Developer: Old Moon
Time to Finish: 10h 25m
I’ve known about Ghost Song for a while now. Brother has been following it for years, even played a few demos, and, quite frankly, I didn’t think it would ever come out. At one point the entire game engine was scraped and the game was built on another. But at the beginning of last month, Ghost Song released after nine long years in development. I was happy that my friend would finally be able to play the game he was so looking forward to but I didn’t have much of a desire to play it myself.
Brother finished up the game and was looking for someone else to play through it to discuss. I saw that it was available in the Humble App and since I was picking up the Humble Choice already, I decided to give it a go. I almost immediately bounced as I was met with Dark Souls style punishment for death, losing nano-gels (souls) and losing a chunk of health that needs to be repaired with more nano-gels. This isn’t my typical genre and I was probably going to be dying a lot.
I started a new game on the Explorer difficulty which does away with all the annoying Dark Souls mechanics. It also makes “Certain other adjustments”, I went digging around the Steam discussion boards to figure out what those might entail. It looks like the other major difference is that enemies don’t scale with after each ship part is found. Otherwise, it doesn’t seem to be much different.
Things I Liked:
Lorian is the moon on which the game takes place. It’s beautiful. The world feels like a living painting. From it’s desolate surface littered with robots and crashed ships to it’s depths littered with more robots, some people, and some very large bugs. All of it is dripping with atmosphere. As you learn more about the world the eerier and more beautiful it becomes.
The lore of Lorian is also fantastic. The moon is surrounded by a static field that crashes ships and makes it impossible to leave. The lore is all delivered through dialogue in bits and pieces. As you explore you’ll meet a host of other robots, creatures, and people, all of which will drip feed a bit more information. I don’t typically like this approach to storytelling but it works in Ghost Song as it’s tied with exploration. The more of Lorian you discover the more information you get.
The main story focuses on The Deadsuit after it wakes up in the middle of Lorian with no recollection of who it is or how it got there. After a few hours, The Deadsuit encounters Roper who is the captain of a ship that’s crash landed. They made a camp around the ship, Gambler, and are trying to figure out how to repair her and get past the static field.
The crew is a group of interesting characters who aren’t all what they appear on the surface. Which is a good thing because you spend a lot of time talking to them. My favorite was Raven, an android who was badly damaged in the crash and spends most of the game deciding on how to build her new body. There’s some thought provoking conversations that take place between The Deadsuit and her around identity.
The Module System
The majority of items you find during the game are modules. These are slotted in to the Deadsuite and have passive bonuses. They can cause your gun to overheat less, they can give you super armor for a short time after dashing, add extra projectiles to the blaster, and a whole bunch of other useful things. You are limited in the amount you can equip by their power consumption. You’re able to use more as you level up the Deadsuit and increase it’s power level. By the end of the game I had six or seven equipped at any given time.
By the time I finished the game there were still a lot left that I hadn’t unlocked or found. I wasn’t going out of my way to get them but I was exploring every room I came across. There’s a ton of variety and different combinations to try which adds some nice replay value.
One of the more interesting mechanics in Ghost Song is the synergy between the blaster and your melee attack. After a certain amount of use the blaster overheats which lowers it’s damage and rate of fire. However, the overheated blaster increases melee damage. This isn’t something I’ve seen before but it makes sense, hitting something with a hot gun barrel would hurt more. There are modules you can find that increase or decrease the rate at which the blaster overheats so you can fine tune your combat style. I found myself favoring a little extra blaster time but still utilizing the overheat feature for burst damage.
If you look around the internet of reviews for Ghost Song you’ll see a wide range of opinions on the games difficulty. Some think the game is too easy and the punishments for dying are out of place because you don’t die that often. Some think the game is too hard even on the easier exploration mode. I land somewhere in the middle.
I don’t have much experience with this style of game so I found it challenging even on Explorer. But I never found it too challenging that I wanted to give up at any point. I died a lot in the beginning but as I got more familiar with the combat and the controls the game did become easier. It still took me a few tries on every boss but it never felt like I wasn’t able to beat them. Even so, I feel like the punitive mechanics for death aren’t needed. They don’t do anything to heighten the experience or the gameplay they’re just frustrating. I’m glad there’s an option to turn them off.
Things That Could Have Been Better:
The Deadsuit is our main character. It wakes up on Lorian without any recollection of how it got or what it is. It’s mysterious, yes, but it’s also hard to connect with or care about a main character without an identity. I think it would have been better if we slowly learned more it as the story progressed like we do with the rest of Lorian. As it is, there’s one specific place, kind of out of your way, you need to get to and watch a very short scene to get any kind of resolution regarding The Deadsuit.
There are maybe one or two tracks that stand out and convey a feeling of an alien world but most of them are kind of boring. The soundtrack feels too mellow for a game where the majority of the time you’re blasting alien lifeforms apart and fighting bosses.
The Story (Spoilers Ahead)
After this picture, the rest of this post contains spoilers for the end of the game.
I found the setting so interesting but the story itself fell a bit flat for me. Before you ask, yes, I got the “good” ending.
I get that there needed to be a reason for the player to explore the map and that’s why we’re tasked with finding ship parts for the stranded crew. The crew was probably one of my favorite parts of the game but there isn’t much else going on story wise. There are a few side quests that you can follow but the majority of the map is empty of any other story threads. Which is a shame considering how interesting the setting is.
Like I said before, you won’t get much of a resolution to the Deadsuit’s identity unless you find a specific spot on the map to trigger a very short cut scene. Getting there requires getting all four jumps, one of which is hidden away behind a secret trader. I only knew about this because Brother told me about it.
On top of this, you also need to be paying close attention when talking to the crew, specifically Pasha. Up an to that point, I had figured out that the Deadsuit contained a ghost of someone from the crew but I didn’t know who exactly. There’s a couple things that hint at this including finding the escape pod and a scene where Pasha says you seem familiar.
I got to the end of the game, saw the scene with Pasha and the Deadsuit and felt like I was missing something. The scene played out like it was suppose to be some big emotional reveal but I came away from it feeling pretty indifferent about it. It wasn’t until I talked about it with Brother that I realized that Charley was Pasha’s sister and that’s who the Deadsuit was. I either missed this key bit of information for not paying close enough attention or missing a couple conversations with Pasha when I turned in two ship parts back to back and forgot to talk to her. That’s on me and I’m not holding it against the story. it’s a nice ending. Far better than the default ending which explains nothing and rolls the credits.
At the same time the ending is very human for a game that takes place on such an alien world. I would have proffered if the Deadsuit was a denizen of Lorian before the it was destroyed and was learning about their past while helping the crew. Even better, on a moon that crashes ships, why not have Deadsuit be the consciousness of a ship that was destroyed on the planet. The other ships it encounter constantly think it’s a ship. I guess, in a way,it it’s a ship for a ghost.
It does leave some questions t