Event is a curious game, I’ll admit. At its core, it’s a first-person adventure/ puzzle game with cumbersome controls (no ASDW movement here—instead, it uses left click to advance and right click to withdraw). What’s intended to set the game apart from the crowd though is its method for story delivery. That is, the overwhelming majority of information you’ll glean about Event, its setting, former inhabitants, and their relevance to your character will all come through interactions with a station AI by the name of Kaizen; all of which is done through terminal interfaces into which you type to chat with your (possibly) sentient companion.
Now, the experienced among you will be immediately skeptical of such a system. Anyone who remembers playing old-school MUD games will be familiar with the historical limitations of such an interface. Many an attempt at roleplaying has been shattered by the realities of primitive if>then functions coded to respond to a set few keywords. In truth, Ocelot Society’s attempts to circumvent these shortcomings with an overwhelming amount of procedurally generated responses aren’t entirely successful. But, if I’m honest, it’s not entirely unsuccessful, either. I’ll elaborate on this point shortly.
Event starts with a setup familiar to classic RPG players, involving a series of choices to establish your character’s name, back story, and rather interestingly, choice pronouns (including gender-neutral. Yay!). Shortly after this bit of seeding, bad things happen (oh no!), and you’re shuttled away into space where your escape pod comes upon a derelict cruise vessel. Think Titanic in space and you’ll get a feel for the purpose of said ship. Upon docking with the vessel, you’ll begin interacting with Kaizen. It’s alluded to early on that Kaizen is programmed to help alleviate depression and stress levels among humans in deep-space travel, but it’s easy to become immediately suspicious of the motives of an AI aboard a derelict ship.
Anyway, Kaizen’s interactions are still rife with the usual shortcomings of input>response systems, but not to such a degree that I found it frustrating. Asking about things that Kaizen had mentioned would return no related response, plot points would occasionally spit out without a related keyword input, and there is no shortage of dialogue routes that made me feel as if Kaizen was plotting to kill me (or perhaps had already). These sorts of events could easily mar the experience for a player, but I made a promise to myself upon my first terminal interaction to fully role-play all dialogue to the absolute limit that the game could nurture. As it turns out, this was a great decision, as it resulted in numerous interesting and unsettling exchanges.
In my experience, the system is not quite robust enough to prevent from recycling output, but just robust enough to I never saw the same response from Kaizen within a single screen of dialogue. It could be that my particular choice of response was just such that my expressed frustration with Kaizen “changing the subject” or “clearly trying to keep me in the dark” were just enough to nudge the topic into unexplored directions. Surely, I imagine there are people who played Event that are stuck receiving the same responses, but for me, the accidental (or possibly intentional) hinting at horrific events, only to have Kaizen not respond when asked about them, or change the subject when prompted was just enough to suck me into the whole “I’m getting HAL900’d” thing. It was particularly interesting considering I envision Kaizen as more of a BMO character than anything.
Event itself and the story in retrospect were underwhelming however, but it’s also hard to sell an homage to a cliché rogue AI story that can really blow someone’s mind. It’s a bit like trying to make a sequel to Soylent Green, I’d imagine. In that regard then, the system of interfacing with Kaizen is certainly the star of the show here, which leaves Event in that awkward space that leaves it difficult to offer a blanket recommendation. I enjoyed it—thoroughly. I recorded hundreds of screenshots of interesting and horrifying dialogue with Kaizen, and kept thinking that it would be an amazing game to stream on Twitch, or to do a Let’s Play of.
But, to recommend such an experience to someone who has no acquired taste (or at the very least, nostalgia) for text interfaces would be silly. For someone like me, though, who can be sucked in by little more than the opportunity to attempt to force an existential crisis on an AI and a setup script that produces a Nietzsche quote, I was plenty happy to spend my time with it. Certainly, I’m intrigued to go back and see what happens if I don’t lose my cool and swear at Kaizen so much.