Immortality - New fmv game from creator of Her Story and Telling Lies

I know what you mean, but this hasn’t bothered me yet. I wonder how it could be solved? I think that part of the point of the game is simulating the thrill of making discoveries, and I guess the semi-random nature of uncovering new clips is something you just have to abandon yourself to.

The ‘concordance’ feature seems intentionally vague and non-deterministic enough to allow the game to unlock revelations at certain points while still giving the illusion that you have stumbled onto something by chance. In the more deterministic discovery system of Her Story I think this was only possible by being incredibly careful with the scripts for each segment, and then there’s the high-wire act of there being nothing stopping the player stumbling over revelations and twists too early to be satisfying. The ‘tedium’ here might even be intentional, to heighten the excitement of finding something new - and the pacing of it is something I assume the game was tuned for - but I can imagine that being off-putting if you’re not invested enough in the overall story.

Yeah, it didn’t help.

Basically the frisson from the initial discovery of the supernatural stuff lasted about an hour, and then when I saw what it was doing it sucked all the fun of the mystery out of it for me. It became a statement about art/fame, which is fine, but not at all compelling as a mystery to unravel. What happened to Marissa? Whatever is necessary to say something about creativity. It also didn’t help that so many of the One/Other monologues were repeated.

There’s boring mechanistic stuff you could do. Say, after you roll credits you unlock a feature which tells you if there 's something new to discover in/via a given clip, or you lock down the mechanism so it only shows you new stuff if possible. But ultimately I think it’s a question of ensuring the player wants to discover everything and not getting in the way too much. That worked for me in Her Story, but by the end not so much in Telling Lies and Immortality. It was amazing for the first few hours though.

While I really liked this, Her Story is still my favorite, for a variety of reasons. The main one being that (spoilers!) I think supernatural “solutions” for mysteries are cheap storytelling, generally. I would have appreciated Immortality more if the One/Other One were metaphors for creation/art and control/law instead of actual supernatural beings.

Man, got way into this one. Happy it is on game pass, as it made it super easy to hop in. Once we finish this, definitely will have to pick up telling lies (I think it is on the console too?)

It works really great on controller, as there is rumbling that gives you a clue where to look.

The first time I reversed the film and found something hidden was… an A tier gaming moment.

Just rolled credits on this.

This mostly failed for me, in a similar way to Telling Lies. I don’t think it gives you an adequate goal to pursue, and the results of the choices you’re given (picking objects out of a still image from a scene) seem driven more by what the designers want you to see next than by any logic of the choice you’ve made. E.g, There’s clearly a list of “lamp” scenes, and a bunch of lamps scattered around the clips, such that I can’t get excited about selecting this or that lamp. The next scene will either be one I’ve seen, or it’ll be a new one, but it won’t be because I made a good choice. Effectively arbitrary in a majority of cases.

The hidden sequences are very effective, especially the first few you see. They’re shot with a quality that makes them stand out and feel more “present” than the movie scenes. A lot of it is the direct eye contact from The One and Other. They implicate the player, clearly very intentionally. Finding the first one was a cool experience. Eventually, finding the ones that are just overlayed silent sequences felt more frustrating than exciting. If these were meant to tell me something, or provoke me to do something in particular, I never figured out what it was. I also never figured out who The One and The Other are or what they were doing in the story. I don’t know if that’s Lynchian ambiguity, or me missing the point (or maybe some key clip).

Speaking of the story, there was a clear thematic thread about men stealing women’s work in creative industries (Marissa clearly was at least as big of a creative force behind the later movies as the director) and I expected it to be at the center of the fates of many of the characters, but from what I saw it wasn’t. If it was in there and I missed it, then they rolled credits too early. Which is totally possible: I don’t understand at all why/how Marissa was hurt/died in the end. I also still don’t know why the first film was never released. And the problem is, if there are answers to those questions and I want to find them, then I have to just go back and start pulling on random threads–let’s try these curtains! what about her hand in this position? maybe this blood stain will be different…–until I see something new. That has very little appeal.

