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AI: The Somnium Files - New game from writer and director of Zero Escape series - September 2019

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The above trailer is pretty...:blink:

 

Surprised there hasn't been any interest in this title on here, given the popularity of the Zero Escape series. Written and directed by Kotaro Uchikoshi, it's basically the Jennifer Lopez film 'The Cell', in game form. You play a detective who solves crimes by entering the dreams of others. And like that film, it's pretty grisly. 

 

Outside of the trailer, I've been pretty much on blackout for this. It looks right up my street and I'll be day one on its release on July 26th. 

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Add me to the list of going in cold on this. Need to finish zero time dilemma first though

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I have been following this game, but there hasn't been much to talk about because so little has been released about it. They've had one teaser trailer and now this one. Plus a few skits featuring the main girl character. They promoted her in the real world via a twitter account in her name, released a song of hers, and even did an interview with her and game writer Uchikoshi. Uchikoshi has said little about Somnium Files in panels and interviews, we just know its basically a detective game with murders and stuff and the main guy has this special cyborg eye which lets him find clues and go into dreams. If there is a death game of some kind involved I wouldn't be surprised!

 

I deliberately avoided the trailer above as I don't want spoilers. The premise is basically the detective delves into people's dreams to hunt for clues, which to me is a pretty crappy wishy-washy idea based on the artwork they showed for it. But as Uchikoshi's first big game since Zero Escape, I can't rule it out. Fingers crossed. I just don't know how you follow up Zero Escape, hopefully Uchikoshi will prove there is life beyond The Nonary Games. I don't want to know too much more about it, as long as it's good then the whole fun is knowing as little as possible about the plot.

 

I'm also keeping my eyes on the Death March Club project between Uchikoshi and the Danganropa creator, which Uchikoshi should be working on full time after this game. It's not a visual novel, some are saying it may be an action platformer, but the premise is a death game with kids and Uchikoshi is the main writer. Not sold on the cutesy art style though: https://www.polygon.com/2018/10/4/17936360/death-march-club-too-kyo-games-danganronpa-zero-escape.

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This has been delayed until September 20th. But there's a nice physical collectors edition for those who are interested.

 

 

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This is out in 10 days time and given its coming out in the middle of silly season it really is going to be overlooked which is a huge shame. The game looks properly mental. 

 

 

I have the Collectors Edition on pre-order. :)

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I've been avoiding the latest trailers on this to avoid spoilers, but I really hope it lives up to Uchikoshi's previous games. The question is whether to just trust him and buy it as soon as it's released, or wait for reviews first?

 

Another problem is that other games in the genre, like Zero Escape and Danganronpa often get mixed review scores because they're quite a niche genre. They also have various flaws. But  for me the story, atmosphere and WTF moments far outweigh any other downsides. If anyone knows any "trusted" websites or reviewers for this type of game, do speak up!

 

Fingers crossed for this one, and if it does turn out good I really hope it doesn't go un-noticed.

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More reviews trickling out, Eurogamer Recommended today: 

https://www.eurogamer.net/articles/2019-09-16-ai-the-somnium-files-review-a-bizarre-story-masterfully-told

 

Kotaku has a mid playthrough impressions article too:

https://www.kotaku.co.uk/2019/09/16/zero-escape-directors-new-game-is-another-twisty-captivating-mystery

 

I've only skimmed the paragraphs related to plot and characters so as not to spoil anything. The overall impressions though are that its just like any other Uchikoshi game: branching plotlines, twists, science, weirdness, lewd jokes and escape room style puzzling. Voice acting is supposed to be good. They're basically saying if you like Zero Escape and co, you'll like this. Can't wait now, will be buying it pronto!

 

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I've deliberately read next to nothing about the game; as a result I'd completely forgotten it was coming so soon, so thanks for the heads-up. I'm very much looking forward to this. If it's half as good as the Zero Escape games it'll be well worth a purchase.

