What does it mean to do the right thing? At what point are you willing to violate your moral code to do what needs to be done? Aren’t we all just really terrible people deep down? Under the guise of a traditional RPG, Vagabond Dog’s Always Sometimes Monsters delves into the pits of the human mind and redefines traditional morality. The game aims to focus more on interpersonal relationships versus the usual RPG methods of combat and adventure. As a result of this goal, there are no persistent statistics. Your morality is determined by your decisions in the moment, without using some overarching good vs bad morality system. Nothing is black and white in Always Sometimes Monsters.
Always Sometimes Monsters puts you in the role of a down-and-out writer on the verge of eviction. Aside from that, your character is pretty much up to you. The game lets you choose your protagonist from a batch of sprites, all from a variety of races and genders. Both your race and gender have the potential to impact the game and how other characters interact with you. The same applies to your sexual orientation, which is also completely up to the player. Rather than picking these elements out from a menu, however, Always Sometimes Monsters works character selection right into the gameplay. I started as a publishing rep searching for a client at a party. Control hopped to whomever I chose and I was then tasked with picking out my significant other from within a crowd on the balcony. Much like character selection, that significant other could be of any race and gender combination.
From here the game headed into full swing. The demo I was able to play was a PAX exclusive demo and jumped through a few key moments of the game. I was told ahead of time that Always Sometimes Monsters was going to focus on choices and consequences, but I don’t think I was quite ready for what I was given. I tried to be the moral one. In the game, my character’s longtime friend is dealing with overcoming a drug addiction. I could have pushed him either way, but I told him to stay strong. Moments later, his ex-girlfriend showed up and tried to offer him something to calm down. I told her off, but I accidentally selected a dialogue option that prompted her to storm off and leave the drugs she was offering behind.
The game cut to a later scene where, as a result of my (accidental) actions, the friend was in a hospital bed fighting to overcome an overdose. The demo continued on through a slew of moral decisions, ranging from blackmail, vandalism, and straight up murder. Even during the demo, I felt the weight of my actions at every turn. Things got intense in the final scene. A friendly conversation with a friend turned deadly as his drunk uncle accused him at gunpoint of stealing money . Completely floored by the situation, I was given the choice of talking him down, running away, or trying to fight. Though I had been proactively passive in earlier situations, I took the initiative and attacked in hopes of saving both mine and my friend’s lives. A shot fired, the screen faded to black, and I sat there for a moment just blown away by what I had just experienced.
The urban-retro art style of Aways Sometimes Monsters grabbed me at first, but the sheer scope and weight of the relationships presented within the game has gotten me crazy excited to see where it goes. With the promise of many diverging paths dependent on both character selection and dialogue choices, Always Sometimes Monsters is turning out to be one of my favorite games of this year’s PAX Prime.