Always Sometimes Monsters Review (PC)
It's human nature to want to survive. The evolution of the species has brought about a great many things, but alongside every advance, there's a darkness on the edge. It lies there, waiting for any chance to rear its ugly, nasty head. This darkness isn't something to be ashamed of; in fact, it's quite the opposite. This darkness is your survival instinct. Primal, fierce and unforgiving, it pushes you to your limits only when absolutely necessary--a last resort. Civilization has progressed far enough that this darkness rarely ever gets a moment to shine. In Always Sometimes Monsters, that darkness isn't just peeking through the cracks, it's breaking down the walls around you.
It didn't matter who set things in motion...
What are you willing to do for love? How far are you willing to go to attempt to win back the one person you believe can make you whole again? That's the central conceit driving Always Sometimes Monsters' narrative. You were once in a strong relationship, but there was a falling out. Somehow though, you've been invited to your former flame's wedding. With just thirty days to find a way across the country, and little to no money to your name, you'll have to scrape and claw your way through life to earn enough to make one last stand to prove mistakes were made, and you belong together. It's a little bit on the nose at times, but the framework exists merely to allow you to experience the struggle. And not just with money, but with yourself as well.
Who you are in Always Sometimes Monsters has little to do with the characters on screen, but everything to do with your actual self. There are a myriad of choices in the character selection department, and the subtle way Vagabond Dog allows you to choose who you'll play as is a nice spin on conventions. The person you're playing as is merely window dressing however, and despite some minor variations in the way things play out, each character's journey will afford you the same options. You and your choices are the real driving force behind what gives these people life. The spine of Always Sometimes Monsters story remains the same, but it's the choices you'll be confronted with that redefine the journey through the conclusion.
... The landslide started long before that night.
There's little else to do in Always Sometimes Monsters besides walk around, talk to people, or complete odd jobs in various neighborhoods to earn some travel money. While the visual trappings will have you thinking JRPG, the game itself plays a lot more like a classic adventure title. Some might be turned off by how little there is to actually do while playing, but Vagabond Dog isn't trying to immerse you in a battlefield or a space station; you're being immersed in someone's actual life. The approach is a big risk because, as we all know, real life can be tedious and boring. We lost count of the pounds of pigs we slaughtered to make some easy cash somewhere around two hundred. However, with the goal directly in front of us the whole time, Always Sometimes Monsters' routine tasks offer a necessary evil for us to endure to get what we want. But those aren't the only evils lurking in the shadows of Always Sometimes Monsters.
Too often, games with morality and consequences offer simplistic choices, and we pick whatever outcome will get us the best weapons or armor. With Always Sometimes Monsters, there's not pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. In fact, sometimes, there's not even a rainbow. Every choice you make has ramifications that alter not just your path, but the fates and futures of nearly every single person you encounter on the long road to (what you hope will be) redemption. We've never once thought about the ripple effect our decisions had in a video game before, but here it was incredibly hard to take the crooked road. Do you waste valuable time trying to obtain race car parts, or do you just cut the opposition's brakes? That depends on how you feel about leaving a group of children without a father. There will be times you'll rationalize actions based merely on the justification that what you're doing is right. But you'll never stop thinking about just who the decision was truly right for in those moments.
While there are more than a few similarities each person will encounter when playing Always Sometimes Monsters, no two playthroughs will truly be the same. Even if you made identical decisions as a friend, your arrival at those choices will have been radically different. As Johnny Cash once said, "I'll try to carry off a little darkness on my back." In Always Sometimes Monsters, you're already carrying that darkness. It's just a matter of how far you can go with that much weight on your shoulders.
This review was completed with a downloaded copy of Always Sometimes Monsters provided by the publisher.