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Sometimes Always Monsters Impression - E3



Sometimes Always Monsters is the sequel to Vagabond Dog's Always Sometimes Monsters, but Creative Director Justin Amirkhani doesn't want it to retread familiar ground. He describes the first game as a personal story about the choices made during the rise to success. The sequel, on the other hand, is all about the fall from success  or, at best, sustaining it against all odds. The game presents the player as a newly famous author who responds to life's difficult choices. By reacting to sitations and driving future choices, the player moves forward. In other words, the game could be about playing minigames and bumbling through a work/life balance. It could also be a long look at the performativity of art and the uphill battle of living up to past success.

Since the story is a direct continuation of its predecesor, players can import a save file from Always Sometimes Monsters to decide who who's alive and in relationships at the start of the game. Regardless of the specifics, the game starts with the player about to leave on a cross-country book tour and consoling a recently unemployed spouse. Right off the bat, the conflict between working on creative endeavors and the rest of life rears its head. In the demo, this conflict was presented as choosing between spending time at the tour bus's typewriter or going out to explore the city. Writing adds pages to the character's next great work, while traveling and experiencing the world allows the player to engage with the meat of the game. Amirkhani doesn't seem concerned about spending time writing being mechanically unrewarding; instead, it's a route for players interested in attaining success by sacrificing the allure of the outside world.

The main character is joined on the book tour by four other writers, who are chosen from a possible pool of ten characters. I chose a sassy drug dealer with a tell-all, a writer of young adult horror, a shy author of jungle adventure stories, and a best-selling interpreter of Biblical apocrypha to join me. During the demo, they just provided color commentary on the bus. However, future builds will include traveler-specific quests and special interactions between the different personalities. After choosing my crew, I visited the offices of Stalker Media, a clickbait company set on ruining my reputation with some salacious documents. According to Amirkhani, the truth of what their documents contain is irrelevant: what matters is how the information forces the player to react to reputation-ruining attack. I maintained my innocence and stole an employee's unattended gym membership card before making a hasty retreat.

Ambivalent situations and fluit truth appear to be common themes in the game. After being threatened by Stalker Media, I explored the first city. An elderly man asked for my help selecting a toy for his grandchild, who he didn't know very well. After following the slow-walking man to the toy shop, I was presented with seven toys: three marketed toward boys, three marketed toward girls, and an expensive set of building blocks. I was given complete freedom in selecting the toys, but the grandfather didn't have enough money to buy the blocks. I could have given him a loan, but I had already spent too much on groceries. Amirkhani revealed after I chose to purchase the tea set (assuming everybody loves a soothing pot of Moroccan mint), the child's gender was in flux until I decided. As out of place as gender-prescriptive gifts feel in a game that allows a great degree of racial and sexual flexibility for the main character and spouse, the quest demonstrates the game's attention to making choices.

Even with such a limited demo, Sometimes Always Monsters shows many improvements over its predecessor. Its sprites are more detailed and more compact, making the world appear larger and less cartooony. The soundtrack is likewise more expansive. For example, each of the travel partners has his or her own theme song, which can be accessed through the main character's cell phone for playing on the overworld. Sometimes Always Monsters doesn't have a release date; it will be released for PC.

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