Has a game's writing ever put you off playing it altogether?

(Image credit: Indivisible)

Spoilers ahead for the opening of Indivisible.

Ajna is a hot-blooded teen. I know this because she shouts "yeah, I'm a hot blooded teen!" at her own dad in the opening moments of Indivisible—a dazzling metroidvania with a combo-focused party combat system. The pair immediately move on to have a confrontation about "Mom's axe", which is lost, (and oh by the way Mom is dead). As the discussion gets heated Dad tells Ajna to calm down. "No!" she shouts, "I'm calming all the way up!"

This is the first proper conversation you have with the game. If the art wasn't so colourful I'd have probably turned it off and played something else right then. 

Seconds later you run back to your village to find Dad dead and Ajna's village on fire.

Ajna is upset in the way you might be upset that the bins haven't been collected. There follows an excruciating faceoff with Dad's murderer. After the battle Ajna stares at her father's corpse and, as though talking about having to do the hoovering, observes that she probably ought to bury him. Are you sure Ajna? Wouldn't you rather leave him out for the birds like the entire rest of the population of your home town that you will never mention again?

I have low, low expectations when it comes to game dialogue, but sometimes a game makes me wonder whether it should have a story at all. If Indivisible had moved straight to the wall-jumping and the prettily animated combat, I'd probably end up sinking a lot more time into it. Ajna can absorb other people into her brain and deploy them during combat (the people are surprisingly okay with this). That's a cool idea. There's even some passable banter between them. But when the setup for the entire story is so slapdash, I feel like I'm jumping around a world I'll never really invest in. It's bizarre to see trauma and death reduced to a few lines and then forgotten. If Ajna doesn't really care, why should I?

I start to enjoy the game for a while. Indivisible is great to look at and I'm curious to see who I get to absorb during the adventure. The trouble is you have to stop and talk to people all the time. And even when there's no-one around Ajna reacts to horrible events with the surface-level concern of a psychopath who's bored of hiding it. Take this, the moment Ajna reconnects with her mother's memory via the discovery of an axe.

(Image credit: Indivisible)

(Image credit: Indivisible)

I have always wanted to use this! I will now sink it into the exposed flesh of my enemies! Thanks, dead Mom.

That's enough for me. Games writing is hard. It has to deliver a lot of information concisely to an audience that would often rather get to the action. However, if dialogue goes wrong it can hopelessly spoil the tone of the adventure. It gets in the way of the interesting interactive systems. I want to absorb strangers into my brain so they can become my battle-buds, I just don't want to have to stop and talk about it too much.

Tom Senior

Part of the UK team, Tom was with PC Gamer at the very beginning of the website's launch—first as a news writer, and then as online editor until his departure in 2020. His specialties are strategy games, action RPGs, hack ‘n slash games, digital card games… basically anything that he can fit on a hard drive. His final boss form is Deckard Cain.