In Beyond: Two Souls, Quantic Dream and the game’s director David Cage, build on the previous game design they have used in Indigo Prophecy and Heavy Rain. These games tell a narrative story through interactive queues. I really enjoyed Heavy Rain, the story it told, and how it unfolded. With Beyond, they pushed this brand of storytelling by having Hollywood actors for motion capture and voice acting. Ultimately, although there are memorable moments the story doesn’t reach the heights it tries to reach.
Beyond follows the character Jodie Holmes, who was played wonderfully by Ellen Page, from childhood through her adult life. She has a ghostly entity that is connected to her that she calls Aiden. As the player you control Jodie and when she needs help, the player controls Aiden. Aiden is able to open doors, knock items over, choke enemies, and take over enemies by inhabiting them. Ellen Page’s superb acting really shines throughout the game and was a real highlight. She is able to say so much through facial expressions which has only happened a few times in video games. William Dafoe and Kadeem Harrison play research doctors who are trying to find out how to help Ellen control Aiden. Both give good performances however Ellen Page outshines them both.
With a game that doesn’t have much gameplay, the story must carry the experience. This is where I feel David Cage and Quantic Dream didn’t fully succeed. The game plays out in segments of Jodie’s life but doesn’t take place chronologically. This makes the story feel disconnected and schizophrenic. Jodie will be a child, then she’s a CIA agent, then homeless, and then back to childhood, all within an hour of the story. This made for less emotional impact and felt like small vignettes into her life, which never let me fully connect with the character. By the end, I wanted to feel more for her but I didn’t. By telling the story in chronological order, I feel it would have made be more invested in the story.
I appreciate the risks that Quantic Dream took with the game and most of it succeeds. Beyond: Two Souls provides enough memorable moments and pushes the limits of performance capture and graphical fidelity that is worth playing. I just wish I cared more of the characters by the end.