I have other complaints that are pretty typical for FMV, even though overall I think this is a modest step forward for the genre:

  • The acting isn’t up to professional grade, especially the main actress. She’s good at a lot of points, but her co-stars (even the side parts) are often better, and don’t feel like they’re trying so hard.
  • The wigs. OH THE WIGS. The story depended so much on them; they really needed to do better.
  • Young actors don’t know how to smoke cigarettes anymore, do they? I guess I will consider this a net positive, but boy it took me out of some scenes.
  • The sex scenes were incredibly cringey. This is about the hardest thing to pull off, I’m sure, but if you don’t have the talent, maybe don’t try.

There’s still a lot of cool stuff going on in the game, I just wish I had gotten more out of it.

Hey, I saw Barry Gifford’s name in the writing credits, but didn’t quite believe it was the same Barry Gifford who co-wrote Lost Highway! But indeed it is! Wonder how much of a role he had.

I have to hard disagree with all of the stuff about the acting, I thought it was excellent throughout, especially the lead parts.

I think is pretty much how I felt by the end as well.

The whole “immortal beings that take over peoples bodies” thing is pretty disappointing, especially considering how well made the rest of the game is. Also the blood effects they used in a few of their scenes are really cheesy. Still, I think the game was definitely worth playing.

On the most recent Giant Bombcast, they discuss this game a bit. Jess says that she thinks it’s the same gimmick as Her Story all over again, but I don’t really understand why she thinks that. I think Her Story’s gameplay is a bit tighter, but Immortality was more enjoyable overall.

I think there are plenty of things to nitpick about, but the overall design and scripting of everything in it is really great. I can’t imagine how long it took to write, design, and shoot everything in the videos. Also, I found it very interesting how different items were incorporated into the films in creative ways.

This explainer video (total spoilers) agrees with me: There’s no explicable reason for the credits to roll when they do, and it only hurts the experience.

As someone else said here, this seems to be a recurring issue in Barlow’s designs. And I understand the problem: There’s a point where you’re searching for an ever-shrinking number of clips you haven’t seen and it gets tedious to keep jumping to yet another scene you’ve seen a dozen times. So Barlow doesn’t necessarily want you to feel compelled to see absolutely everything. That’s reasonable, but then he cuts it off at something like 60 or 70% of all the clips (I assume the games require you to see certain important ones) but really seems to need you to want to keep digging a little further, despite the inherent frustrations of that process late game.

If I were him, I would take a bit tighter reins on the player’s goals. Something like a straight up list of questions to answer: “What happened to So-and-So?” and tick them off the list as you see the relevant clip(s). Then I know how much more there is to dig for, even if there’s also a lot of surrounding content I can see or not.

Speaking of things I haven’t seen: Based off some clips in that video, there seem to be hidden clips (I mean the reverse clips with The One, etc.) in scenes that I never got the prompt for. Did anyone notice if there are conditions that activate hidden clips? So that a hidden clip is not available when you first watch a regular clip and then later it is available? For example, the talk show appearance that the game sends you to right off the bat. Did I really miss the controller rumbling, etc, designating the hidden clip in that scene?

Immortality earned a rare 10 rating from Edge Magazine! Thought I’d share it for anyone curious or nostalgic for printed game reviews. :) I hope it’s legible.

I got tipped off on the C&C pod that clicking on tits would yield more clips, so this session I looked for tits to click on and found a handful more. I know the story of all the films but don’t know what happened IRL and I wonder how far away end credits are.

I believe there’s a certain scene you have to see to roll credits (among other pre-requisites probably), which would definitely go some way to telling you what happened IRL, though to be honest by the time I saw it just provided a conclusion to what I already knew (and it turned out I had missed some stuff that that scene didn’t help with). Not sure what I clicked on to get that scene, but I expect it was from the final film.

Still working my way through this. I find myself playing about half an hour per session before moving on to other things. But last night I loaded up the game in Virtual Desktop with a movie theater environment and played it that way. Do recommend!

I feel lost. Same with Telling Lies. I click on clips. I navigate. But I don’t get the “game”. There are bits of story of course and excerpts of movies. But, for some reason, my brain just can’t make sense of what I’m trying to achieve and what constitutes"success".

With those 2 games, I guess I’ve realised the genre is not for me at all. Kind of annoying considering a lot of players seems to find enjoyment in it.

