2016 sucked for a great many people. Carrie Fisher and countless other beloved celebrities passed away, the globe has seen the most political turmoil since the turn of the millennium, and as a cherry on top, the one time symbol of love for a generation, Brangelina, called it quits after a decade of power couple bliss. This might lead some to wonder about the state of the future and what it means as we head forward into a brave new world. The picture that developer MidBoss paints in their Kickstarted cyberpunk adventure tale 2064: Read Only Memories is quite a bit brighter than the present would lead you to believe all while still showing the faults in society still built and run by people.
2064: Read Only Memories takes place in 2064’s Neo-San Francisco and features terrific voice acting and an entertaining, if long winded, story. Complete with themes of inclusiveness and lovable cast of characters, 2064 does a great job of creating a fully-realized world that they manage to make feel alive despite the graphic adventure genre that it falls into. 2064 does a fantastic job of transitioning you to new and interesting places after only a little all while giving you a great perspective on the outlook of its varied and nuanced city.
The story in 2064: Read Only Memories is at its core a mystery tale about a missing person whose whereabouts you’re trying to uncover through interactions with various interesting characters. It’s the supplemental narratives in 2064, however, that make it a great journey to explore. In the future, humans have become so technologically advanced that many feature cybernetic enhancements blurring the line between humanity and machine. The first character you meet is the first newly-sentient robot, aptly named Turing, whose creator and your estranged friend Hayden has gone missing. As the story progresses and the mystery unravels, Turing’s sentience grows stronger and stronger as you see the robot grow into its own free will and begin to start question its own existence.
This exploration around the singularity and how the population at large will accept people who choose to go down a more tech savvy path in life is super reminiscent of last year’s Deus Ex: Mankind Divided. But instead of having to craft a fast and fluid action game around a story like that, 2064’s narrative stylings lead it to more thoroughly flesh out a world rife with upheaval which echoes and relates to some of the current political unrest that we see today. In 2017 we have lines, be them around race, orientation, gender or what have you that divide and define us in society. 2064 has these lines too, but instead of being centered around the problems of today they’ve been segued into ideas about what it means to be human in a highly advanced world, which mean that divisions around the different categories the we lump ourselves into in 2017 are a thing of the past and 2064 goes a great job of showing what a world looks like without our differences.
In what is surely the most inclusive game I’ve ever played, a variety of characters are introduced from a host of backgrounds that aren’t typically explored in a lot of games that help paint an outlook of a future society that is far from the one we have today. The biggest and most shining example of this is in the prologue, where while setting up your player character, you’re given the option to chose what pronouns you want to go by in the game or what type of diet you wish to keep to due to your religious background. It’s not something I’ve ever seen in game before, and while it’s just a brief choice at the beginning of an eight or so hour journey, it sets the tone of not only the world, but the ideologies behind the larger societal messages MidBoss is exploring in 2064: Read Only Memories.
From a gameplay perspective, Read Only Memories is a limited visual novel style variant on the adventure games genre. There are a number of significant conversations between you and your friends which do a fantastic job of making characters feel three dimensional. The different paths the your choices in these conversations can send you down and often branch off into completely different decision and ways to handle situations which can drastically change how characters interact with you. All of these are fantastic in making you feel as though you have true player agency in how you will be viewed by the people you meet on your journey.
Unfortunately, 2064 has some glaring deficits, most of which are that the game features no autosaving which is inexcusable in this day and age for a game not have. This is especially true when it comes to one which isn’t all that entertaining if you’re trying to make up lost progress. Having to listen to repeated conversations and make the same choices you’ve already made is an annoying thing to deal with, especially when there is no viable reason for the game not to have autosaving. Another minor, albeit frustrating, gripe is the lack of auto-scrolling in the text based conversations that you find yourself in throughout the game. In an experience with such excellent tight such excellent voice acting, being forced to click a button every other sentence is a little annoying and distracting from the great performances in Read Only Memories.
The puzzles in the game are also a little on the meaningless side. There’s nothing terribly challenging about them and often they don’t have solutions that a reward you in the way traditional adventure games work. Sure there’s no, “find out how this banana works with the light switch” type puzzles, but simple rudimentary square peg goes in a square hole aren’t any better. While these puzzles are far enough about apart that they don’t really ruin the experience with their constant eye rolling easiness, it’s a bit disheartening to spend a tedious five minutes on a line puzzle that takes me out of a cool interesting world and story.
2064: Read Only Memories is a glimpse into a cyberpunk future that has traded today’s modern problems in for more advance technological grade issues. The backdrop that Neo-San Fransisco sets up is one filled with an uneasy tension that really makes 2064 feel like an ultra futuristic high tech society, with real and intimate complexities that come along with human interaction. Through its creative cast and interesting interactions, 2064 brings its pixel art world to life. Despite a few technical hitches, 2064: Read Only Memories is a step forward in the way games interact and intersect with politics and how storytelling in games can make a statement in today’s climate.