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Always Sometimes Monsters: Always ambitious, sometimes tedious

Hayden Dingman | June 2, 2014
I don't think Always Sometimes Monsters is a great game. It has a lot of problems. There are times when it's extremely unclear what you should do next or where you should go.

"I want to tell you a story. One about the choices we all make," a character says early in the game. Choice is the framework here. In fact, I once made a decision that led me to an ending two minutes into the game. It wasn't a very satisfying ending, but it was still a valid ending.

Make it past that first choice and things broaden even more. By way of a bit of misdirection, you'll choose your main character at the beginning of the game from a group of party attendees. Immediately after, you'll choose your character's significant other.

You're on the verge of signing a big-time contract with a publisher—cause for celebration! Flash forward a year and you're penniless, living alone in a dump known as Dubstown. Why? What happened to your fiance(e)? Your book? Everything was going so well, and now your landlord is threatening to throw you out on the street. Where did the year go?

You'll learn these answers early on, and then it's up to you to make it from Dubstown across the country to San Verdano in thirty days. At least, I think that's the point of the game. I assume you could also reach a perfectly valid ending by never leaving Dubstown. It's not like the game is forcing you to go.

Nor is it making it easy for you to leave. You're broke, sleeping on the curb. Your friend, a recovering heroin addict, is having problems of his own. Basically everything you know is in chaos.

It's easy to make the wrong decisions. It's easy to lose all sense of morality. My friend, the recovering heroin addict? His girlfriend ends up in the hospital after overdosing. She and I never really saw eye-to-eye—she kept trying to get him back on the heroin train, while I was desperately trying to keep him clean. It's killing him though. He can't let her die, and the doctor is refusing to treat her.

Do I up and leave town, deciding not to get involved? Do I break into the doctor's house and find materials to blackmail him with? Do I smash up his car?

It's my friend. I can't just leave him. That's how I find myself breaking into a mansion in broad daylight, snooping through his computer for compromising pictures. It feels wrong. It feels dirty.

And it feels even worse because I chose to do it. She gets her treatment, though. She lives. What's the greater evil, here?

Always Sometimes Monsters doesn't pass judgment. Characters might pass judgment, but other characters support you as a hero. You saved her. It's uncomfortable, and ultimately falls to you to extract some sort of meaning from your choices.

 

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