So I played #Backbone through in its entirety, in one stream. It started out great, then turned into some #Marxist stupidity. The original Prologue chapter demo hooked me on the story concept and gameplay, but in the full version of the game you'll see the "illusion of choice" problem not just on full display - but very often in your face as a deliberate narrative. Most of the game - less than 7 hours from start to finish - is a near-absolute STRAIGHT LINE. You will lose count of the number of "dialogue options" that don't actually differ except in tone. Interactions with the world are usually just for flavor text with no impact on how anything plays out, and when they exist to advance the plot, you will only RARELY have more than one option. This is, in short, a side-scrolling 'walking simulator' where next to nothing you as a player do matters at all. Now, normally the saving grace for such games would be if it has a strong enough narrative to make the fact that it's essentially an interactive novel interesting. After all, well-written novels ARE interesting. And for the first few chapters, there is a good noir-style detective story going on. Which begins to derail starting at about the point that the authors start dropping hamfisted, clumsy real-world social commentary which simply doesn't fit the society they're describing. Which, by the way, is post-apocalyptic but doesn't look it because the city this all takes place in (Vancouver) is entirely self-sufficient - even STABLE. Outside the city are crumbling ruins and desiccated wastes. For a world which appears to have fallen to nuclear armageddon, these people are exceptionally well-to-do. But when we are introduced to the villains of the piece, their motives are handwaved into oblivion. A "religious cult" angle is tossed off as a theory but never confirmed or explored in any depth, instead becoming hijacked by a literal "rich eat the poor" angle which trips over itself at numerous key points. For example, a key element of this plotline revolves around a victim of the rich being a banker. Yet we're told this plot exclusively targets people who will never be missed, while the very reason you're investigating is because the banker IS being missed by someone with enough money to hire a detective. This lack of consistency for the class-warfare allegory repeats when a major villain repeatedly asserts real-world arguments about systemic oppression against women, this being their moral justification for extremely heinous acts. Except that post-apoc Vancouver doesn't seem to include systemic oppression against women. Women aren't kept out of the workplace, or places of power and authority, or the sciences, or anything else for that matter. Their workplaces don't appear to treat them any differently from men. In fact, most of the movers and shakers in Backbone's plot are female. If there's systemic oppression of women going on, the game doesn't show it, yet it's presented as a moral justification for mass murder. Victimization in Backbone appears to flip-flop entirely on basis of who the authors want you to feel sorry for at any given moment. Who they want you to feel sorry for is often not grounded in who that character is as an individual living in post-apoc Vancouver, but on real-world political affiliations which are haphazardly grafted onto them. These grafts also occasionally dive straight into political extremism, such as with a very-thinly-veiled "critique" of Ayn Rand's "Atlas Shrugged". Never was a fan of Rand, but one thing she very clearly wasn't was a fascist. Frankly, had she espoused her views in historical fascist regimes, she likely would have been imprisoned or executed for speaking against the State. So this comes across as the authors breaking the fourth wall to interject needless, self-defeating commentary about a book which - quite frankly - doesn't even have anything to do with the plot. All it really does it give a very glaring tell into the apparent personal politics of the authors, given that the sort of people who unironically call Rand a "fascist" also tend to unironically call themselves "Marxist". Topping all this off is the inclusion in the game of real-world violent political radicals as characters you're expected to be sympathetic to. Had I known the creative team was working with people who openly and proudly endorse political violence "for the greater good", I would never have given them a dime. I would demand my money back now, but you don't find these characters in the game until VERY late, well past Steam's refund policy allowance. TL;DR: this game is less than 7 hours long, has cringe-inducing writing with one of the most linear plots I've ever seen, and despite EXCELLENT music, animation, ambiance and aesthetics, simply doesn't have much in the way of gameplay. It also includes real-world political terrorists as sympathetic figures, while arguing in favor of such things as sexual inequality and mass murder as forms of social justice. Watch the gameplay on Youtube or Twitch and you'll get the same experience for free. https://www.twitch.tv/videos/1050178406
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