Wednesday, October 27th, 2021

Oxenfree 2 finds a smart way to expand the fascinating world of the series

The original Oxenfree was very special. In a night school studio walk-and-talk adventure game, players unravel the mysteries of Edwards Island, become obsessed (or cheeky) with the characters in their ensemble cast, and choose different dialogues as things get more and more creepy. You can do.

Thanks to the hands-off preview session with Oxenfree 2, the sequel isn’t trying to break what isn’t broken. Instead, developers who have almost all returned from the original deepen the foundations of the Oxenfree world, spin it out, break our brains a bit, and introduce some adorable new characters. Seems to have found an attempt. boot.

Oxenfree II is set in the same world as the original, but focuses on a whole new cast in which the player plays the role of environmental researcher Riley. She returned to the town of Camana to find out why electronics were affected by strange radio signals. Not surprisingly, Camana is not far from Edwards Island. Overnight supernatural events threaten this fascinating coastal town.

The new cast wastes your time on the original Oxenfree, whether you played it years ago, revisited it before the sequel, or just picked it up now. Does not mean. There are many acknowledgments in the story of the first game. In fact, the developers are updating the original Oxenfree on their PC with new audio clips that help bridge the story of this sequel villain, Parentage, with the original game.

However, the focus seems to be mainly on Riley’s story. Her confident tone mixes a touch of snark with a warm tone, perfect for the talkative world of night school. The first game dialogue blended Westwing-paced chattering with Veronica Mars-inspired wit. These characters are old, but the blend still feels at home as Riley and her friend Jacob explored Camana in the gameplay section I saw.

After all, games like Oxenfree live or die depending on how attractive, or at least interesting, these characters are, especially given that players are always making dialogue choices. Thankfully, Oxenfree II seems to continue to nail the tone of real, casual conversation that the night school excels at both the original and the afterparty. OxenfreeII seems to make player selection even more important this time around. A small example we saw included Riley jumping and falling a little below the rock, eventually trying to cross a non-jumpable gap. Jacob takes a much safer route and climbs rock walls to help her back up. Even such a small decision can lead to a new permutation of conversation. These moments symbolized the developer’s efforts in the sequel, so I was fascinated to see how the scene played differently.

Oxenfree2 preview screenshot

“That was definitely our first goal. We wanted more options that weren’t dialogue-based. Studio lead writer Adam Hines told IGN.” It’s also like that. It encouraged us to design the environment in a way that allows different types of moments to actually occur. It is unlikely that there will be only one path to get up or down. The road will always have a fork. Many, there are more micro-choices on how to get to a particular location. “

Another special highlight of the character’s relevance came when Jacob and Riley played a game of telling each other a story word for word.

I love those moments and have participated in night school past games, so if the team can continue to provide such a personal and witty scene like here, while exploring Camana I’m looking forward to discussing what else.

The little game, more importantly, comes from the character’s beat-Jacob is pretty surprised at everything that’s happening and the game helps calm his nerves. It’s very important that you don’t feel kitsch at such moments and that these characters are rooted in who they are, which made me more and more grateful for the scene. I think it’s worth mentioning that Jacob was nervous. Because he and Riley ended in 1899.

Need to go back in time

You see, the tears of time began to open around Camana. They will allow Riley and her companions to travel the time to a point that hopefully provides some assistance on their journey. In this case, the duo is adventuring through a tunnel that spans Camana (a developer-estimated exploration device that is certainly useful to the world is about 2.5 to 3 times larger than Edwards, but players don’t necessarily have to expect it. The sequel, which is three times as long to play, finds tears of time to bring them back until 1899, before the mines were abandoned after a major collapse. Thankfully, during this period there is an elevator that moves to help Riley and Jacob reach the tears of another time and return to their original place through a few simple puzzles. The only problem is-they are trying to pull this bit of platform and puzzle solving as the mines are actually collapsing around them.

