option for the people they were for. The hacking section felt like a puzzle of which person would respond to which voice and give me the information I needed.
All three of these add into an excellent story and atmosphere that feels like a noire meeting a sci-fi world. Between the music, the casual dive bar atmosphere, the intimate personal relationship between the characters, and the moral questioning being asked of the player, this feels less like a heroic game about rescuing the world from the evils of corporate greed and manipulation and more a few people using their place and time to do their part. Each character feels like they have a place and personality, and those personalities comes out when you start tapping into their emotional identities through different drinks.
Verdict: The Red Strings Club is a truly excellent game that combines small interesting game mechanics, a compelling and interesting story, and an intimate experience together to make you feel like these characters are real people with emotions. No person is inherently evil or bad, but a complex amalgamation of emotions and motives. I would definitely recommend giving this game a shot.
- Interesting story
- Realistic characters
- Excellent mix of sci-fi and noire
- Question games after interviews feel a little based on guessing