The Horror Of World War I Presented Without Firing A Gun
Released on the eve of Remembrance Sunday, 11-11: Memories Retold is a game that pays tribute to the Great War through its unique aesthetic and engrossing storyline. For most of its 7 hour run-time 11-11: Memories Retold is a game that can’t quite decide how to present itself, painting a bleak and realistic depiction of World War I while throwing numerous different gameplay mechanics at you in a bid to keep you engaged. While some of these work really well, others do not and toward the end of the game, 11-11 unintentionally drags on before its multi-choice ending.
The story is where this game shines and this sees you take control of two separate characters as they embark on their respective missions into the hell of World War I. German soldier Kurt enlists after a promising career as an engineer, hoping to find his son Max whom he hasn’t heard from since the war began and fears the worst. Canadian Photographer Harry, on the other hand, joins to impress love interest Julia and get his hands on the swanky uniform, blissfully unaware of the horrors of war. What transpires from here is a 3 part tale that follows both men through the war until their paths inevitably intertwine, building to the climactic point of peace, the signing of The Treaty Of Versailles.
Some of the landscapes are beautifully drawn making good use of colour
From the gas-choked trenches to the sunset-painted streets of Paris, 11-11: Memories Retold does a great job setting the mood and tone of the game. The story itself is by far the strongest aspect of the game and the way this tale unfolds for both men while depicting numerous locations around Europe is really well presented. The unique aesthetic is something that’s been debated pretty heavily online and it’s one of those things that’ll you’ll either love or loathe. Presented as a World War I painting, the entire world is blurred with fragments of the landscape and character models intentionally obscured and looking like something out of a dream. When this works, it works really well but at times it’s difficult to discern exactly what the game is trying to present to you.
One such example sees you out in No Man’s Land with a red-bleached sky and hot pockets of crimson littered across the landscape. Numerous soldiers are lying face down in the mud. Is it blood? Reflections of the sky in puddles? Poppies? It’s moments like this where the game slips up and fails to really inspire enough awe and beauty in its presentation. Other instances see you having to pick out a face from the crowd calling to you only to see every character model graced with blurred faces and obscured expressions. If you can take to the aesthetic it presents a unique way of telling a story not seen in video gaming outside of PS4’s upcoming title Dreams. If you’re put off from the trailer, it’s unlikely you’ll really take to this narrative adventure.
German Kurt brings a humane side to the army regularly depicted as the bad guys in various forms of media
So what do you actually do in 11-11: Memories Retold? A bit of everything except gun fighting if we’re honest. While most of the game involves walking around, exploring the various locations while talking to soldiers and advancing the game by completing simple fetch quests, there’s a conscious effort here to pump the game with as many different activities as possible to avoid stagnation. Expect stealth sections, playing as a cat and bird, a psychedelic dream segment and more while you play. While the ideas are certainly welcome, it all feels a little disjointed at times as you rapidly switch characters and jump from one activity to the next. Given the strength of the story, perhaps a more focused storyline like that seen in previous Telltale Games may have been a better option here. All of this, of course, while intentionally making sure a single bullet isn’t fired for the duration of the game.
Harry, on the other hand, presents the naivety of young men during the time
For those completionists among you, numerous collectables can be snatched up too that come in the form of pictures and postcards dotted around the landscapes. Some of these involve completing various tasks or taking specific pictures in each area but when collected, give an accurate historical account of different aspects of war. Most of these come in 2 or 3 parts as well, enticing you to really look around and try to find everything. For those interested in history, it’s highly recommended to actually do this as the cards inform on everything from the prisoner of war camps through to No Man’s Land and the propaganda of the time.
There’s a good variety of accurately depicted locations for you to explore and experience
Nowadays it’s rare to find a war game that’s so hell-bent on making sure it doesn’t devolve into another mindless action shooter. While the various gameplay elements are a little hit or miss at times and the unique aesthetic will either make or break your experience, the story is the true winner here. This important World War I game is fair, well written and balanced while presenting the horrors of war in a realistic way. With 6 different endings and some decent voice acting throughout, you can tell 11-11: Memories Retold is a game made with love and care. While the third part is a little slow and the game time feels intentionally padded out at times (cutting bread and picking apples not withstanding), 11-11: Memories Retold is a beautifully written game nonetheless and one that accurately depicts the horrors of World War I without firing a single bullet.