There was one thing fairly particular in regards to the authentic Oxenfree. Night time Faculty Studio’s walk-and-talk journey recreation lets gamers uncover the mysteries of Edwards Island, fall for (or be sassy to) its ensemble solid of characters, and make loads of dialogue selections alongside the way in which as issues obtained creepier and creepier.
Due to a hands-off preview session with Oxenfree 2, the sequel isn’t seeking to break what isn’t damaged. As a substitute, it appears the builders, practically all of whom are again from the unique, have discovered intelligent methods to deepen the bottom of Oxenfree’s world and spin it out into stunning new makes an attempt to interrupt our brains slightly, and introduce some endearing new characters besides.
Oxenfree II is ready in the identical world as the unique, however focuses on a model new solid, with gamers taking over the function of environmental researcher Riley. She’s come again house to the city of Camena to determine why digital tools is being affected by unusual radio indicators. Unsurprisingly, Camena isn’t that removed from Edwards Island, and the supernatural occasions that start to unfold over one night time threaten this charming coastal city.
A brand new solid doesn’t imply your time with the unique Oxenfree shall be for nought, whether or not you performed years in the past, revisit earlier than the sequel, or are simply choosing it up now. There shall be loads of acknowledgements to the primary recreation’s story, and actually, the builders have even been updating the unique Oxenfree on PC with new audio clips that assist bridge the story of this sequel’s villains, Parentage, with the unique recreation.
However the focus appears to primarily be on Riley’s story. Her assured tone, mixing a little bit of snark with an undertone of heat, matches proper at house in Night time Faculty’s chatty world. The primary recreation’s dialogue blended West Wing-paced chatter with Veronica Mars-esque wit, and although these characters are older, that mix nonetheless feels proper at house as Riley and her buddy Jacob explored Camena within the part of gameplay I noticed.
On the finish of the day, a recreation like Oxenfree will stay or die by how charming, or at the very least attention-grabbing, these characters are, notably on condition that gamers are always making dialogue selections. Fortunately, Oxenfree II appears to proceed to nail that tone of practical, informal dialog that Night time Faculty excelled at in each the unique and Afterparty, and Oxenfree II appears to be like to make the participant’s selections matter much more this time round. A small instance we noticed concerned Riley making an attempt to cross an finally un-jumpable hole by, nicely, leaping it, falling to a rock slightly beneath. Jacob takes a a lot safer route, climbing down a rock wall to assist her again up. Even a small determination like that would result in new permutations in dialog, and I’m fascinated to see how scenes can play out in a different way, as a second like this was one thing emblematic of what the builders strove for within the sequel.
Oxenfree 2 Preview Screenshots
“It was undoubtedly an preliminary purpose of ours: we wished extra selections that are not dialogue-based. We wished you to be making selections along with your bodily selections about what you are doing and the way you wish to go about that,” Studio Lead Author Adam Hines instructed IGN. “It additionally pushed us to design the environments in ways in which would enable these forms of moments to truly happen. There’s only a few instances when there’s only one path to rise up or down. You all the time have extra forks within the street and extra micro-choices on the right way to get to sure spots.”
One other explicit spotlight demonstrating the relatable nature of the characters got here when Jacob and Riley performed a recreation through which they instructed one another a narrative phrase by phrase.
I like moments like that, and have in Night time Faculty’s previous video games, so if the crew can proceed to ship these private, witty scenes like they do right here, I can’t wait to see what else we would focus on whereas exploring Camena.
That little recreation, extra importantly, stems from a personality beat – Jacob is fairly freaked out by every little thing occurring, and the sport helps to calm his nerves. It’s so key for moments like that to not really feel kitschy and to be rooted in who these characters are, and it made me respect the scene all of the extra. I assume it’s additionally price mentioning that Jacob was nervous as a result of, nicely, he and Riley had ended up in 1899.
Gotta Go Again in Time
You see, time tears have began opening up round Camena. They’ll enable Riley and her companions to journey via time to a degree that may hopefully supply some help of their journey. On this case, the duo, whereas venturing via the tunnels that unfold all all through Camena (a certainly helpful exploration system for a world the builders estimate is about 2.5-3 instances greater than Edwards Island, although they famous gamers shouldn’t essentially anticipate a sequel that’s 3 times as lengthy to play), discovers a time tear that brings them again all the way in which to 1899, again earlier than the mines had been deserted after a serious collapse. Fortunately, on this time interval, there’s a working elevator that, via a little bit of fast puzzle fixing, Riley and Jacob get transferring so as to assist them attain one other time tear and return to their level of origin. There’s just one downside – they’re making an attempt to drag off this little bit of platforming and puzzle fixing because the mines are, certainly, crumbling round them.
