Game Twin Mirror
Publisher Bandai Namco, Dontnod
Platforms PC, PS4, Xbox One
Release TBC 2020
Twin Mirror, the new project from Life Is Strange studio Dontnod, was announced in 2018. After some time in stealth mode, the game is back and looking more intriguing than ever. "We've been fortunate to have more time, which has benefited all aspects of the game," says Florian Desforges, the game's director. "The characters and the story have been refined. New systems or gameplay phases have been added to go along with how our main character, Sam, feels and how he acts."
Hero Sam Higgs is an investigative journalist who returns to his hometown of Basswood for a funeral. While he's there things get a little weird, as evidenced by the morning he wakes up covered in blood with no memory of why or how. Desforges adds that the extra time on the project has been used to tweak all the technical elements of the project, and to "further reinforce its thriller aspect."
The next episode
One of the biggest changes is the swap from an episodic release – similar to Life Is Strange – to "one complete narrative experience." Desforges hopes this too will "reinforce the overall immersion of players."
We last went hands-on with the game in 2018, where we got to see some of the game's more unusual mechanics at work, like Sam's Mind Palace. That, if you can't remember, was an otherworldly space where the journalist could collect and arrange his thoughts to solve some of the game's bigger mysteries and puzzles. The Mind Palace still exists, but like everything else in Twin Mirror, it's had an upgrade.
"We decided to introduce the Mind Palace in the game through a different experience instead. We still have that kind of gameplay, but we've modified it to make it more accessible and more unique to connect and reinforce even more our storytelling. Twin Mirror is primarily a narrative game, and even though it has an investigation atmosphere, it's not an investigation game," explains Desforges.
"Sam's Mind Palace represents his inner world. It's a place of refuge where he can access memories and reconstruct scenes from real life... What I can tell you without spoiling too much is that we experience Sam's Mind Palace, in our own interpretation, via various gameplay phases serving different narrative purposes. I can also tell you that we have entirely revised its visual aspect and design."
As you may have guessed from the title, the idea of duality is key to Twin Mirror, and will play a part in everything from the story to your actions as Sam. "The theme of duality is not confined only to the characters, to gameplay, and narrative choices the players have to make, as duality is also explored through Basswood, the town," Desforges continues. "Our intention is that every character, every place, and therefore the town itself has a hidden face. It's at the heart of the gameplay, and mostly at the heart of Sam Higgs, the main character."
Early looks at the game also showed Sam meeting characters that were a physical manifestation of his psyche. According to Desforges, that part of the gameplay is still intact, but he's coy when it comes to details, other than the idea has evolved a lot.
Take me home, country roads
Basswood, the setting for the story, is a fictional town in West Virginia. So often in Dontnod's games the location is key to the tale, and Basswood is no different. "We believe it has a very strong identity and mysterious appeal that perfectly fits our intentions and the psychological thriller atmosphere. It seemed to resonate with some overarching themes we wanted to develop, the idea of this small town where everyone knows each other but where you can uncover dark secrets."
Desforges points to West Virginia's struggles with the modern economy, and the decline of industries like coal mining, as an interesting place to explore bigger ideas. "Basswood’s story is, unfortunately, one that is very common in this area. The coal mine provided quite well for the miners and their families for a while. Following its closure, the town struggled to make a meaningful transition."
The idea of coming home has been key to so many of Dontnod's stories, and Twin Mirror will be no different. "We love having a main character who is evolving, changing drastically throughout the story, along with the player. And to do so, shaking and disrupting his known world, for example by leaving his hometown, only gives us material to deepen our character's self-questioning, leading it in search for self-identity. It means also facing struggles of your past in Twin Mirror, as Sam comes back to Basswood."
Twin Mirror will be released on PS4, Xbox One and PC later this year.
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