The creativity of the Freebird Games studio can hardly be overestimated. Funny and sad, serious and infantile – the stories told in To the Moon and Finding Paradise took a special place in the hearts of players. Therefore, I waited with excitement for Impostor Factory : the previous games set a high standard for quality, and the new one promised to raise it even higher. An unfamiliar main character, giant space tentacles, a vague description of the plot – the authors could not even (or did not want to) say what place the game occupies in the timeline of the series.
However, this is pure craftiness. The next project of Kang Gao (the head of the studio and the leading game designer of Freebird Games) certainly continues the past, and there is simply no point in playing it without getting to know other games in the series. But whether the hopes placed on Impostor Factory have come true is a much less clear question than we would like.
This tale has no end
A young guy named Quincy receives an invitation to an old gothic mansion, as if descended from the pages of dark detective novels. The protagonist also notices the characteristic surroundings and does not expect anything good from the invitation, but curiosity still prevails over caution. However, in reality, the event turns out to be even more stereotypical than one might think: swaggering rich guests, strange servants, suspicious owners and, of course, the most real mysterious murder – only a detective in a bowler hat is missing for a complete set. However, this is where Quincy’s misadventures at the mansion only begin. Soon after the crime, the very fabric of space and time within the estate diverges at the seams, and the main character gets involved in a series of completely unthinkable events.
The gameplay core, as well as the graphics and technical components, migrated to the Impostor Factory from the studio’s previous works, almost unchanged. An emphasis on the plot, rudimentary gameplay, minimalistic visuals combined with a powerful soundtrack – no innovations have appeared since the release of the first part, but some problems have not gone away. All the same low resolution and meager settings, long familiar minor flaws and roughness. But even the most pampered players are used to forgiving Kang Gao’s games for such shortcomings for the sake of one thing – the plot.
Impostor Factory clearly expects to continue this tradition. Unlike previous games in the series, Quincy’s story immediately throws the player into the thick of things, without wasting time on long preludes. With each new scene, the plot is twisted more and more, genres are rapidly replacing each other, and the narrative imperceptibly passes from one figure to another. At the same time, the main intrigue remains relevant until the very end, thanks to which the narrative firmly holds the player’s attention.
The game will offer to make at least something influencing the choice only once, and in the screenshot it is not at all. It’s a pity: this dilemma is much more complicated and interesting.
I would also like to note how Impostor Factory handles its own heritage. The beginning of the game significantly departs from the canons laid down by To the Moon and diligently pretends to be telling a completely independent story. This is definitely good for her, especially considering how similar the first two parts were to each other. But when familiar elements gradually begin to return to the plot, you get surprisingly much pleasure: the joy of discovery and surprises are served here just fine. As soon as the connecting threads of the series finally come to the fore, it turns out that Impostor Factory makes a significant contribution to the overall narrative, albeit not quite in those aspects that were announced in the finale of Finding Paradise.… Important questions remain unanswered, and the new game manages to catch up with even more intrigue with an obvious backlog for the next part.
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Impostor Factory’s dedication to the series’ tradition is also evident in the famous tear-pressing moments for which Kang Gao’s creations are so famous. The most sensitive players will shed their first tears already in the first hour of the passage, and the central conflict risks becoming the most tragic in the history of the franchise. Another thing is that not everyone will like the methods by which Impostor Factory achieves an emotional response. The plot of the game’s most heartbreaking moment seems too manipulative, like a blow below the belt. To be fair, it is quite well furnished and served, you undoubtedly believe in its credibility. However, it is difficult to get rid of the thought that earlier the authors dealt with such moments much more gracefully.
Moderately surreal scenes occur, but not often
Look but don’t touch
Unfortunately, the storytelling issues don’t end there. For most of the game, the plot combines well the personal drama of the heroes with the disclosure of the global story and the lore of the previous parts, but towards the end, Impostor Factory seems to decide to become everything at once. And the prequel, and the sequel, and the groundwork for the next sequel, and a self-contained story of new characters. And on top of all this lies a whole stack of twists of varying degrees of quality, so the number of intertwined storylines is frighteningly growing. It cannot be said that the narrative is downright crumbling under its own weight, but it sags pretty much: some parts of the narrative turned out to be much weaker than others.
In addition, there were problems that the studio did not have before. Some moments came out too long, although other episodes, on the contrary, are presented literally in the form of slides somewhere in the background. The protagonist is not too happy: Quincy himself is a more or less normal character, but he cannot be compared with doctors from past games. If Neal and Eve were an extremely charismatic comedy duo, then Quincy is mostly just silent. About three-quarters of the entire Impostor Factory is occupied by one long and damn sad story, during which the main character practically does not open his mouth. This is not even bad, but simply strange, because at the beginning and end of the game, Quincy behaves quite naturally.
Somewhere in the middle of the plot, Impostor Factory generally throws up a lot of unpleasant oddities. The story turned out to be emotional and memorable, but this particular segment of the game is one continuous dialogue almost three hours long. There are very few jokes and a lot of long conversations, and the drama is so dark that the aftertaste from it can easily negate all subsequent attempts by the writers to humor. Deliberately stupid scenes in the style of the previous parts immediately after Balaban’s everyday chernukha look at least inappropriate, no matter how the supporting characters try to cause laughter. Although the humor as such in Impostor Factory has generally become much less than before.
Gameplay also does not benefit the narrative – or rather, not the gameplay, but what is left of it. The series has always treated the gameplay as an exceptional formality: simple puzzles, unpretentious exploration of small locations, a couple of optional secrets. It is difficult to find a person who would not consider such gameplay a fictitious add-on to the plot, but while playing Impostor Factory, I seriously missed the “match three” and “hit the mole” from the previous parts: here you just have to go from dialogue to dialogue. No puzzles or mini-games – you don’t even need to search for memory orbs, as most of them will find the player themselves.
Yes, To the Moon was never about gameplay, but at least it felt like a game. Impostor Factory, on the other hand, feels like a cartoon, to watch which for some reason you need to keep your hands on the keyboard. No matter how primitive the gameplay was before, now its disadvantage is felt especially acutely: without it, the authors cannot regulate the pace of the narrative, and the player does not have time to take a little break from the dialogues. Therefore, at some point, you can simply get tired of endless chatter.
As a result, Impostor Factory leaves a controversial impression. I definitely do not regret the time spent and do not think that the game somehow spoils the Freebird Games portfolio. It is still full of bright moments, there are great dialogues and drama, enough deep themes and good ideas. Even the plot, despite all its shortcomings, turned out to be fascinating. But, unfortunately, some decisions of the developers against the background of their own successes in To the Moon and Finding Paradise look disappointing.
Why did it happen and is it worth worrying about the future of the series? I want to believe that all the fault of the authors’ attempts to try something new, to get off the usual path. Get rid of rudimentary gameplay, approach the plot from a different angle, concentrate on new heroes. If this is true, then I fully support such undertakings: it is better to stumble than to stand still. But, be that as it may, I hope that Kang Gao and his team will take into account their mistakes: despite all the controversial points, there is still too much talent and effort in their games to write off the streak.
- almost everything for which we loved the previous games in the series remained in place;
- fascinating plot, excellent dialogues;
- many extremely emotional moments;
- amazing music as always;
- rice bot.
- problems with the presentation and content of some storylines;
- the main character is boring in comparison with his predecessors;
- gameplay has become even less;
- still far from perfect technical performance.