War games are pretty much ten a penny, and have been for some time, but 11-11 Memories Retold is a very different beast to the likes of Call of Duty and Medal of Honor. Timed to coincide with the centenary of Armistice Day, the official ending of World War I, the game’s release is certainly poignant. As is the story, which sees you taking control of a man on either side of this bitter conflict.
Throughout 11-11 Memories Retold, you’ll find your perspective swapping between two main characters. First up is Harry, a Canadian photographer who finds himself drafted as an egotistical General’s personal publicist. On the other side, you’ll take control of Kurt – a German engineer who heads to the front line to track down his missing son.
The developers have done a marvellous job with these characters, especially the weary but determined Kurt. His plight really resonates, and in fact the way that the German characters are portrayed as a whole deserves credit. They feel very human, unlike the generic cold and heartless soldiers you see in most war games.
Of course, it’s no real spoiler to reveal that the two main characters cross paths before the game’s end. The story which draws them together is given time to breathe, allowing you plenty of time to get to know the cast before the tension ramps up. It’s a well-told narrative which held our interest throughout, although 11-11 Memories Retold isn’t as gritty as we’d hoped. This feels like a slightly glossy version of events, steering away from some of the more horrific aspects of war (or simply hinting at them instead).
Still, at times you have direct control over the narrative and the direction it takes. This steering can be as subtle as a line you choose to write in a letter to Koch’s young daughter, or something with significantly more impact – no spoilers here, though.
We’d definitely describe 11-11 as a casual narrative experience, rather than a game. Occasionally you will have to solve a very simple puzzle, such as pushing crates about to clear a route, while the odd mini game also crops up to divert your attention. However, the bulk of the time you’ll simply be exploring the environments for collectibles, or in Harry’s case taking snaps of anything interesting that pops up. If you want any kind of actual challenge, you’re best off leaving this title well alone.
Speaking of those environments, they’re rendered in a stunning watercolour style which is both unique and rather easy on the eye. The graphics were actually handled by Aardman, and they’ve done a remarkable job. I can’t think of another recent game which boasts such incredible and distinctive visuals – it’s as if the scene is being drawn out before you in real time.
Likewise, 11-11 Memories Retold’s audio suits the game perfectly. It’s somber when it needs to be, wistful or even upbeat at other times. And the voice acting is excellent thanks to the premium cast, which includes Sebastian Koch and Elijah Wood.
If you’re after a gentle-paced narrative-driven experience, then 11-11 Memories Retold is well worth considering. However, anyone after a proper ‘game’ with any kind of challenge will likely be let down by the rather basic gameplay.