Developer & Publisher: DONTNOD Entertainment
Released: August 27, 2020
Requirements: OS, Windows 7 64-bit or higher
Processor: Minimum, Intel Core i3 4130 or AMD FX 4300; Recommended, Intel
Core i5 4570 or AMD Ryzen 3 1300X
Memory: Minimum, 4 GB RAM; Recommended, 8 GB RAM
Graphics: Minimum, Nvidia GTX 750Ti, Nvidia GTX 1050 or AMD Radeon
R7 260X, AMD Radeon RX 560; Recommended, Nvidei GeFOrce GTX 970,
Nvidia GeForece GTX 1060 or AMD Radeon R9 290X, AMD Radeon RX 480
DirectX: Minimum, DirectX 11; Recommended, DirectX 12
Storage: 25 GB available space
Tell Me Why – Chapter 1: Homecoming
The latest narrative adventure from the people responsible for the Life Is Strange franchise, Tell Me Why’s first chapter sets the table (rather satisfyingly it seems) for things to come.
It starts with a flashback, and then reunites twins Tyler and Alyson, separated for the last decade as a result of that flashback. They are returning to their home town of Delos Crossing in Alaska to draw some lines under some personal stuff. It fairly quickly promises to be far more than might have been anticipated, as personal truths and memories are exposed and explored.
An immediate point of difference with any game I have played is that Tyler is an openly transgender man. Both the Steam page and a statement at the start of the game says that the makers conducted on-the-ground research and partnered with a range of entities including cultural, mental health and gender advocates in order to craft to craft a thoughtful true-to-life experience. I wouldn’t dare to presume how authentically the various issues are presented, especially those with respect to gender and sexual identity, but there is a lot more information at the maker’s website articulating their approach to the those issues, and what I would say is they have clearly put a lot of effort into how they went about that.
While there are some ignorant comments from people who haven’t met him since his transition, Tyler is who he is, an element this chapter allows him largely to just be. His identity isn’t ignored or irrelevant, but re-establishing his relationship with his sister, and confronting together the bits and pieces of their shared past, is the impetus for moving on. They rediscover their ‘voice,’ enabling them to share their thoughts, and also uncover an ability to view past memories in the real world, an aspect which provides insights into what has gone before.
There are memories which each character remembers differently, accentuating a notion that the reality of past events is to some degree determined by your own recollection. You might have to make a decision about which of the two recollections to accept, which is part of the overall game dynamic that the choices you make directly affect how the story plays out.
Another relevant aspect is the presence and depiction of the indigenous Tlingit culture. A key part of the story and scenery, the goal was to “portray these elements respectfully and responsibly.” The partnership with an indigenous foundation “informed many other aspects of the game, including atmospheric sounds, Tlingit-language pronunciation and spelling verification, and information on customs such as funerary rites. We also commissioned Huna Tlingit artisans to create the many Tlingit objects, murals and designs that appear in the game.”
There is emotional trauma as well as family violence, a factor in the pre-game statement referred to earlier. I haven’t found those elements distressing, but again I wouldn’t want to presume how it might affect any individual player. Be aware of the warning and proceed accordingly.
The game plays with a combination of the mouse and keyboard, the latter being the dominant input. I did find it a bit fiddly at times, the more so because some of the ways the interface worked you have to manage on the fly, but it isn’t a big impediment. You do get some on screen instructions, so just fiddle and you should be fine. It may of course have been more about me.
You will learn how to recognise that there is a memory that can be triggered, as well as how to zero in on it. You need to be in the right place in the real world to ‘see’ it, and I found this aspect a bit fiddly as well. Again it might have been more about me.
The WASD keys move you around, and as you explore, small circles will appear on items that can be further investigated. Often you just look, reading a bunch of stuff and/or starting a bit of introspection with Tyler or Alyson. but you will also gather inventory items, and these will be utilised where needed if you have them in your possession so there is no inventory management involved. You can also find collectibles, items which as far as I can tell play no part in the game other than to add a reason to explore thoroughly.
A couple of puzzles in this chapter involved interpreting and then applying information, and I am aware that there was a quite involved puzzle that was completely optional. There are also memories that you don’t have to find, but each will add to the tapestry of the narrative, as will exploring as fulsomely as possible. Your immediate objective can be seen at the pause menu, but you will miss a lot if you just make that your goal.
DONTNOD does this stuff well, and it looks and sounds good, the voice acting standing out. It autosaves at various points, and will take about three hours. I understand there are two more chapters, and will come back and give you a cohesive impression when I have played the others.
I played on:
OS: Windows 10, 64 Bit
Processor: Intel i7-9700K 3.7GHz
RAM: Corsair Dominator Platinum RGB DDR4 32GB
Video card: AMD Radeon RX 580 8192MB