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Gamespot 8/10

I've not really read the review as it seems to contain way too many plot details. But if you don't mind learning about the story go ahead: https://www.gamespot.com/reviews/ai-the-somnium-files-review-eyes-love-you/1900-6417301/

 

I was looking at preordering and once again Chunsoft is going for premium price - 45 quid on PS4 and 52 quid on Switch. It hurts - not that I'm against paying that much for games but as you know it will be short and you'll probably only play it once, its a bit of a gutpunch for those on a low budget. I really believe that if they'd stuck to a slghtly lower price bracket with this and Zero Escape then more people would be willing to take the chance. Zero Time Dilemma was the same.

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Really want to get on board with this, but it's out at the absolute worst time. Link's Awakening, Untitled Goose Game and Sayonara Wild Hearts are already on my shopping list for this week :(.

 

Don't let me forget this exists, guys.

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Every time I’m reminded of this I get happier. Cannot wait. Can’t remember if I’ve preordered a special edition though 

 

edit £52 ooof :(

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What was the consensus on Zero Time Dilemma? I loved 999 and VLR but the third did nothing for me and I can't decide if it was just poor or my tastes have changed/I expect too much from these games now.

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50 minutes ago, Yasawas said:

What was the consensus on Zero Time Dilemma? I loved 999 and VLR but the third did nothing for me and I can't decide if it was just poor or my tastes have changed/I expect too much from these games now.

ZTD definitely wasnt as a good as VLR or 999.  I'll pick this up but not at ful price. give it a few months and it will be on sale

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Nah Zero Time Dilemma was very divisive because of its big shift in the format and the low budget animation, you're far from alone. Lots of people think its pretty rubbish compared to the first two Zero Escapes. I really enjoyed it (after the initial dissapointment) but it is quite a bit weaker than 999 and VLR.

 

What's important to know about Zero Time Dilemma though are these facts. First, it ran into massive development issues because it was going to get canned (its worth googling to find out the full story). That's why the animation is so ropey, for example. This also led to Uchikoshi outlining the overall plot but only writing half of the scenarios in the game (unsuprisingly most of these were team Carlos'), and other writers did C-Team (which is by far the weakest group with Eric and co). The game only got saved after international fans made such a big and heartfelt appeal that Chunsoft decided to get it finished after all, but even then it had a terrible budget and a short timeframe. 

 

The pacing in Zero Time Dilemma is way off thanks to its fragmented format, which makes it confusing as well and hard to care about the characters. That puts a lot of players off. Unfortunately a lot of people don't stick with it, because its in its final hours when all the fragments start joining up, that's when it becomes an amazing rollercoaster. Uchikoshi also did a pretty mediocre job of tying up loose ends with it which annoyed a lot of fans (including me).

 

So as you can see Zero Time Dilemma went through some troubled development and its kind of a miracle we even got it at all. Some people would still argue it would have been better off not made, but if you embrace its flaws there's still a great story in there (and oodles of atmosphere). That's why I was so curious as to what Uchikoshi's next game would be and whether he still had his mojo - fortunately from the reviews for the Somnium Files, it sounds like he's still got it.

 

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This is out at midnight tonight in the EU, although the lucky US already have it.

 

I got it on preorder via PSN two days ago (45 quid down from 50 quid). On the purchase page it said 23 hours to go (at 1 in the morning). So last night at midnight I excitedly logged in to download it... and the timer was back up to 24 hours. So it turns out that the PSN pre-orders timer doesn't show days, instead it counts down every 24 hours and then resets every day until release day! So I had no game and have to wait another day to play it :(

 

Sort out your pre-order design Sony!

 

PS The special editions look quite nice if you're into that kind of thing, with an art book and other bits and bobs. 

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1 hour ago, Alan Stock said:

 

PS The special editions look quite nice if you're into that kind of thing, with an art book and other bits and bobs. 

I've got the special edition on preorder. Only ended up paying about £60 for it from The Game Collection. But they haven't even processes the order yet so I very much doubt I'll be getting it tomorrow. 

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2 hours ago, Alan Stock said:

I got it on preorder via PSN two days ago (45 quid down from 50 quid).

 

I went to do just that this morning but it seems they've pulled it from the store until tomorrow for some reason. Is that the norm for digital pre-orders on PSN? Frustrating if it's the full £50 tomorrow.

