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About the Story
A dating sim about how humanity connects through art, even out in the vastness of space.
Winner, Best NPCs; Nominee, Best Individual PC - 2014 XYZZY Awards
Rock, Paper, Shotgun
S.EXE: Creatures Such As We
When Max Payne, the dark bullet-time Sam Spade-‘em-up game came out in 2001, I thought it possessed a most ingenious game meta-narrative moment. ... I am now twenty-nine and really difficult to please, but I can say confidently that Creatures Such As We is an elegant, intricate meta-narrative about player emotional investment and romancing non-player characters. Max Payne would do a Keanuface at it.
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Number of Reviews: 6
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Most Helpful Member Reviews
Having played through Mass Effect 3 again recently, I could not help but view "Creatures" as a commentary on that game, and in particular on the discussions revolving around its ending. I did not check if that is even possible, but in any case: "Creatures" covers a lot of game theory relevant to ME 3, like whether players or authors should decide a games ending, how romance should be portrayed in games, the meaning of self-sacrifice, whether games should mirror life or rather provide means of escape, etc.
This is all packed into a well paced story on the PCs moon adventure with the designers of their favorite game, including that game as game within the game.
So why is "Creatures" not five stars for me? I think it lacks a bit on the game side of things. Most choices I really had to think about concerned my opinion on the game theory questions mentioned above. The choices regarding the actual plot seemed a bit bland in comparison, even though the story itself is quite compelling.
That caveat aside, in my opinion anyone even remotely interested in game design (and romance!) should play "Creatures Such As We".
I've often pondered on my reasons for reading novels, playing IF, reading stories online, etc. I've talked to my family about it, and my answers to why we escape and whether it is good changes fairly often. I also was oncea professional video game developer.
This game, then, drew me in completely. This is a choice-based game about someone who is trying to understand escapism, its role in life, its benefits and drawbacks, the meaning of art, etc.
It was fun to play the character as myself, giving the answers and reactions I would. I was happy with my ending.
It was funny to play this game after Ultra Business Tycoon III,and reading online debates over whether that game is winnable, and what it would mean if it is not winnable. I don't necessarily recommend playing that game first (Porpentine has better games, like Howling Dogs), but it was interesting.
Lynnea Glasser tends to make very good games. I didn't like Tenth Plague on philosophical grounds, but Coloratura was fantastic.
This game contains several instances of strong profanity near the beginning.
I first played Creatures Such As We a few years ago, and I remember that I didn't think much of it back then. But, after playing it more recently, I've come to appreciate it a lot more.
Creatures Such As We is a metafictional (am I using that term correctly?) story about video games that functions as one of the video games it discusses. On one level, you play as a tour guide on the moon, guiding a group of visiting game developers through various touristy activities. On the other level, your character is playing a game-within-a-game, which happens to be developed by the same group of aforementioned game developers. This game-within-a-game had a highly controversial "bad" ending, almost akin to the original ending of Mass Effect 3 (the author denies it as an influence). The player character suddenly has the opportunity to ask the game developers about the ending. Of course, being a Choice of Game, there is romance here: you can pursue a romantic relationship or friendship with one of the game developers, and you might stay in contact even after they leave. There is a bit of stage magic here; the dramatic life-and-death moments always happen to your chosen romance option. The characters themselves are all well-realized and unique, but they feel sort of like tokens, both demographically and for their particular viewpoints.
All of this is all used as a backdrop for a series of philosophical conversations. The author leads us through "meta" discussions like the role of the author vs the viewer, representation in media, and escapism, and more general philosophical discussions on death and life and stuff. I think this worked better for me now than when I first played this because I have more experience with both making and playing interactive fiction, and I can relate to the issues being discussed more. It felt interesting and engaging in a way that "philosophical discussions in video games" usually don't for me.
Then there's the theme of corporate malfeasance. Your employer cares more about good appearances than the well-being of its employees or the safety of its customers. The visitors to the moon base are regularly put into life-threatening situations with little backup or real information. You are overworked without much free time, and it's clear that there are people even worse off. Then there is a subplot where one of the tourists has a flu-like illness that is covered up; it's obvious that this was made in pre-covid times. At the same time, an EA-like giant gaming corporation is seeking to acquire the game developers, who are somewhat ambivalent about the deal (I don't know if you-as-the-tour-guide can change the outcome here).
Overall, I feel like the setting, characters, game-within-a-game, and philosophical discussions all meshed together really well. I appreciated the meta moments where it felt like the game was critiquing itself.
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