AI: The Somnium Recordsdata is an journey recreation that mixes two basic storytelling genres: the homicide thriller and the buddy-cop film. On prime of that, the “buddy” for AI’s lead character, detective Kaname Date, is not human. Or animal, for that matter. Slightly, it is a snarky, quirky, super-powered female synthetic intelligence within the form of an eyeball–named Aiba–that lives in his left eye socket and has a direct connection to his mind. Oh, and he or she additionally helps Date by remodeling right into a humanoid avatar type to discover the dream worlds of varied characters you meet all through the sport. Discuss an odd couple, huh?
It is an intriguing idea for positive. Fortunately, the near-future sci-fi detective story that AI: the Somnium Recordsdata tells lives as much as the promise of its distinctive premise, delivering an incredible dialogue-driven journey that sucks you in and doesn’t let up till all of its twisted mysteries have been unraveled.
Date is a detective for a secret, experimental Tokyo police division referred to as ABIS. When the physique of his finest buddy’s ex-wife is discovered displayed in an deserted amusement park, Date quickly finds himself swept up in a posh investigation to seek out the offender earlier than they strike once more. Alongside the way in which, he crosses paths with a bubbly up-and-coming web character, her diehard fanboy (and his beleaguered mom), a Yakuza group, a corrupt politician, and the sufferer’s younger daughter, amongst many different odd, attention-grabbing, and sinister personalities. And that is not even mentioning the oddest character of all of them: Aiba, his quick-witted and sharp-tongued AI associate and confidant in exploring the case.
Having a smart-alecky AI always feeding commentary into your mind would possibly sound nightmarish, however Aiba comes with some particular expertise to help Date along with his investigations: X-ray imaginative and prescient, warmth sensing, zooming to investigate cross-check faraway locations, and even the power to assist Date in quick-time event-style fight. However Aiba’s greatest position is to assist Date get info from the varied characters by appearing as his avatar of their dream worlds. When interrogation will get powerful, ABIS employees hooks a topic as much as a Psync machine, which permits Date and Aiba to discover their topics’ unconscious “somnium” dream world to uncover clues and deeply hidden (and typically forgotten) secrets and techniques. The tour is beneath a strict time limit–otherwise their consciousnesses grow to be ceaselessly intertwined.
Gameplay within the exploration and investigation sections of AI: The Somnium Recordsdata follows a reasonably typical point-and-click journey recreation model: You have a look at objects within the environments for clues and discuss to characters by making feedback and asking questions. The best way AI handles these sections makes you much less prone to get caught than in different journey video games, nevertheless. You are solely given the choice to maneuver to a brand new space as soon as you have achieved all the things essential to advance the story in a single explicit location, which ensures you received’t must backtrack or fear that you just’re lacking something vital. In the event you can’t transfer to the map, you understand there’s nonetheless extra to do.
Whereas exploring the varied environments will yield a good quantity of clues, it is the interactions Date has with the varied characters (and Aiba’s reactions to these interactions) that basically transfer AI’s twisting thriller alongside. Every character you work together with is exclusive and memorable in their very own manner. There’s Iris, the cheery aspiring web idol whose mischievous character causes Date a lot consternation; Ota, a loyal fan of Iris with quite a few nerdy pursuits; So, a slimy politician along with his fair proportion of secrets and techniques; Boss and Pewter, two eccentric personalities that work with Date at ABIS; and Mizuki, Date’s buddy’s daughter with a bitter angle and power past her years. There are numerous extra attention-grabbing faces you’ll meet, too, every with an vital position to play within the story and a robust character to match. The superb character designs by Yusuke Kozaki (Fireplace Emblem Awakening, No Extra Heroes) additionally give every NPC a putting visible aspect to match their distinct characterizations.
At sure factors within the story, you encounter different modes of gameplay, like interrogation scenes the place you current proof to a personality and motion scenes involving quick-time event-style button presses to assist Date fend off threats. Nevertheless, crucial elements of the sport happen when Date makes use of the Psync machine to discover one other character’s somnium worlds. Utilizing Aiba as an avatar, you work together immediately with components inside these characters’ surreal, illogical, and sometimes very disturbing dream worlds, with each motion she performs costing valuable time. If Date and Aiba can’t resolve the puzzles within the somnium throughout the time restrict, they’ll be pressured out, and you’ll have to begin the somnium exploration over from the start.
Fixing the puzzles to progress within the somniums includes performing sure actions in a sure order on sure objects–and since these are weird, usually illogical dreamscapes, typically the answer isn’t apparent or runs opposite to widespread sense. You possibly can earn and use objects referred to as TIMIEs to assist preserve time, but when time grows quick, your best choice could be to restart. This includes repeating a lot of the identical actions and dialogue to get again to the place you had been, however skipping all of the earlier, time-wasting actions you tried earlier than. In the event you don’t need to do the entire occasion over, you possibly can return to checkpoints inside a somnium to try to save time by solely performing mandatory actions. Nevertheless, you possibly can solely do that as much as 3 times earlier than you’re pressured to restart. Making this even worse is that typically you’re saddled with time-penalty TIMIEs from sure actions, that means that your subsequent motion will value considerably extra time than normal and probably even result in unwinnable conditions. In consequence, the six-minute time restrict winds up being a supply of stress, discouraging you from exploring and appreciating the well-crafted dreamscape environments as a lot as you’d like and typically standing as a roadblock to additional progressing the story.
Apart from revealing vital story beats, the somnium sequences serve one other vital function: Relying in your actions throughout the somnium, the general story will department down one in every of many various potential paths, with completely different occasions going down on every story department. Solely by seeing the entire numerous story potentialities, good and unhealthy, will the entire reality behind AI’s saga be revealed. Thankfully, you’re in a position to bounce round to varied factors within the recreation’s saga (and replay somnium sequences) everytime you need, so you possibly can put one story department apart and decide up one other anytime you’re feeling like–though there will probably be roadblocks in some spots if sure plot factors have but to be revealed. As the varied branches of the story give tantalizing tidbits of data and reveal extra about every of the principle characters, you’re feeling such as you’re piecing collectively an elaborate puzzle, which makes it all of the extra satisfying when massive revelations occur.
Regardless of the occasional frustration in exploring its dream landscapes, the entire of AI: the Somnium Recordsdata winds up being a enjoyable, thrilling, and interesting expertise. The story is full of intriguing twists and surprising surprises, and the characters and their particular person arcs encourage you to care about what occurs to them. The somnium dream worlds add a layer of psychological horror to the continuing thriller, and Date and Aiba’s fixed back-and-forth interactions present levity to make each investigation all of the extra amusing. AI’s unconventional detective story is one you received’t quickly neglect.