E3 2014: Take a Cyberpunk Trip to Neo-San Francisco 2064 in ‘Read Only Memories’

AI will probably happen someday, and when it does things will start changing very quickly.  Will we see a robot apocalypse?  The integration of man and machine?  Or simply a new sentient race with which we need to co-exist?  Nobody knows, but when it starts there will be a lot of nervous people and just as many opportunistic ones.  Read Only Memories is an adventure game set in the New San Francisco of 2064, and you’re a reporter who’s just woken up to find Turing, the world’s first true AI, sitting in your apartment.  Life is going to get very interesting, very quickly.

Turing is a ROM, a PC from the far-flung future of fifty years from now. They’re a lot like Chobits’ persocoms except they look like robots instead of anime girls.  The ROMs are cleverly programmed to appear sentient, but Turing is the first to have true free will.  Turing’s creator has disappeared and, as a down-on-your-luck reporter, you’ve got the combination of obscurity and inquisitiveness necessary to help figure out what’s happened without drawing too much attention.  The opportunity to cover a real story (rather than fake enthusiasm for reviewing headphones) is too much to resist, so you set off to explore New San Francisco and see what you can learn.

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The adventure is designed with flexibility in mind, with most puzzles having multiple solutions.  We were given the example of a protest at city hall, where you need to get past the mob and inside the building.  You can either throw a rock and walk in after the riot ends, or talk the crowd down, but both solutions will get you to the goal.  The person you’re playing as is supposed to be whoever you’d like to be, and that extends to who you want to trust, how heavy-handed you’re willing to be, and even what gender pronoun Turing uses to refer to you.

Read Only Memories is designed by MidBoss (who held the convention GaymerX last year and is doing GaymerX2 in July this year) and its cast is going to be nothing but inclusive.  ROM envisions a future where gender identity and sexual preference are just accepted as aspects of one’s personality.  The cast runs the gamut of LGBTQ and whatever other letters may get tacked on to that acronym, but the story doesn’t push this information to the forefront.  The narrative is going to be notable in its acceptance by not having any of this be notable, but rather another part of its characters that’s only referenced if the situation calls for it.  If it’s important a character is transgendered then it gets mentioned, and if not then maybe it will get referenced in passing if the conversation path wanders that way.  Being inclusive and beating the player over the head with diversity are very different things, and the important part is the story of a missing AI developer in a cyberpunk future.

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You run around Ne0-San Francisco, get acquainted with the personality of the city, solve puzzles, and meet a broad cast of characters while working towards one of three endings.  While the E3 demo was short the writing was sharp, and the prologue sets up a story that should be a lot of fun to follow.  Read Only Memories looks to be a good throwback adventure game that applies a decidedly modern outlook to its 90s-style cyberpunk setting. The game is filled with personality and an appreciation for all the things that make San Francisco one of the world’s most interesting cities.