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11-11: Memories Retold

Platform(s): PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One
Genre: Action/Adventure
Publisher: Bandai Namco Games
Developer: Digixart Entertainment (EU), Aardman Animation (US)
Release Date: Nov. 9, 2018

About Andreas Salmen

I'm sure this is all just a misunderstanding.


PS4/XOne/PC Preview - '11-11: Memories Retold'

by Andreas Salmen on Sept. 18, 2018 @ 1:00 a.m. PDT

11-11: Memories Retold is a a story-driven narrative adventure set during World War I, with a unique painted style that plans to deliver an entertaining experience unlike anything before.

Bandai Namco unveiled quite a few narrative experiences during Gamescom 2018. The most creative of the bunch was a game that many wouldn't think twice about, both due its visual presentation and perhaps a lack of public awareness. We're talking about 11-11: Memories Retold, a narrative-driven game that tries to tell a very personal story about World War I from two very different perspectives.

In 11-11, the player takes control of two characters and experiences their journey during the war. Harry is a young Canadian photographer who's talked into joining the army by a general to take propaganda pictures, unaware that he'd actually have to set foot on a battlefield to do so. The other character, Kurt, is a German engineer who, devastated by the news of his son's battalion vanishing, joins the war to search for his son, who is presumed dead.

While both characters have different backgrounds and personalities, they both aren't born soldiers or even delighted to join the war. According to Bandai Namco, 11-11 wants to tell a story that doesn't glorify war but isn't found in history books; it's a tale that you'd normally find when reading a soldier's letters or a tale that's passed on within a family. It's the crafting of an "antithesis to the modern-day shooter" in that it takes away glorified heroism by killing strangers and strives to tell a well-told, character-driven story about two people entangled in a brutal war.

The visual art style is akin to a very broad and abstract oil painting. The actual models and environments are very simple, and the simulated brush strokes, which move quite significantly, can feel very distracting and, depending on the individual, induce a bit of nausea since something is always moving on the screen. The abstract way this is implemented also means that there aren't any distinguishable details to be found. I got used to the visuals after playing for a while, but others may not because it can sometimes be all over the place. Bandai Namco hinted at different styles that are supported by this modified Unity engine to complement gameplay, but it's unclear if 11-11 itself will vary the way it displays the scenes based on the content or if players can possibly modify its appearance. From an artistic standpoint, it works quite well. It also has some notable creative power behind it, as the game is co-created by both Digix Art (Lost Memories) and Aardman (Wallace and Gromit).

The title has two good voice actors in the roles of Harry (Elijah Wood) and Kurt (Sebastian Koch), who are not only used in dialogues with other characters but also provide a constant inner voice of the character through monologues and thoughts. Although the art style can be overwhelming at times, the abstract way it's displayed actually complements the voice acting. Faces often can't be distinguished, so the voice acting and atmosphere enable you to fill in the omitted visual details. This may sound very artsy, but I found the visuals to be interactive in a way that's difficult to describe.

Throughout the brief demo we played, both Harry and Kurt were featured in equal amounts and changed back and forth frequently. Within a short time frame, we were up to speed with who they were and what motivations they had. Afterward, we were thrown on the battlefield: two very different characters on different sides of the same battle. Harry is following the general who recruited him, and he takes pictures and ducks under machine gun fire; on the other side of the trench, Kurt is cooling the German machine guns with water and supplies ammunition. An interaction seems to be unavoidable and, while we never got to that point, it will certainly be an interesting scene and even more interesting to see where the story will eventually go from there.

The gameplay is simple: follow this, go there, and activate this. It's a walking simulator if there ever was one, but thus far, the story and characters seem to be able to carry the game and tell a story that may be worth completing. While it doesn't reinvent the wheel or excel in any particular area, 11-11 is an intriguing concept that may appeal to people who enjoyed games like Valiant Hearts, which is the closest game I can think about in that context.

I enjoyed my brief time with 11-11: Memories Retold, and while I'm sure this title will slip under many people's radar, I have to commend it for its good atmosphere and a daring art style. On Nov. 9, 11-11: Memories Retold will release on PC, PS4 and Xbox One.

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