SIMULACRA 2 feels way too similar to SIMULACRA. As a game that focuses on a mysterious element, having nothing new brought to the table makes it loses its charm.
Genre: Visual Novel
Developer: Kaigan Games
Publisher: Neon Doctrine
Release date: 31 Jan, 2020
SIMULACRA 2 is the third installment of the SIMULACRA series, which is happening in the same universe as SIMULACRA (our review). You’ll still be able to browse on someone’s smartphone to find clues to what was happening on a case, in addition to several new features to enhance your gameplay.
Just like other games in the series, SIMULACRA 2 plays out in the form of a smartphone. The interface looks similar to other smartphones in general while still having a simpler function to make it easy to operate. That being said, there is a notable improvement from the previous game – you can play a video from a certain timestamp now, making it easy to skip video content that you have seen before.
As someone who has played the first game, there is nothing new that you can discover. It still revolves around the same concept as the other games in the series, but that’s exactly what’s bad about it. The game focuses on an investigation task, and there is no element of surprise since I already know what I would expect a few minutes right after I started the game. Imagine having a murder mystery case with you already knowing the perpetrator. It kills off the mysterious vibe that the game was meant to be, especially if the game focuses on the same thing as the first one.
On the characters’ side, we have three main casts instead of one. They have different personalities which attribute to their career, but there is no sense of attachment to them at all. I couldn’t relate to them, especially with their dark secrets that make them sounds more like a jerk than they should be. There is one character that can be considered good, but again, you don’t talk to them enough to know on a personal level. On the good side, there are two reoccurring characters from the first game, although you won’t be missing out if you haven’t played the first game.
The story branching is more planned out, but they become overly complicated. You can fall into one of the three bad endings because you chose the wrong choice, and getting the best ending can take you hours of replaying and choosing the right answers if you try to get it on your own. Moreover, there are also some timed decisions and puzzles where you need to type some answers to solve. It takes too much detective work just to unlock the good ending, and the ending doesn’t seem too different from the others either, especially if you have played the first game. Furthermore, some dialogues don’t seem to flow smoothly if you choose certain options or do things in the “wrong” order.
Unlike the first game, this game brings some investigation work into play. You’ll still have the same task to discover the truth from someone’s phone, but you are doing so in the form of an official investigation. This means that you have an access to government records, allowing you to look up more information that can help you to solve the case. You still need to do the first few investigative works by yourself to figure out the keyword that you need to look up first though.
Sometimes, the game will ask you to answer some questions. The answers to these questions can be found by digging through the user’s phone, although some information can be too obscure to find. This becomes even worse if you try to aim for a good ending since you need to answer some answers by typing it out, and the hints are way too invisible unless if you look very carefully. Moreover, there are just too many chats and social media posts to read, and finding the info that you need is like looking for a needle in a haystack.
Clue-collecting gives some sort of incentive to look through the optional posts. An icon will appear on your bottom right corner whenever there is a clue that can be collected. These clues can be used to either repair broken files or corner someone by giving them a piece of evidence. Unlike the questions, these clues can be easily found – you just need to scroll until the icon comes to capture it. Heck, you don’t even need to read the texts at all.
Length and Difficulty
I finished the game in 4.9h. I replayed the game several times to get the other endings, which are not that different from each other. There is some hint system that can help you in case you are stuck, but they might not be enough when dealing with those vague questions that require you to investigate people’s posts very carefully.
The game doesn’t have a lot of accessibility options when you are replaying the game for the second time. While it has an option for a faster chat speed, the speed is still too slow for someone who has finished the game before. Moreover, some videos, especially the ones that are played in the ending, are unskippable.
Speaking of videos, the game size is unnecessarily big (16 GB) because the developer is trying to support 4k resolution. As someone who doesn’t have a 4k monitor, I feel like the size is too much just for a feature that I don’t use. I wish there is an option to install the game with lesser video spec.
I also encountered one bug when I played the game too fast. Some dialogues will duplicate out of nowhere and you are forced to read the texts twice because of it. Lastly, the game can be hard to read for those who have problems with reading moving texts or seeing bright colors.
Intel Core i5-9300H 2.40GHz, 8GB RAM, NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1650
SIMULACRA 2 feels like a step back from the first game. It has more features than its predecessors, but most of these features change the game to be more complicated than it should be. The videos might have more content, but there are way too many audio files that can be explained just fine in texts. Heck, there are even some parts when you have to listen to someone mumbling to himself.
The core story is way too similar to SIMULACRA. I got a major spoiler just by playing the first game, and I’m not sure if people who are new to the series should start with this game either. While you don’t have to play the first game to enjoy this one, the first game explains the universe better than this. Moreover, the simplicity in the first game works better for this type of game. Don’t get me wrong though, the game is good, but having nothing new to offer to the table makes it quickly loses its charm.