Always Sometimes Monsters (PC) Review

By Athanasios 30.09.2014

Review for Always Sometimes Monsters on PC

Always Sometimes Monsters doesn't pretend to be a role-playing game where one's choices can change the course of events, but it actually is one! Is it perfect? Far from it, but still it remains an entertaining dive into a world where, just like in the real one, the true monsters aren't Orcs and Dragons, but the everyday challenges of life. The guys from Vagabond Dog started out with a rough diamond, but a diamond nonetheless.

There is no sword-wielding demigod or super warrior with spiky haircut here. The one whose story will be told is nothing more than an ordinary Joe/Jane. Apart from being unemployed, penniless, starving and homeless, the main character's former partner is getting married in a distant city in just 30 days. From now on, our unfortunate friend must, with whatever means necessary, manage to arrive at the wedding in time and just hope for the best, or at least the least worse. Now, despite the lack of sexy witches, gargantuan monsters or alien warlords, Always Sometimes Monsters turns out to be quite epic in its own unique way.

The trip to the place where the wedding will take place, soon proves to be something much harder than just buying a ticket and riding the bus. Obstacles appear from the very beginning, leading the hero to start searching for ways to accomplice the task at hand. However, the whole trip to the church is far from a linear one. The road is full of crossroads where choices will have to be made, with each decision seriously changing how the story will unfold, and all this without forgetting the fact that the protagonist must also manage to survive from all the hardships that life has to offer to those that sleep underneath the stars.

Screenshot for Always Sometimes Monsters on PC

There are no complex controls or game mechanics to learn here. With just one button doing all the hard work, anyone can pick this RPG up and just start playing. The concept is equally simple. The protagonist must roam the city, talk with as many residents as possible, gather clues or useful items and, of course, grab any available opportunities. The developers' love for their creation shines through the attention they have given to every aspect of the game world, by making each step count, since almost every character has something to add to the overall experience, whether that's job offers or just a bit of well written dialogue.

What must be done here, though? What must the hero do in order to reach his goal? At the very beginning of this odyssey, reality will barge in and show its ugly face by proving in the harshest way that nothing can be done without money, and unfortunately a lot of it must be gained in order to not die from starvation or help people in need, but most importantly pay the expenses of cross-country traveling. Fortunately, there are various solutions to this problem, each one with its own pros and cons. It is possible to get employed, sell items at pawn shops, gamble or steal, and finally, try one's luck at a poor-man's version of the Stock Exchange Market.

Screenshot for Always Sometimes Monsters on PC

While playing, it will soon become obvious that the gameplay has taken a backseat, since Always Sometimes Monsters focuses more on telling a story instead of giving gamers something to kill. Now, while that is without a doubt what it does best, the few bits of actual gameplay that are left are somewhat flawed. Take jobs, for example. They are nothing more than a bunch of mindless "mini-games," that require no real skill. This can help with the immersion into a virtual world, since the in-game jobs are similarly boring with the real ones, but still, this is just a video game and doing these mundane tasks over and over again isn't exactly a fun thing to do.

The real beauty of the game, though, is the way it handles character interaction, which proves to be a much more crucial part of the gameplay. The reason is the main theme explored here, which is choice and how can it affect the events that lie ahead. Non-player characters don't just talk with the hero or just ask for a bit of help with something. Instead they offer many different choices. Help the old lady or leave her alone in fear of losing a job? Accept a bribe or decline? Lie or be honest? Whatever the choice, it will truly affect the game by altering how things will eventually turn out.

Screenshot for Always Sometimes Monsters on PC

Apart from those who want adrenaline-pumping action, the rest are very likely to be genuinely entertained, for a plethora of reasons. First of all, the story and how it is told is excellent. In the intro everything is supposed to be going for the best, but after this short scene and a whole year, the protagonist has lost everything without any reason given to the player, something that creates a great feeling of curiosity and passion of solving this mystery. There are many people to interact with, who will at first seem stereotypical or simplistic, but will soon turn out to be well-thought and in-depth characters, and most importantly, they will feel very, very real, since their behaviour can seriously affect how will the gamer feels, thinks and acts. The dialogue is another strong point of the game, extremely well written, with many conversations dealing with social or political issues, sexuality, life and death, and other serious matters.

Mostly it's all about the fragile nature of morality and how one's view of it can change, depending on the circumstances. One great example is the 30-day limit imposed on the main character, something that will create a wonderful feeling of urgency, but also make the observer's vision of good and evil way easier to change. The crown jewel of Always Sometimes Monsters, though, is how immersive it is. It's nearly impossible not to get totally absorbed in. What happens in the screen will actually resonate to the heart of the one watching the whole deal, mainly because the struggles of the hero are stuff that almost all people have encountered one way or the other. In fact, even the choices offered are often similar to real life ones, making the gamer feel what the main character feels, no matter what his/her sex, colour or sexual orientation is.

Screenshot for Always Sometimes Monsters on PC

Cubed3 Rating

8/10
Rated 8 out of 10

Great - Silver Award

Rated 8 out of 10

The developers have every right to feel proud for this wonderful game, which brings a breath of fresh air to the role-playing game genre. Sure, helping a hopeless vagabond to survive the dangers of the street while doing everything possible to find true love might not seem such a promising concept, but that is only a tiny fraction of what this wonderful piece of software really is. The road to the final scene is filled with hundreds of crossroads where there usually isn't a right or wrong choice, with morality usually being in the eye of the beholder. The lack of modern visuals and extremely minimal sound might discourage people from trying it out, but those perceptive enough to do so will discover a game with a great replay value, especially when compared to its low price.

Developer

Vagabond Dog

Publisher

Devolver Digital

Genre

Adventure

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  8/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date None   Australian release date Out now   

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