I’m certainly an interdimensional rift sucker, and Oxenfree uses them on a much smaller scale than, for example, ratchets and cranks, which seems essential to the story of Oxenfree II. A character and location-focused game that not only gives you a better understanding of these facets in ways that the standard timeline couldn’t do, but also gives Riley a pretty gray area of ​​action. Did her and Jacob’s interference happen to cause the mine to collapse, or did they happen to be in the right place at the wrong time? I hope Oxenfree II does not always answer such questions. This is the type of rabbit hole in the time loop that such a story allows, and I love the possibilities that this one sequence promises.

The tears of time stimulate potential routes to explore as players as much as they seemed to develop. “In the first game, most of the choices and interactions came through dialogue … but as the nights got worse and things collapsed, tears became really exciting for us. ., Every space you’re looking at pops up inside with some new stuff that changes context based on where the game is at night, “said Studio Reed Sean Crankel. ..

“Maybe you can explore most of Camana and then return to the space you’re in, and things will change a bit,” he continued.

This time the tears are placed along the path of the main story, and the tears do work there, but the player finds opportunities for some of them, and other side quests throughout Camana. You can expect it.

“”[Time tears] Sure, not everything is directly tied to the exact story you’re experiencing, “Hines explained. “Much comes from transceiver side quests that you can encounter and choose to perform. All of these side quests are loosely related to the events that are happening at night, but people’s specific problems are: It goes in a wild and strange way where you sometimes have to go around the beaten road to solve it. “

However, my introduction to Time Tier also represents a scene that takes about an hour into the story of the sequel, which feels bigger than most of what the original Oxenfree can do. A few years later, Night School is a way to bring these characters and this world to life, not only in terms of clearly improved character model fidelity, but also in terms of sequence complexity that preserves an unforgettable and beautiful art style. Seems to have learned a lot about. original.

And it’s not just scale that seems to be the focus of night schools. The wider size of Camana not only creates a larger world-it allows night schools to fill the town with more interesting purposes, side quests and more. The demo showed some ways developers can do this.

The first is to use a walkie-talkie. Not only does this allow a wide group of characters to interact with the player anywhere on the camera, but it also allows the player agency to start a conversation whether or not it reminds them of a side quest. Learn more insights into your character along the way. This is a slight extension of the basic night school selection themes. Not only can you choose what to say in the conversation, but you also have a little more choice when you want to talk to some characters.

Screen-Oxenfree2

“Put the walkie-talkie there so that players can start a conversation with someone who isn’t on the screen. You can tag them with the characters they meet to see how they’re doing. It was a big nut that I found great to crack. It was the ability to start a conversation and drive it the way I wanted, “Hines said.

In addition, it includes ropes that players acquire early in the game, expanding movement and exploration. Riley, with a former military background, gives her more adventurous devotion some relevance, allowing players to rely on their skills and ropes to navigate a bit of Camana that is otherwise unreachable. increase. It doesn’t suddenly turn Oxenfree into a cramping platformer, but it again gives players more choices, and, equally importantly, to satisfy their curiosity about the secrets Camana has. Offers more ways.

“There’s definitely a lot of traversal built into the design, but it’s not a heavy platform, a double jump, or a swing across things,” Crankel explains. “It’s about getting players to analyze the map in a different way, not just feeling like they’re talking from left to right.”

My short time seeing Oxenfree II certainly showed that it wasn’t just about walking left and right. As Night School pointed out, Oxenfree hasn’t changed into an unexpected genre that its predecessors don’t recognize. Instead, it aims to deepen the promise of choice with the player’s agency within the created world and story, and does it in a way that goes beyond the choice of dialogue options during a conversation. Of course, I still need to play Oxenfree II and see how that sense of choice extends to a complete adventure, but the promise of that extended possibility is this short. It looked clear only in the section. I hope the rest of Camana is just as memorable.

Jonathon Dornbush is the host of IGN’s Senior Features Editor, PlayStation Leads, and Podcast Beyond. He is the father of a proud dog of a boy named Loki. Talk to him on twitter @jmdornbush..