In the last episode of The Descendant, Ark-1 janitor Silas got lost in his own madness. While Silas went insane, he wasn’t the only character whose identity the player was asked to suddenly question. Ark-1’s other janitor, Mia, may have hidden reasons for being in the Ark. As for Donnie and Randolph, I’m not even sure Gaming AB know what’s going on with their back story…but more on that later. Suffice to say at the start of Episode 4, things are well and truly not as they once seemed with The Descendant’s four main characters.
Light my fire.
This episode kicks off with a race against the clock as the player must guide Mia to a safe escape from an inferno. Once again, the narrative focusing on Mia and Silas offers the more engrossing gameplay and plot. Following the conclusion of Episode 3, Mia and Silas’s first meeting in Episode 4 is a genuinely compelling moment.
Length: 1 Hour
Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for the time I was required to spend with Donnie and Randolph. The function of these characters in Episode 4 largely appears to be for the purpose of awkward, conversational exposition; with some clumsy characterisation wedged in between. Throughout my time playing The Descendent I have always felt their story to be the weaker side of the two narratives, and this remains the case as the game draws towards its concluding episode.
The contrast between the effectiveness of these two narratives is at its most jarring in Episode 4. Mia’s interaction with a crazed Silas works as effectively as it did in the previous episode: the player must quickly respond to cues with little time to weigh up the pros and cons of a decision. It is another entirely reactive moment that completely fits story, as the player must – as Mia – converse with Silas, a complete madman at this point, while keeping her alive.
However, when the game cuts back to Donnie and Randolph, the player is tasked with one arduous task after another. This is usually to fix something and progress a journey, which is then subsequently revealed as merely a contrived way to plug in some exposition. To make matters worse, the player largely has to select all the dialogue options between these two characters anyway, so there is no way to steer the conversations.
A swing and a miss.
Randolph and Donnie’s narrative does serve to finally bring one of the game’s more interesting plot points to the fore: Ark-1’s Skynet-esque computer system, the characters’ inability to communicate with the outside world, and the wider conspiracy involving heretofore unknown forces outside of the Ark.
Unfortunately, the majority of this episode felt like a placeholder that was merely designed to ensure the convergence of these two narrative strands ahead of The Descendant’s final episode. This convergence is, of course, something that was inevitably going to occur at some point. However, the manner in which this has been executed is poor, with the pacing in Episode 4 really missing the mark compared to earlier episodes. Other than Mia and Silas’s meeting, everything else felt forced and the puzzles were unimaginative.
The end is in sight.
I remain interested in how Gaming AB plan to conclude this story, and what the final episode holds in store for each of these characters. However, if the story-telling and dialogue is not an improvement on Episode 4, players may be in for a derivative ending that undermines the interesting ideas set up by earlier chapters.
Review copy of game provided by publisher.