Welcome to Neo-Paris. The year is 2084. Memory — as we know it — is commodified.
The Memorize corporation has invented a new brain implant called the Sensation Engine (Sensen), allowing the entire population of Neo-Paris to upload and share their memories in a stored database, removing unhappy or unpleasant memories in the process. Via the Sensen, Memorize now controls the thought process of much of the population, allowing them to effectively spy on memories and establish a surveillance state — an analogue for the NSA if there ever was one.
You play as Nilin, a memory hunter and former ‘Errorist’, who at the start of the game is imprisoned in the Bastille Fortress, on the verge of having the entirety of her memory ripped from her subconscious. This isn’t your daddy’s (or great, great great grandfather’s) Bastille, no — this is a prison where inmates are made docile by wiping them of all forms of mental resistance. Not so much a prison as where hopes and dreams go to die.
Soon before her own memory is erased from her, Nilin is contacted by the mysterious Edge, a revolutionary leader of the ‘Errorists,’ reminiscent of Morpheus’s role in the original Matrix film. Due to the brutal torture, Nilin is in a nearly catatonic state, but Edge guides her out of the Bastille, right in to the sewers of Neo-Paris. This is where the Leapers live; memory-addicted humans who have degraded into subhuman form due to the total fragmentation of their self. Nilin fights her way through the sewers and winds up in Neo-Paris, a sprawling metropolis on the precipice of collapse where much of the game takes place.
Got it memorized?
Remember Me uses shades of Assassins Creed for its platforming, and a watered-down version of Batman: Arkham Asylum’s fighting system for its combat. Players jump and climb around much like Altaïr or Ezio, but instead of free-roam climbing, players are relegated to following yellow arrows, following a linear path to hop around the city of Neo-Paris. As far as the combat goes, it doesn’t flow quite as organically as the Batman Arkham series, but the use of S-Pressens (or special abilities), allow for unique interrupts in the middle of combat, including button-mashing combo breakers, electric shocks, and temporary invisibility.
One innovative feature is that players can customize their combos in the Combo Lab, which uses four families of fighting moves called Pressens. These can be reorganized to create chains, with a limit of four combos being active at any time. The four Pressen families are ‘Regen’ (healing), ‘Power’ (damage), ‘Chain’ (duplication and doubling of previous moves), and ‘Cooldown’ (regeneration of S-Pressen energy), and using them in logical combinations helps to step up your combat game immensely.
Still, the gameplay is not where Remember Me shines nor is where the game tries to stand out. Its story, world-building, and atmosphere come together to create a cohesive and believable world as strong as any dystopia in literary or pop culture canon. The world of Neo-Paris feels real -, from the French writings on the wall which most English speaking gamers will not understand, to the colorful and believable cast of characters, Remember Me’s Neo-Paris feels like a place that is lived in and inhabited by a modicum of different classes and races all on the brink of collapse.
Speaking of diversity, one of the more bold decisions of Remember Me is to cast Nilin as a biracial female. It’s difficult enough to sell a game to a male-dominated market with a female protagonist, but developer Dotnod Entertainment takes it a step further by making their protagonist a person of color.
“It is not our differences that divide us. It’s our inability to recognize, accept, and celebrate those differences,” said civil rights activist Audre Lorde, and this couldn’t ring more true for the plot and character arcs of Remember Me. The game is all about it’s classist and racial tones, and Nilin’s journey proves no exception; as her background is revealed, her character arc gradually comes to realization when her memories slowly return, making her arc from brutal ‘Errorist’ operative to fully realized human that can recognize difference an organic and compelling one.
As for Neo-Paris itself, the city is filled with social stratification, from the aforementioned Leapers, to robotic assistants that are treated little better than slaves, and Nilin’s race and gender serve to provide a further meta-commentary on what is there versus what is expected in a modern game protagonist; in other words, Nilin serves as the antithesis of the wisecracking white male that inhabits so many of our games.
Outside of its atmosphere and strong thematic undertones, one of the more interesting segments of Remember Me is the memory remix segments. As a prolific memory hunter, Nilin has the ability to tap into unsuspecting people’s minds, recreating their memories in order to better side with Nilin, having her partake in the same memory manipulation that the so-called ‘evil’ Memorize corporation does. While the game could have used several more of these segments to further flesh out its world, the one’s that did make the game are compelling and interesting, letting you into the character’s minds in a both an organic and literal way, and allowing you to manipulate the memories of others, getting a taste of what the Sensen can and does do to people who inhabit Neo-Paris. With a simple memory remix, you can easily see why so much of the population of Neo-Paris became addicted to memory, little more than former husks of themselves with memory-addled brains that are only fixated on survival.
Although invoking and thematically challenging due to its emphasis on story and world-building over gameplay, Remember Me is likely a game that will likely prove polarizing to fans of the action-adventure genre, expecting stronger emphasis on gameplay and less emphasis on its world. Still, as an eight-hour action adventure game, Remember Me is a title worth checking out for fans of dystopic science fiction and a strong and compelling narrative — just don’t expect the gameplay to wow you in any significant way.