I stumbled upon Always Sometimes Monsters several months ago and since then I’ve been intrigued to how they their choice system would work. Choice has been a rather big selling point nowadays, nothing more proves that than the extraordinary success of Telltale’s The Walking Dead and Bioware’s popularity, given that both companies’ games promise that their story will tailor to the player and their choices. Always Sometimes Monsters advertises that it will focus on relationships and consequence and having played The Walking Dead, Dragon Age, and Mass Effect I’d say Always Sometimes Monsters handled it best.
The plot of Always Sometimes Monsters follows your player character, a struggling writer, dealing a recent split with their significant other and deciding to travel across the country to win them back, of which you only have 30 days to do so. It’s simplistic but it does pave the way to introducing interesting characters and creating moral dilemmas. Always Sometimes Monsters is a game where you should go in unspoiled and be prepared for everything it throws at you, and seeing as it deals with such issues as racism, homophobia, sexual assault, and suicide it is going to throw everything at you and it won’t hold back.
Most of the issues dealing with racism and homophobia in Always Sometimes Monsters is due to the player’s ability to make their protagonist any gender, race, and sexual orientation. The homophobic and racist characters will treat the protagonist differently based on their appearance and preference. An example of this would be the landlord of the protagonist’s apartment, when I had played an Asian protagonist he had called me a “Little China Girl” and later when dealing with a rude doctor he states something about how he had fought in the Vietnam War. While most of the bigoted characters are just jerks, there are some noticeable bigots who just aren’t bad people when you get to know their character, which can make situations difficult as although you know their infuriating prejudices you can sympathise with them, or completely call them out and refuse to help.
Earlier I had praised the choice system of Always Sometimes Monsters, and while it does offer consequences of doing certain actions I believe it is much better at making the player actually feel accountable for their actions. I would advise people go into Sometimes Always Monsters with as little spoilers as possible (as even things like the character selection can be considered a spoiler!), however for the purposes of giving an example of how the choices work, I will go over the first set of choices.
Your protagonist awakes with two notes slid under their door, one note telling them they’re a deadbeat and set to be evicted if they don’t pay up and the other offering work for the day from the protagonist’s good friend but after leaving your room you can stumble upon your friendly elderly neighbour who offers to pay you for helping her with her chores. If the protagonist chooses to help their friend they’ll be paid significantly more but if the neighbour is helped then you can learn about her, her life… or possibly steal all of her money to pay off your $500 rent.
Sometimes Always Monsters is extremely well written, but I’m aware many people will be put off with its simplistic graphics, which are very reminiscent of RPG Maker and the Harvest Moon series. When having dealt with the major event of the day you are free to spend the rest of the day to sleep or interact with characters, but you will mainly spend this free time working whether it is just to speed the day along or because you need money – and you will need money. There are a multitude of jobs that are available to the protagonist from working as a bartender, at a daycare, in a slaughterhouse to helping out at a weedfarm, and these feel mundane but they’re supposed to, and while I’m aware of that and know their completely optional it did drag on a tad. Another slight problem I found is for those that tend to bash enter too fast, in a dialogue tree if enter is pushed it will automatically choose the first choice, which can lead to problems and reloading so I would advise waiting until the character stops speaking.
With that being said, I can think of no overly major problems with Always Sometimes Monsters as long as you know what you’re in for. There’s no major gameplay and the controls consist of mainly enter, the arrows keys and Esc, and these keys can be changed. Always Sometimes Monsters also enables gamepad support, if that is the preferred method. It is utterly story driven and I have found myself in love with some of the quirkier characters, and feeling real sympathy for the characters who feel totally down and out, I care for the characters and the plot and I wanted to root on my hero, even if they were to blame for most of their own misfortune. If you can ignore the occasional grinding for money there’s a very intriguing story, and with the amount of choices I can see why Always Sometimes Monsters was being hyped as a future indie gem, and in my opinion, it exceeded my expectations.
Publisher: Devolver Digital
Developer: Vagabond Dog
Price: £6.29 (Steam)/$9.99 (Humble)
- Steam: http://store.steampowered.com/app/274310/
- Humble: https://www.humblebundle.com/store/p/alwayssometimesmonsters_storefront
Summary: Surprisingly dark and gritty, some choices will haunt you. Many will be put off by the graphical style and mundane jobs but a well written game that is very much worth your money if you value story.