Beyond: Two Souls; Do In Game Choices Matter
Born With A Ghost
PlayStation Plus Members are treated this month to an update of 2013 Beyond: Two Souls, originally a stellar title for the PS3 that I never had gotten my hands on, as it was the one console of the PlayStation series I never owned.
Having never played the supernatural game of choices on anything but the PS4, the graphics hold up beautifully and the voice acting of Ellen Page and Willem Defoe is mostly on par- except for the one irking that came across in the quest for multiple endings that scene to scene name "Aiden"- a key to the story, seems to be pronounced several different ways throughout the game; but more on that later.
If you are no stranger to games like Heavy Rain, Until Dawn, and the upcoming and highly anticipated Detroit: Become Human, games where player choices not only affect the "good or bad" endings but control the tone, who characters live and die, and even the universe in which survivors are left with at the end of the game are becoming more and more prevalent in the current generation of consoles.
Beyond: Two Souls is the tragic tale of a young girl named Jodie that was born with a link to a ghost, which both intrigues and frightens everyone around the young girl. With the PS4 version of the game giving the option to either play the game as intended out of chronological order, experiencing Jodie's life through the filter of the CIA and Paranormal research group that keeps her for their own experimentation throughout her life- players that want a clearer play through or want to see the timeline of events as they happen, have the option to play the chapters out of order at various ages of Jodie.
Early on, Jodie only knows that she is different and her family is afraid of the things that happen around her. While her ghost companion Aiden, usually pronounced more like "I-Den" most of the game except for random scenes where the normal pronunciation didn't seem to get a second take; may have a mean streak and be jealous and a bit too protective of Jodie, the monsters that lurk in the darkness and start to attach her are far worse.
Her family divulges that she is more trouble than what they had signed up for, and her foster family returns her to the lab to be able to study her, the young girl never being told the truth that they weren't in fact her real parents.
Trapped in a hospital as a science project for young researchers, Jodie and her ghostly companion spend the next several years under the watchful eye of the research team that does come to love her- until she is taken away by the CIA in her teen years to use her link to the ghostly entity Aiden as a weapon.
With powers given to her by her link with an entity that has been part of Jodie since she was born, the family that fostered her finally is at their wits end with the odd paranormal things that take place around the child and surrender her back to the Paranormal research department to be studied until her late teens.
With a life in captivity and powers similar to that of Carrie or most recently Eleven, Jodie spends her days showing off her abilities to the lab, only to become reserved and distrustful. When given opportunity to affect what truths Jodie shares, or to take revenge on someone that hurts her such as her foster father or other children in the one time she was allowed to interact with young people her own age at a house party; how Jodie and Aiden handle situations shape the outcome of not only trophies for chapters of the game but have the proverbial butterfly effect in which giving the cold shoulder to someone one too many times or being too honest can shape not only how Jodie sees herself, but how others see her as well.
While the researchers are kind to her, they don't tell her the full truth either and spying on them as Aiden can gain more insight and unlock more paths for Jodie along the game, but trusting those around her and having forgiveness for their mistakes can also effect the game play.
When Jodie is moved to the military school and eventually part of the CIA she has the opportunity to get revenge on those that have mistreated her, especially an agent named Ryan that later has mixed feelings for her as a young woman grows out of the scrawny child seen earlier in the game.
After an operation in which Jodie is dispatched to kill the President of an African Nation that was trying to gain control back on his country after it had been torn apart by military violence, Jodie realizes she has been played for a fool and killed an innocent man. It was from this point that I made a save where I never forgave Ryan, which later contributed to many deaths along in the game.
Through Aiden, Jodie can heal major injuries and has the opportunity to save almost every character in the game- starting from evacuating a hospital, to saving homeless squatters from a building fire, and depending on who Jodie chooses to save or doesn't it effects the outcome of the game in some way.
Where many a gaming site has broken down all the major choices in dialogue and actions that could change Jodie's path, including one where she has the opportunity to kill her birth mother whom has been kept chemically comatose her entire life after surrendering her children to the research department; what combination of bad choices to good make for which endings, is nearly impossible to calculate.
Needless to say I kept many save files going and kept going back and tweaking every replay. Most gaming sites state though the only claim the the choices made while shutting down the the condenser are the only ones that truly matter- to stop and heal Cole, what to tell Phillip, and most importantly after learning the truth about Aiden- choosing life as she knew it and a new background according the the CIA- or so they claim, or leaving this world to forever dwell in the spirit realm with all those she loved and lost.
After doing both, along with some other changes made here and there from save files, I rather like the idea of Jodie finally being allowed peace and to make her own choice after she states her whole life all her choices had been made for her and she never really was allowed to live.
Stated that way it seemed like the obviously choice was to let her go back to life, forever lose her link to Aiden, whom we learn was a stillborn twin that protected her from the Beyond, but also the burden that kept her from having a normal life. Going back to a normal life, sure Jodie could confess her love for Ryan, but after he had used her since first meeting her as a young teenager and now claimed to love her, was a little too icky for me.
Given the chances to replay from several save files, I found that letting Jodie be in peace with the people she loved that have already crossed over was the best choice for me.
Game Controls, Outcomes, Endings
Throughout the game, players control Jodie, and in turn Aiden; whom can go into ghost view and wander as far away from Jodie as his tether allows doing tasks that she can not like jamming electronics, messing with the locks, breaking windows and doors, attacking demonic creatures from the other realm, and possessing people when Jodie needs to assassinate someone that she can't get to clear a path for her escape.
It is through Aiden she commits the murder of the presidential leader, as she is told her is a terrorist and Aiden possess a man and takes out his entire cabinet.
New powers can also be unlocked by using Aiden, including healing Jodie herself and others around her from near fatal injuries. Using Aiden takes a toll on Jodie though and although she doesn't have a health gauge, she experiences lag, passes out, or has severe nose bleeds when she is relying on her tie to Aiden for too long. Where some of these shortcomings are scripted, others are not.
Aiden can be overly protective and jealous, one of the reasons that I ruined her chance to romance Ryan- all which seemed a little weird when the reveal that Aiden was her twin, and unless your're a Lannister, that twin stuff is a little yucky.
Jodie also has the change to save or not save just about every character in the game starting with the homeless people in the fire, kill her own mother to save her from the coma, save Paul when he is attacked if you suddenly change to Aiden as soon as he is carried into the house.
Jodie also has the option when choosing if she wants to live or die in Black Sun, to go back to the ranch she spent a short time on early in the game and romance one of the brothers of the family she saved performing a ritual to keep a vengeful spirit from attacking family of Navajo descendants.
If Jodie helps a homeless woman deliver her baby, she can have an ending as well where she becomes a new sort of Aiden, trying to train the child to understand the potential fallout of a world in which the dead will find a way to cross back over into our world. Since Aiden had ruined Jodie's own childhood doing this to her, it seems an odd choice to haunt the child Zoey, but perhaps that has some meaning for an eventual sequel.
With options to save everyone to no one, the only choice that really matters in the end is Jodie herself and if she wants the reward of peace after a life that was not her own, or to take the chances that she was never given in her upbringing and hope that the CIA or the monsters never find her again.