SAMCRO takes a backseat
I was skeptical of Sons of Anarchy at first, but once I realized it was Hamlet on wheels I was in. Its seven season run wasn’t perfect (particularly the Belfast plotline), but it kept me thoroughly entertained throughout, wanting to check in every week to see where the Sons took me.
Having just ended the show, series creator Kurt Sutter likely wants to keep the good times rolling, with a potential prequel TV series, and now, a brand new adventure game called The Prospect.
Sons of Anarchy: The Prospect: Episode One (iOS [reviewed], PC)
Developer: Orpheus Interactive, Silverback Games
Publisher: Fox Digital Entertainment
Released: January 29, 2015 (iOS) / TBA (PC)
MSRP: $2.99 per episode ($14.99 Season Pass)
Plain and simple, this is a Telltale-style affair complete with item-based seek-and-finds, player choice, and a ton of dialogue. In other words, there’s little room for exploration as you hop from one tiny child-sized sandbox to another — otherwise known as the new school adventure genre. As a grizzled veteran who has spent hours pixel hunting in Myst and King’s Quest, I’m generally okay with the push towards more visual novel and less adventure. Some of you may not be.
The Prospect kicks things off with a rather interesting flash forward, giving the player character a choice to execute someone else with a bag over their head. Who is this hooded person? Are you even in control of the “main” character, or are you in the hood, and are you deciding to pull the trigger on yourself? It’s a neat method of storytelling and likely won’t be explored until the finale.
The core narrative however will be spent setting things up for the rest of the tale. You’ll meet the main character, whose Dad is terminally ill and could go at any moment. His brother happens to be part of the notorious Sons of Anarchy motorcycle club (this time called SAMLIN, based in Oregon), and his father thinks that he’s been saving up to send his favorite son to college — only, you’ve been spending that cash to keep the lights on, and keep him alive. Methods to earn unscrupulous cash are literally knocking at the door.
Over the course of the show we’ve seen many unlikely people become members of the club, and it’s interesting to see it unfold from their eyes. Your landlord, the local police, your dad, and of course the Sons play a vital role in your character’s future, and the hook actually isn’t bad. There’s also some loose ties to the show with fan-favorite character Tig Trager, also played by Kim Coates, who makes a decent impression and not just a cameo. Thematically the dialogue is also very similar to the show, which is fine by me, but may offend others. In other words, the dialogue is very male-driven, and you’ll likely find plenty of sexist and racist lines in the first 15 minutes.
But while the setup is great on paper, the actual follow-through isn’t so exciting. Visually the game looks similar to something Telltale would create, but with less emphasis on character design and world building. It just feels off and uninspired at points, like development was straight-up rushed. The motorcycle portions are probably this biggest offender, all of which feature the same dark highway.
Choices aren’t that prevalent either, so the visual novel comparison couldn’t be more apt. You basically get a few options to shoot people or not, and that’s about it. There are “relationship” counters of sorts where if you say something mean an icon will pop up with a “minus” symbol, or a heart symbol for something favorable. There’s no indication that these actually mean anything or will matter later on.
This initial episode will run you $1.99, and the season pass costs $15, which will net you all 10 episodes. This is a rough prospect, because although I am supportive of the episodic format, I’m generally in for four or five — ten is way too many, to the point where a mere hour is very difficult to really drive anything meaningful home. Even the show started running hour and a half episodes eventually. Maybe this will turn out great over time with the planned PC version as a bundle, but the jury is still out.
Even with its faults, The Prospect really isn’t as bad as it looks. The cheap fan service of Tig (one of my favorites) drew me in, and the idea of slowly working your way into the Sons of Anarchy is fun enough. Since there are going to be so many episodes, I’ll likely do a check-in at the halfway point and again at the end.
[This review is based on a retail build of the game purchased by the reviewer.]