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It's vanished from the PS4 Store for me too, plus its gone from my Purchased Library, as of last night. Rather worrying and I hunted online for answers. In a thread on the Zero Escape Reddit it seems we're not alone. One guy emailed Spike Chunsoft for answers and they said they weren't aware of it and are gong to look into the issue now - so I'm really hoping it still appears on release or I'm going to be really pissed! I've tweeted at their English Twitter account too for an update but I'm not holding my breath to hear from them before midnight. Fingers crossed!

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It’s very odd; it seems to still be there in other countries, plus it’s still available to pre-order on Switch. Oh well, as you say, I guess we’ll find out in a few hours. 

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3 hours ago, strawdonkey said:

Standard edition on Switch arrived today from The Game Collection. Plans for tonight are thoroughly out the window.

 

Plot twist: I've had to spend the evening sorting some cupboards out instead. Curses!

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So I've played this for maybe 4 - 5 hours, and things are starting to get interesting. What follows are spoiler-free impressions.

 

Somnium Files has a much slower pace than Zero Escape (or the writer's other games), and so far there have been no WTF moments or heart racing tension. That's not to say it's bad by any means, it just hasn't grabbed me too much yet. However there are plenty of little mysteries and seeds being planted which I know will pay off later, plus some of the reviews I skimmed mentioned it is off to a slow start before things start getting really good. It's starting to get there but so far I've definitely not been in the mindset of playing it till 6am like Zero Escape because I have to know what happens. I do have faith though and I heard it gets really tense and crazy later on with the usual Uchikoshi twists and excitement.

 

So throw any preconceptions that this is like Zero Escape (at least the first few hours) out the window. This is very much a dialogue based police investigation with a scattering of dreamlike weirdness and technology thrown in, so far (I'm on Day 3 or 4). You talk to people, you investigate places, you explore dreams and a murder mystery unfolds. The writing is pretty good so far, it's very Uchikoshi in how the characters speak (I assume its the same translation team too). There's all the usual sexual innendo and silliness you'd expect, the characters are solid so far too. And yes, of course there are plenty of boobs and cute girls, although thankfully not every girl is like that.

 

For anyone who was worried about the animation and art style after Zero Escape Time Dilemma, have no fear. In Somnium Files the characters look good, they are animated fine, they're expressive and the lip synch is even good. There are plenty of cutscenes and although the animation can be stiff overall it's a vast improvement over Time Dilemma. The art style is a bit weird with some characters looking realistic and others straight out of a manga but it holds together fine and looks pretty good.

 

The voice acting is good so far and the music is pretty great. I'm pretty sure it must have the same composer/s as Zero Escape as the style is similar and there are plenty of catchy melodies. The music tone is lighter overall with more chilled out and silly moments but there's room for that to develop as the plot gets darker.

 

Gameplay-wise there's plenty of dialogue options when talking to people although a lot of it is just exhausting each conversation tree. You spend plenty of time on screens with a cursor clicking around investigating objects - even when just talking to main characters you can usually explore the background room to find out more. I've given up clicking on chairs and stuff "A chair" but just like Zero Escape some mundane objects can lead to little conversations between the characters. Crime scene investigations are so far akin to Danganronpa, click around and use abilities until you find everything so the plot can move on. Dream exploration is a bit weird mechanically with more of a puzzle element to it, although it seems a bit trial and error (I've only done a few so far, about to head into my third). There are other little bits of interactivity in the game too which seem to be increasing as the game goes on. Although the game is quite railroady so far, there have been a few choices about where to go, when to leave an area, and certain actions to take. There may be details I've missed which could affect the plot, as of yet I have no clue how the structure of the game works.

 

So it's been quite enjoyable so far but not gripping, plenty of good ideas though and lots of mysteries being set up. No sign of flow charts (although there's one in the menu i won't look at it yet), no game overs or anything yet either - although there have already been a few choices I've made which definitely seem like "routes" or potential game over situations.

 

I'm guessing based on reviews its building up slowly and will pay off the further into the game I get. I was actually expecting quite a short game (somehow forgetting that doing all routes on Zero Escape games could take 20 hours+), but it seems like I'm still quite early on. It's enjoyable so far but I'll be playing on in anticipation of it getting better and better as it goes on, fingers crossed.

