"It's a refreshing and daring decision to include not just one, but two female protagonists."
There's a new adventure game coming from the writer of Memoria — one of the best adventure games of all time. I sat down with writer and narrative designer Kevin Mentz and his new game, The Devil's Men. The art design is immediately reminiscent not only of other gorgeous Daedalic games (the character artist from Deponia and the background artist from The Night of the Rabbit provide their talent), but also cartoon films like those of Sylvain Chomet. It looks as quaint and charming and distinctly European as The Illusionist while still offering a little darkness. This is, after all, a murder mystery in a steampunk setting: members of the enigmatic cult The Devil's Men are being eliminated. That might sound like a bad thing, but I'm not so sure. After all, the members of this group are named after fictional characters that sold their souls to the devil.
Kevin Mentz loves dual protagonists. Similar to Memoria, The Devil's Men follows two characters, Adelaide — peg-legged daughter of a detective — and Emily — murderess and high ranking member of a gang. That's right: no male protagonist. It's a refreshing and daring decision to include not just one, but two female protagonists. Unlike Memoria, these two women interact with one another as they puzzle through the mystery, each for her own reasons. Adelaide is trying to find her lost father and regain her socioeconimic status (she despises her poverty), but only Daedalic knows the details.
I was shown just how intimately these characters are entwined. In one scene, Adelaide uncovers evidence that implicates Emily in a crime. She can either turn this in to the Inspector on the case and thus make her path easier, or she can forge evidence and help Emily, but frustrate her own plans. This branching quest leads to yet more branches and narrative twigs: Emily can choose how to break into the Inspector's basement (subtle lockpicks or just a crowbar) and then, after she overhears a secret, whether to use that information later, even if it might hurt Adelaide. The details of the protagonists' relationship — how did they meet? are they fast friends or friends of convenience? — are unknown, but this give and take, sacrifice and selfishness theme allows Mentz to create some challenging and poignant scenarios.
We weren't shown much gameplay, but there's an emphasis on investigation, gathering information, and making decisions like the ones outlined above. There's a more realistic than usual inventory: a large bag that can't hold ridiculous items like ladders and boulders. It's like a little joke for the adventure game community, but details like this make a game. There's also a clue inventory that includes background on the setting — a fictional, Victorian city in which stands the rundown remains of the Great World Exhibition — and this might also provide hints, integrated as the musing of the protagonists. There are also consumables like lockpicks that give players additional options in solving or even bypassing puzzles.
The Devil's Men is a gorgeous game from one of our most underrated game writers, and I can't wait to learn more as it nears it's mid-2015 release date.