I’m actually a sucker for interdimensional rifts, and whereas Oxenfree is utilizing them on a a lot smaller scale than, say, Ratchet and Clank, it appears no much less integral to Oxenfree II’s story. Not solely does it enable for a recreation so targeted on its characters and site to deepen our understanding of these aspects in ways in which simply couldn’t be executed on a normal timeline, it additionally lends some considerable gray space to Riley’s actions. Did her and Jacob’s meddling occur to trigger the mine collapse, or did they simply occur to be in the best place on the incorrect time? I hope Oxenfree II doesn’t essentially reply questions like that – it’s the kind of time-loopy rabbit gap a narrative like this permits for, and I like the potential this one sequence guarantees.
The time tears are as thrilling a possible path to discover as a participant as they seemingly had been to develop. “Within the first recreation, the lion’s share of selection and interplay got here via dialogue… however these time tears have grow to be one thing actually thrilling for us, as a result of it’s the kind of factor the place, because the night time degrades and as issues are breaking down, all of these areas that you simply’re seeing can have some new issues that pop up inside them that change contextually primarily based on the place within the night time the sport is,” Studio Lead Sean Krankel mentioned.
“You possibly can conceivably go discover most of Camena after which come again to an area that you simply’re in and issues can have been modified slightly bit,” he continued.
This time tear is one positioned alongside the principle narrative path, and whereas the tears will definitely come into play there, gamers can anticipate finding a few of them, in addition to different sidequest alternatives all through Camena.
“[Time tears] are undoubtedly not all immediately tied to the precise story that you are going via now,” Hines defined. “So much comes out of the walkie talkie aspect quest that you would be able to encounter and select to do. These aspect quests will all be roughly associated to the occasion that is occurring within the night time, however the folks’s particular issues go off in wild and peculiar ways in which you need to typically go across the crushed path to unravel.”
However my introduction to time tears additionally represents a scene coming about an hour or so into the sequel’s story that feels greater than most of what the unique Oxenfree may pull off. Years later, Night time Faculty appears to have realized loads about the right way to deliver these characters and this world to life, not simply when it comes to the clearly improved character mannequin constancy, however within the complexity of sequences that additionally retain the haunting, lovely artwork model of the unique.
And it’s not simply the size that appears to be a magnet for Night time Faculty; the extra expansive measurement of Camena doesn’t simply make for an even bigger world – it lets Night time Faculty fill the city with extra attention-grabbing aims, aspect quests, and extra. The demo confirmed a few methods through which the builders are pulling this off.
The primary is using a walkie-talkie that not solely permits for a wider group of characters to work together with the participant wherever they’re in Camena, but additionally provides the participant company in initiating conversations, whether or not to remind them of aspect quests, or study extra perception into characters alongside the way in which. It’s a pleasant little bit of enlargement to Night time Faculty’s underlying theme of selection – not solely do you get to decide on what to say in conversations, now you’ve a bit extra selection in if you wish to discuss to some characters.
Screens – Oxenfree 2
“Having the walkie talkie in there and permitting the participant to start out conversations with folks that are not on display, with characters that they’ve met and wish to tag in with and see how they’re doing or ask for recommendation or one thing, was a giant nut that felt nice to crack, the power to start out a dialog to drive it in the way in which that you simply wish to,” Hines mentioned.
Moreover, motion and exploration has been expanded because of the inclusion of a rope gamers purchase early within the recreation. Riley having an ex-military background provides some plausibility to her extra adventurous leaning, and gamers can depend on that talent and the rope to navigate to bits of Camena you wouldn’t in any other case have the ability to attain. It doesn’t all of the sudden remodel Oxenfree right into a twitchy platformer, however it once more provides the participant extra selection, and, simply as importantly, extra strategies of satisfying their curiosity about what secrets and techniques Camena holds.
“There’s completely extra traversal constructed into the design, however it’s not heavy platforming and double jumps and swinging throughout issues,” Krankel defined. “It is extra about wanting the participant to parse out the map in a different way and never simply really feel like they’re urgent from left to proper and speaking.”
My quick time seeing Oxenfree II actually indicated that there’s much more than simply strolling left and proper and speaking. As Night time Faculty famous, Oxenfree isn’t reworking into some sudden style, unrecognizable from its predecessor. As a substitute, it’s aiming to deepen the promise of participant company and selection inside an authored world and story, and try this in ways in which prolong past selecting dialogue choices throughout a dialog. I, in fact, nonetheless have to play Oxenfree II, and see how that sense of selection extends to the total journey, however the promise of its expanded potential appeared clear in simply this transient part. I hope the remainder of Camena is simply as memorable a spot to discover.
Jonathon Dornbush is IGN’s Senior Options Editor, PlayStation Lead, and host of Podcast Past! He is the proud canine father of a BOY named Loki. Speak to him on Twitter @jmdornbush.