Silicon Dreams takes the general idea of the game Papers Please and pops it into a cyberpunk setting. You are an AI built only to interrogate other humans and AI on behalf of a giant corporation that provides AI robots to a dystopian world. How you act and how you react completely changes the fate of not just the subjects you question but your own existence too. Its a great set up that largely delivers so long as you don’t think too much about what isn’t being shown to you.
Each chapter in Silicon Dreams starts off with you in one room and your subject in another. You can restrain them, release them or play in creepy or soothing music to slightly alter their mood. Regardless, they are hooked up to a monitor that shows you six emotions. These are joy, sadness, anger, surprise, fear and disgust. Each question you ask will illicit a response on these emotions and you can largely choose how deep you want to dig into questions and where you should go. The questions available to you come from spidergrams of questions that branch out from topics and subtopics and they open up through conversation. This helps conversation often feel quite natural which is one of Silicon Dreams’ biggest boons.
Behind all this is a report that you must complete to end the level. Your (evil?) bosses intend to take down all that stand in their way and you are pressured via these reports to ensure that AI can be scrapped or memory wiped and humans get imprisoned or punished. All your work is checked and marked separately and if you continue to make rogue decisions your company standing will go down the toilet. This can lead to you being decommissioned yourself and that marks the end of the game for you. If you fall in line with the company, your home suite gets a nice upgrade though. Do you help the uprising where you can? Who do you choose to help? If you do help, who do you sacrifice in order to stay operational yourself? It offers up lots of questions that you might not initially think about but the further I got into the game, the more I slowed down and thought about my actions and ripple effects.
Easily the best element of Silicon Dreams is its writing. There are instances where you can choose lots of questions in any order and yet the responses take into account information you’ve discussed elsewhere. I was genuinely surprised when someone said ‘I’ve already told you about my family’ instead of it just being a straight forward back and forth linear text dump. This doesn’t always happen as there are a lot of variants but I was impressed. Some answers and crucial information are also locked behind emotional walls. Your tactics will change on each subject. Some may crack under fear, some may be so disgusted with you they let something slip, others may be so joyous that they trust you. Often you have to make firm decisions early in a conversation about your tact as emotions take a few consecutive questions to swing to levels that change a subjects mood. This lends nicely to replayability.
If I had some complaints about Silicon Dreams it would be that the game is really poorly optimised graphically. It runs on a low FPS for a game that is largely UI driven. I also would have liked to expand some of the actual dialogue and move the UI around a bit to suit my needs. The overarching plot also doesn’t really kick off until the second half of the game either so it can be a bit of a slow start if you aren’t into ethics and cyberpunk themes. Thankfully I enjoyed the topics being raised such as AI wanting to keep memories of their previous owners because they loved serving them.
My main issue comes with the way how your survival is granted. It is on a points system so when you complete your final report you are marked on your decision making. You can easily stay alive by completing all the questions correctly and then ‘taking the hit’ for choosing an action that allows the revolution to continue. Playing correctly up until the decision largely negates the impact of letting most subjects go. It slightly undermines the peril but I was invested heavily by the time I noticed so it didn’t matter to me personally. I think others may get stroppy though.
Engrossing, intriguing and with lots of ways to tackle each interrogation, I had a blast playing Silicon Dreams. A performance patch for graphics would be lovely but the writing, set up and topics discussed were expansive and detailed. A sleeper hit in waiting.
Review copy provided by the developer.
An intriguing Papers Please styled game that is engaging and both a little tricky to understand and a little easy to cheat on.
Big meaty questions, topics, themes and ideas to discuss in detail and ponder over.
Dialogue branches are like mindmaps and that makes conversation flow far more naturally than most games.
Lots of endings and nuances to discover.
The report system is great at replicating evil bosses....
... but it can also be negated with careful answers.
Low FPS. I mean, its a text and UI based game but it still chugs a bit.
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