The apocalypse, continued.
Episode 3 of Gaming AB’s The Descendent picks up ‘Before World’s End’, with Ark-1’s male janitor, Silas. It depicts Silas’s first encounter with fellow janitor Mia. In a rush, Silas (via the player’s direction, of course) must find his clipboard and run to the entrance in order to greet her upon arrival. Mia’s presence is, apparently, somewhat unexpected by Silas. However, hearing people outside trying to gain entry to Ark-1 – accompanied by frantic screaming and gunfire – he waves her along and heads back into the Ark.
On the surface, it might seem strange that Episode 3 kicks off with this seemingly inconsequential event. Yet as the story progresses it becomes clear, via some cleverly constructed moments in Episode 3’s plot, that this moment plays a pivotal role in calling into question just what the player thinks they know about each of The Descendant’s characters.
Who do you think you are?
The player will remember that Episode 2 focused on the Ark’s filtration system, a failure to which was used to anchor The Descendant’s intertwining present and past narratives. While, in that episode, the player was largely responsible for directing Mia, Episode 3 destabilises things by recapping those same events from Silas’s perspective. The world destabilise is key to Episode 3’s entire narrative, and is a running theme throughout. In the case of Silas, however, it turns out this word is to be taken quite literally. Silas is cracking up.
MSRP: $2.99 (episode) $14.99 (season)
Length: 1-2 Hours
Reacting to the various repairs Mia is undertaking, back in the janitor’s quarters Silas begins to have a mental breakdown. Just as the player is starting to process exactly what it is that’s happening, The Descendant immediately asks for some time-sensitive plot choices to be made. While Silas is grabbing his head, yelling, and generally being crazy, the player must quickly decide: ask a question? Look for some meds? Give up? Embrace the madness?
The entire scene results in some really interesting quick cues for the player, yet there is hardly any time to weigh up the pros and cons of a decision. In my opinion, however, this is great choice. It creates a completely reactive moment that really works in the context of the plot. The choices presented to the player even get increasingly obscured by the inclusion of numbers, symbols and a general lack of sense to further reflect Silas’s mental state and breakdown.
This has the effect of making each choice hard to decipher: literally, given that they are not in clear English, and metaphorically, in terms of where the truth lies within Silas’s hallucinations and apparent paranoia. Suddenly Episode 3’s opening scene makes for an interesting reconsideration: who is Mia? Is she who she says she is? Is Silas just being crazy paranoid? Or is his paranoia a distorted insight into the wider conspiracy outlined at the end of Episode 2? The first half of this episode uses Silas’s descent (you see what they did there?) into madness to begin to tie the series’ parallel plot points together; yet it simultaneously works to keep the player just on the edge of understanding, as far as what The Descendant’s overall endgame might be.
Figure it out.
Turns out the interesting puzzles emerging from The Descendant’s narrative in this episode are also finally replicated in the actual point-and-click puzzles on hand, making them much less of a drag on the player’s progression through the story than in Episode 2. There is a good amount of player interaction in this episode, and it’s fast paced. It feels very reactive and involved, and it helps make Episode 3 an absorbing experience.
While I found the storytelling for the ‘past’ plotline a lot more compelling in terms of the overall character development, the action sequences in the ‘present’ narrative were relatively well thought out in terms of how they were situated in the plot, and they kept me interested throughout. Also, and in a welcome relief, there were far less of the ‘walk around and find this item’ type scenarios.
Much of the latter half of this episode follows Donnie, in the present day narrative. While this storyline culminates in some grisly discoveries and plot revelations that could potentially have some pretty significant ramifications for all involved, I did find the nature of his relationship with Randolph – and the mysterious, off-camera interrogator (from the beginning of Episode 2, the player may recall) – to grow slightly more confusing.
That said, things end with some aplomb. There are dramatic cliff hangers across each of the narrative arcs, and these provide a pretty clear indication that things will all come to a fiery head as the series moves towards its concluding episodes.
Review copy of game provided by publisher.