Meet Nilin. She is the star of DONTNOD’s 2013 video game Remember Me, but you may never have gotten to meet her if DONTNOD had conformed to the close-minded vision of some major gaming companies. The fact that Nilin was a woman meant that when the game was shown to potential publishers, many were discouraged
The fact that Nilin was a woman meant that when the game was shown to potential publishers, many were discouraged from backing the project, saying that a male character would sell better. Also against the game were its protagonist’s race and the general structure of the game, in that the majority of human enemies were taken down non-fatally. Moris has stated in a different interview that one of the challenges with designing Nilin was creating a protagonist that was not over-sexualised or ineffective, saying: “You have to avoid the pitfalls of making her just a damsel in distress or a sex bomb, because this is what you think would appeal most to the hordes of men that constitute your fan base” [source]
Fortunately, Capcom was willing to take the “risk” and while my wallet might be a small one in the grand scheme of things, I let it speak for me. I bought this game on principle because damned if I, as a
woman of colour human being, was going to allow such bigotry to go unprotested.
Did Nilin manage to prove the naysayers wrong? I can’t speak to the game’s sales figures, but I have not seen any complaints from gamers about her femaleness or her brownskinnedness. She satisfies as a lead character no matter her gender or skin colour. Now, if we do focus on her femaleness, she’s wonderfully sexy without the need for awkward objectification or skimpy attire. And we come to understand that she is a troubled character without needing to resort to rape to explain why she might be that way.
If there is a shortage in her sales, I’m fairly certain it has nothing to do with there being a female—who isn’t named Lara Croft—at the forefront of the game. As with any anticipated game, reviews from the big names poured in quickly, and the majority said the same thing: the game was beautiful, but the story and gameplay were lacking. In summary, Nilin did not fail to support her game; the game failed to support her.
Not that it didn’t make a very valiant effort. I appreciated that all the reviews I read, even the ones with lower scores, really praised the positives and, more importantly, the potential. This is DONTNOD’s first game, I believe. For that reason, I’m willing to be lenient and other gamers seem to feel the same way. A thread in the Steam Community surprised me with several pages of positive comments and high scores despite the game’s 66/100 overall ranking.
So what did I think of Remember Me? Did it let me down? Well, there were times that it made me want to flip a table or scratch my head at the story logic, but I can say that about a lot of games. Once I reached the halfway point my opinion improved, and I’ll give it a solid 7 out of 10 and definitely recommend it.
Nilin and her environment are absolutely beautiful, but we don’t get to spend enough time immersed in the latter. Players do get to spend a lot of time with Nilin, but I’m unhappy with where the plot took her and what the story tried so melodramatically hard to be.
Nilin is an errorist—an agent capable of playing God with anyone’s memories. The story begins with her memories being almost completely ripped from her until she’s saved by Edge, the leader of the Errorist revolution. Communicating by voice alone, Edge becomes Nilin’s guide, and she becomes the instrument of his anarchy. Their goal is to demolish M3MORIZE, the big bad corporation that has created Sensen, a device that allows people to get rid of those pesky bad memories. Everyone now wears a Sensen device, which is how Nilin gets to do her dirty work. And Nilin knows that what she’s doing for Edge is dirty work … from flooding the city to directly causing a murder.
Each chapter begins with her questioning herself and Edge’s goals, but she never truly takes a side in those questioning moments. I wanted her to say, “Fuck you, Edge, I do whut I want!” or “Yessss I am eeevil for the greater good!!” I found myself wishing for the kind of dialogue options that I’ve grown so used to in Bioware games, allowing me to determine Nilin’s personality path. But Nilin is her own woman that I am meant to discover as she pieces her life back together. I am not meant to mold her in the image I want, even if her choices, or lack thereof, frustrate me. She does start to progress in a way that makes sense at one point, but then she changes her mind thanks to an uncomfortable jog down memory lane. At the end of the game, as it delivered its final Big Message about controlling memory and playing God, I was rolling my eyes, but not unforgivably so.
The combat system works with “Pressens,” which are groups of attacks that do fancy things like heal, damage, chain hits, or reduce timers. You can chain these together in ever increasing combinations, but they are ultimately attached to your mouse or controller buttons—which means this is still a pretty simple button mashing process. Punch bad guys enough and Nilin’s Sensen is powered up to allow her access to several unique abilities.
I played on the PC with a mouse all the way through and initially thought the mouse play was part of my frustration over combat. However, as more pressens and Sensens became available battles became a lot more enjoyable, though no less tedious in their repetitive nature and predictability. If Nilin walks into a large open area, assume a battle is about to occur. As much as I enjoyed her lithe movements, the battles were not particularly impressive or challenging. As long as you’re carefully dodging the attacks (loudly displayed with red warning symbols) and paying attention to the not so subtle pop-up hints (I guess that can be turned off, but I didn’t bother to look), it’s just a matter of punching till you can activate the identified Sensen, punching more, waiting for the cool down on that Sensen (it goes faster with the right Pressens), rinse, and repeat. This process lasts even longer with boss fights, allowing the bosses time to repeatedly spam you with their important messages.
There is one really unique, but highly underused aspect of gameplay: Nilin’s Memory Remix ability. Nilin hacks into a Sensen and completely rewrites the victim’s memories to suit her needs. A cutscene plays out, then the player gets to rewind and find the various devices to trigger in order to change the memory. It’s a puzzle process that means a lot of trial and error, and each remix can earn you special achievements for finding certain combinations.
Remember Me was, well, memorable, and I would love to see Nilin again, or another game from DONTNOD. Now that they’ve got Remember Me under their belt, I’m looking forward to seeing what they can do with the constructive criticism. Remember Me was filled with so much potential just waiting to happen, and I believe Nilin’s creators will truly blow us away with whatever they come up with next.