Ah well. :/

That’s one of my issues, too: Barlow’s games would benefit from just a tad more guidance and communication of goals. One reason Her Story worked better than the others is that you were looking for words mentioned in a clip that you haven’t searched yet. A new word was a potential new discovery that could lead you to new clips and so on. (I guess Telling Lies worked this way too? But the clips were longer, the story was bigger, and I thought the connections were harder to see.)

In Immortality, the whole web of connections is softer and fuzzier. There’s a lot of, say, lamps in a lot of scenes and they can lead to any other lamp, and I don’t have any sense of why I went where I did. I don’t know when I’ve exhausted a “search term” like “lamp.” In Her Story, I see how many clips connect to it and I know when I’ve plumbed each bucket of content. Immortality is just an ocean with currents that whorl me around and around, basically without my control, and I don’t really know how much progress I’m making.

I assume the idea is to just go with the flow and enjoy seeing more and more of the story (and finding the hidden clips within clips). But that’s asking a lot of players, when you’re not giving them any sense of their progress or aims.

Here’s a quick, non-spoilery primer for how to get from baffled to “Feeling lost-ish, but now I know what I’m supposed to be doing, sort of…”

  1. In the main menu, read the “About” section. This will not spoil you. It will give you necessary information about the background of what is going on. The game absolutely needs to highlight that more than it does.

  2. In the tutorial, the first clip you can watch is Marissa Marcel doing a “Tonight Show”/Joe Franklin show hybrid. Although the tutorial wants you to do some stuff (go ahead), come back ASAP to watch that clip all the way through. Again, no spoilers, but it sets your feet on a path into the forest at least.

  3. When you “Match-cut” from scene to scene to add clips to your clip library, realize that that you may be dropped into the beginning of the clip, the end of the clip, or somewhere inbetween. Do not forget to go to the beginning of each clip, especially new clips. I have nearly 20 hours into the game, and I still sometimes forget to go to the beginning of clips.

  4. If you can at all, try to play the game with a haptic controller, like a gamepad that does rumbles. No reason. Just mildly helpful.

Finally, when playing, know that this game – like Barlow’s other games – is directly influenced by British writer JG Ballard. I stumbled onto this passage from Ballard (and quoted by Barlow) on social media just about the time I had started playing this game. It actually helped settle my overly narrative-anxious, gamified mind, and made me feel like “Oh, I’m playing this correctly, even though I’m probably playing it differently than others, who are probably all playing it differently than one another.”

Oh, the JG Ballard connection is interesting. Though… I think I often feel as underwhelmed by Ballard’s work as Barlow’s! (To be fair, there is one Ballard story that has stuck with me for thirty years.)

For whatever it’s worth, I did all four of the things you recommend, and still consider Immortality an unsatisfying game, although I’m still mostly glad I played it, for its unique aspects. But I agree that’s all good advice for finding your way into the story. (Does make me wonder if I missed something in the talk show clip, though, because it seemed to me to be way too long and uncharacteristic of a clip to start with…)

The match cutting really is just a means to get more scenes discovered, some of which are important, many are not.

Figuring out exactly what to do and when to rewind/fast-forward clips to uncover things is the real game, and once I figured that out, I had so many other clips to go back to re-watch.

I thought it was great, but I was getting to the point of… what should I be doing just about when I figured it out. Having a controller helped a lot in figuring that out.

My first thought was, when things were getting loud/vibration-y, it was at that point I should pause and find something to click on to match cut, not “you should be reversing this part to pop in a new clip” The first time I did that, probably by accident, it was so cool, and it was the very creepy scene where the one walked up into the screen.

Into my second playthrough, this time to see EVERY little thing. No compromises. :)

This seems like a normal way to play (blurred for very, very mild spoilers):


I mean, who doesn’t keep a spreadsheet and notepad++ going at all times while playing a videogame? ;) (Sam Barlow has made a game for people who like to obsess over stuff like this – and he says that was a goal – then
I am happy to fully engage my obsess-o-meter.)

Also, now that I’m into my second playthrough and have about 30+ hours in this thing, I’m amused by definitive pronouncements in reviews and elsewhere on the internet about what the game is “about”. Because it is maybe a little about whatever that person says it’s about…but it’s also about lots of other things, somehow all at once.

You gotta share any big revelations with us!