Player Choice has been a fundamental element in gaming for many years and crosses into so many different genres of games that in 2020, it really has just become a basic part of any gaming experience now whether you the player are really aware of it or not. That conversation choice that results in characters replying in different ways, choosing path C instead of Path A and going to one location instead of another are all examples of how player choice can shape the narrative of a story with perhaps the most obvious example of this being titles from Telltale Games. Of course, player choice came before gaming with choose your own adventure books, which I grew up reading and loving and more recently, an interactive film experience was had with Bandersnatch on Netflix. So, it came as no surprise to learn that this experience was finally coming to gaming in the form of interactive game ‘The Complex’.
The Complex focuses on the story of Doctor Amy Tenant who in the prologue of the story is in the fictional county of Kindar, very much inspired by North Korea, trying to treat patients who have been attacked with chemical warfare. Amy’s is trying to treat them alongside another Doctor called Rees who is clearly also her romantic partner. The prologue is a full on tutorial which not only introduces you to the main character Amy, played by Michelle Mylett, but on how decision making will work as you are giving choices as to be honest or kind when talking with the patients before making the ultimate decision, with only one vial of medicine you will only be able to save one of them but who do you choose?
What follows is a rather average sci-fi tale as the story jumps months into the future and Amy is now working for a massive company called Kensington, working to complete her development of Nanocell technology which will help cure disease which is why she was doing research in Kindar as seen in the prologue. During a meeting where Amy is trying to sell her Nanocell technology to investors, the player will have to make decisions as one rather drunk but clearly rich and powerful possible investor, is being rather rude about Kensington and her research which you can choose to engage with in order to defuse the situation or ignore it, which might worry some of the other investors. Amy is suddenly interrupted by another member of Kensington who alerts her to a situation which needs her immediate attention as somewhere on the local Tube, someone is failing very very ill and in true millennial fashion, is being filmed on a phone by the most awesome Leahviathan who many will recognise from Twitch.
The most enjoyable time with this story will come in your very first playthrough as you discover the story and the characters and making decisions based on the very little information you have. The Complex has nine different possible endings and over 100 scenes to unlock based on the decisions you make, so replayability is where players will get the most out of this game. The cast is full of relatively unknown performers and the quality of the acting is very much in line with a rather average script that loses even more quality once you the player or audience, complete the story the first time and start experimenting with different choices to reveal different scenes and the few story twists that come from making those different choices.
The performance of the cast really struggles when its obvious they have hand to film multiple versions of the same scene due to the different choices that the audience can make and you can see via the scene cuts that not every scene flows cleanly into the next one once you have made your decision. Other than Amy Mylett herself, the only other really recognisable name is Kate Dickie, the Scottish Actress who plays the role of Kensington’s CEO and completely hams up the role to a distracting level. But taking into account the obvious low budget of the game it can be forgiven a little but it will not take long at all after you being to replay the game for different choices, for the story to really become nothing more than an autopilot fast pressing of RB (after unlocking scene you can simply press RB to skip them going forward) to either see a different outcome or to unlock the achievements for doing so. When you do complete a full run of the story you will be greeted with a results screen, letting you know how your decisions matched those of other players and how your playstyle measured up to show how ethical your decisions were.
Ultimately The Complex suffers from the rather black and white choices you will be asked to make, whilst some have a simply fun aspect to them, others are quite clear cut which will make replaying to see the other outcome far simpler to choose. I have avoided talking too much about the main story as playing it at least once will be worthwhile and I also enjoyed the built in feature for streamers such as for those on Twitch, a feature to allow Chat to make all the decisions or for those on other platforms or players who do not liked to be pressured into make a decision under the time limit, you can use the option to pause the timer which has the effect that once a decision timer has run out, it will still wait for you to make a choice.
One for the sales for sure as once you have experienced the story for the 2nd or 3rd time, all there is left is to spam RB to make other choices to unlock all the possible achievements leaving there very little reason to fire this experience up again. It is impressive to see what they accomplished with the low budget but you can vastly see the difference between this and Bandersnatch on Netflix, and for the asking price, you would probably be better buying a month subscription to Netflix to experience that then The Complex.