Heavy Rain is the most story driven roleplaying game you didn’t play last year.
Note: This post is as spoiler free as I could make it.
Before I played Heavy Rain I had a lot of opinions thrown my way, most of it boiling down to “it’s more a movie then a video game” but when I played through its entirety, killing the origami killer and also saving the protagonists son I couldn’t help but think that these opinions where formed around an entirely different game.
Heavy Rain is the first game that I truly thought that my actions mattered, that they affected the outcome of the game. Don’t get me wrong I love all manners of roleplaying games from the less open JRPG classics like Final Fantasy 7 all the way to the more open and customizable experience Dragon Age. But Heavy Rain is something special.
Something that I came to appreciate within the first hour of the game I quickly found that Heavy Rain is much more game then movie, delighted by the choice I was present with to wander around the protagonists house watching TV and listening to music. I had essentially complete freedom to wander around the environments that the game dropped in me, my successes or failures not resulting in the game telling me try again but instead going with the flow and changing the outcomes of the scene or how things went.
As the game progressed I soon found myself faced with challenges that put the characters I controlled in mortal danger and this kept me on the edge of my seat as I knew to many mistakes would result in there timely death.
Though I never lost any of the four characters you are given control of during Heavy Rains 10-12 hour long story, I assume that the story instead of breaking without all apart from maybe the main protagonists existence would continue on its own.
This gave me a feeling of great control over the story and there were a few occasions where I almost decided to kill off a member of the cast I didn’t particularly care for in the stories plot of course in the end they all came out alive, the hero saving the day. But the choice was there and I could have taken it.
Calling Heavy Rain a roleplaying game maybe enough to raise a few eyebrows but I do have a justification for it. It is in a roleplaying games nature to allow you great control of a character whether in his creation or his actions and Heavy Rain gives you control in spades. Not only this but as you play as each of the four protagonists you come to know there thoughts and feelings in each situation.
This allowed me to grow particularly close to at least three of the four characters enjoying their thought and in turn having them effect my actions as I played.
Where Heavy Rain does come close to being a movie of course is in its portrayal of emotion, sometimes it comes across as a little melodramatic or cheesy but this doesn’t spoil the game for me but instead made me love it all the more.
The “acting” overall is brilliant and when you make choices or actively effect a scene or encounter the protagonists pull off the actions you choose nicely with no choice being particularly misleading like some roleplaying games (AKA Alpha Protocol).
I guess the main reason I wrote this in the end was to sum up what developers themselves can learn from a game like Heavy Rain in the hope that it will also affect my future games designs as I learn and also join the industry.
Here are the most important things that come to mind:
• Present players with choices often, with no right or wrong choice.
o These choices should change something whichever choice the player takes, whether it is subtle or big.
• The death of a companion or a major character should not always mean the end of the game, developer should have stories fit more with how the player affects the world.
• Not enough games allow the player to hear what the protagonist is thinking. This is a tool that could allow players to become closer or more invested in the characters they control.
• In a challenge, don’t create the option for failure, just different ways things can happen.
• It is possible to tell a good story without making a game linear in every way.
I hope you enjoyed my post and I would love to hear feedback below, or at my email [email protected]