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12 hours in here; it's very much "Uchikoshi does Ace Attorney", for good and for ill. It features full branching and nicely twisty narrative, but trades thought-provoking puzzles and out of control conversations with a bizarro cast for (literal) dream-logic puzzles and the full Ace Attorney "interview every suspect from a menu of options and click on every hotspot" exploration sections.

 

The way the branching is handled is... interesting. No plot spoilers, but a potential mechanical one if you want to go in completely blind (though the game will literally spell this out to you after the very first dream):

 

The plot only ever branches based on dream sequences, not on the exploration/dialogue sections. Which does take a bit of the tension away from those sections, and also means that most 'choices' you make are completely uninformed ones, as the dream logic makes any kind of reasoned decision making all but impossible.

 

I'm enjoying it a lot - I'd put it on about a par with 999 at the moment - with an enjoyably twisty story and suitably odd cast of characters. It does, as you'd expect, an excellent job of drip-feeding you bits of information and letting you figure things out in a satisfying way. On the downside, I do wish that 'pervert' wasn't a defining character trait of the protagonist, and there have been enough moments in the game of overly-convenient dramatic timing and/or severe cases of idiot protagonist to undermine things a little.

 

Also, one word of warning: I got the Switch version, and it has serious performance issues at certain points in the game, with frame-rates occasionally dropping to the point where moving the cursor and clicking on things becomes tricky, and with loading times mid-conversation that really spoil the flow of things - I've even had to crash out twice due to the game getting stuck trying to load assets in. The portability is convenient, but unless the game gets patched I'd have to recommend going for the PS4 or PC versions to (hopefully) avoid those issues.

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Good to hear your experiences Wiper. I played a few more hours tonight and things got good fast, a good wee rollercoaster and I reached an "ending", some twists I kinda saw coming but other mysteries I didn't. Now I have access to the flowchart and will resume tomorrow to go back in time and see more story. As I suspected it's gotten a lot better once things start kicking off with lots of questions left to answer. 

 

The dreamstate is kind of annoying in how (understandably but frustratingly) there isn't a great deal of logic and a heap of trial and error. Which would be fine but as the dream segments have a time limit you keep having to reset if you mess up. And I ran out of time in one dream segment tonight, thinking "oh I wonder how this will change the plot?" only to discover you just restart from the beginning of the dream if you fail, negating the whole tension of the thing as you know the right actions to do on any retries.

 

Despite this qualm the story is quite compelling now and the characters are good. I hear ya on the pervert thing, it does get a bit old, I mean it can be funny at times but although it was also prevelant in Zero Escape they've gone a bit overboard with it in this game.

 

The branching mechanic seems a bit odd but the effective removal of choice isn't a big deal for me, as in the previous games it boiled down to going through every choice anyway to get the full story.

 

I'm on base PS4 for this and have had no technical issues at all, most of the loading is near instant and I haven't had any major frame drops. I find with the Switch quite a lot of games get framerate issues unless you play docked, which is why I try to play docked as much as possible!

 

Looking forward to seeing how the story branches now. I would love to ask Wiper what you got for your first ending (I'm curious as to whether the first playthrough is the same for everyone) - but of course we may end up spoiling it for each other if not, so I'll wait until I've finished the game before I start asking about other folks playthroughs.

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Alas, I've played the game primarily docked (indeed, the two complete hangs have been while in docked mode) so that's not the issue.

 

I've reached two "proper" endings and three locks in the game. First route follows - I've kept things as vague as possible, but spoiler tagged for anyone who doesn't want to know anything: 

 

Well, I guess I've two, actually. The first was a lock, rather than an ending, as Date finds a certain corpse for the second time in the same run, to general distress. My second actual, and first "proper" ending, along the same primary branch, instead saw Date giving into delusion and doing an extremely poor job of saving a certain someone from a terminal medical condition, to his surprise.

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I'm enjoying this but I do feel that the location doesn't work as well as the locked facility of 999 and VLR but as said, it's generally more like a Phoenix Wright game, so it's not a huge issue. 

 

I'm concerned it doesn't have quite the same clever structure in it's flow chart as those either but I'm enjoying it and hopefully it keeps getting crazier. I've also done three "endings" now and unlocked one storyline lock so hopefully it isn't smaller than the earlier games due to having nicer graphics. 

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