Beyond: Two Souls comes to PC, but a change of platform does not hide the game's wider issues with its restrictive gameplay and overall narrative.
The ambition behind Quantic Dream's Beyond: Two Souls has never been in doubt. Featuring Ellen Page and Willem Defoe, the developer doubled down on the huge success of fellow PlayStation exclusive Heavy Rain when it released in 2013. A PS4 re-release followed, and now all of those Sony exclusives are arriving for PC via the Epic Games Store.
Beyond: Two Souls remains a clear attempt from Quantic Dream to pursue the cinematic. That's not only down to its cast, but also its framing, an ambitious story of spirit worlds, secret government organizations, and multi-generational conspiracies. At a macro level, Beyond: Two Souls tells a strange and intriguing story, but loses itself in the intricacies.
That's not to say that elements of Beyond: Two Souls aren't hugely successful. The game is framed through a series of non-linear levels, a decision that not only allowed Quantic Dream to work on telling its mystery in an interesting manner but also keeps the player guessing as they steadily unravel its sometimes bizarre strands. Beyond: Two Souls isn't as strange as previous game Fahrenheit/Indigo Prophecy, but even so it's a far cry from the more straightforward Heavy Rain.
Even better, this focus on a more episodic structure helps stop the overall narrative from becoming disjointed. Beyond: Two Souls spans decades, and so by getting the player to buy into the gimmick of time jumps it means that those gaps never feel too jarring. It eventually ties into the plot in a superficial way, but as a stylistic choice it's a clever one.
Although this style goes a fair way, it doesn't cover up some of the issues with the game's substance. Beyond: Two Souls definitely borders on the melodramatic, occasionally dipping into overused tropes that don't do justice to its grand ideas. A story about evil spirits unleashed by strange devices needs a connection to its characters through smaller moments, but that never quite happens.
Because of this, Beyond: Two Souls may be big and bombastic, but it loses itself in the detail. All too often elements that could help build character fall flat, even if there are some highlights such as wreaking havoc as a ghost at a teenage birthday party or exploring Jodie's house as a child. At the very least, the connection between Jodie and the mysterious entity Aiden feels genuine, and this is perhaps the most interesting part of the game.
Beyond: Two Souls never really looks at this beyond a surface level, though, and this is an issue across the board. Big subjects appear here and there, from homelessness through to foreign intervention, and there's even an interlude where Jodie stays with a Navajo family and helps them with an evil curse. There's a lack of nuance and depth overall that doesn't help the player's engagement.
It's fair to say that the actors are all trying their hardest, with the big names of Ellen Page and Willem Defoe putting in earnest work, but at times it's clearly not easy. The script occasionally does feel wooden, and there are some relationships that fail to feel genuine. This is particularly true with the romantic interests, which are either undercooked or filled with enough complicated elements to stop the player from really feeling that emotional attachment.
Once again, it's in these smaller details that Quantic Dream falls down. Beyond: Two Souls is aiming high but forgetting about the more intricate elements, from a core romance that is awkwardly between a boss and their employee (introducing a power dynamic that is never even mentioned yet alone explored) through to the game's core mystery not receiving a satisfying breadcrumb trail. Users will find out who Aiden is by the end of the game, but it's not something that is particularly hinted at throughout those separate episodes - a shame given how well Jodie and Aiden's relationship is shown.
It doesn't help that Beyond: Two Souls suffers from quite restrictive gameplay. Much like other Quantic Dream games the main focus is quick time events, but these never carry much weight, leaving the player feeling the same amount of involvement in tasks as varied as cooking a meal or infiltrating a secret military base filled with evil spirits. On top of that, some of the QTEs chosen for interactivity are quite strange, such as angrily playing guitar or completing an algebra puzzle.
It doesn't help that mouse and keyboard controls aren't quite as responsive as using a controller, which might cause a bit of irritation for PC players. The highlights from a gameplay perspective are those moments controlling Aiden, where the free-flowing movement and ability to interact with a wide array of items gives players a bit more freedom - and works better for mouse users - but even so the game never really feels like the player has autonomy. And because of an emotional impact that dwindles in comparison to peers like Telltale's The Walking Dead, sometimes the enjoyment of the over-the-top sci-fi story is hindered by the gameplay itself.
When the dust settles, Beyond: Two Souls offers up both the best and worst of Quantic Dream, with an intoxicating desire for ambition and spectacle lost in the failure to deliver on the detail. Beyond: Two Souls acts as a bridge to create an interactive story, but in the end doesn't quite deliver as either a top-tier narrative or an exciting video game. Despite this, it still has its moments that are likely to stick with the player, and it's impossible to say that it doesn't have personality.
Beyond: Two Souls is out now for PC, PS3, and PS4. Screen Rant was provided with a PC download code for the purposes of this review.