Cognition: An Erica Reed Thriller Game Review: Brimming with Unrealised Potential
Touted as the spiritual successor to Gabriel Knight, I really wanted to love this. An intriguing murder mystery/supernatural crossover setup, a strong female lead and Jane Jensen as a story consultant; this has a lot going for it.
However, I never really felt that this had the heart that some of the best adventure games have, such as the Gabriel Knight and Blackwell series. You're plunged into the action from the get-go, but I missed those quieter, reflective moments that give more insight into the characters through idle chit-chat, relationship building and even the protagonist's home space. You never visit Erica's home (the closest thing is her work desk – this tells you something about her, but nothing particularly meaningful) or learn much about her outside of her job/predicament.
The other characters are similarly sketchily drawn. Your partner/best friend is resigned to his desk for the majority of the game, interactions with your romantic interest don't really progress beyond an email and a couple of emotionally charged scenes and, cringe-worthily, one of your other main points of contact is restricted to the trope of Magical Black Friend.
One of the main assets of the game is the dark, twisty story (there are some genuinely surprising turns here), although I felt that the plot became rather convoluted towards the end and the lack of character development resulted in a less than emotionally satisfying conclusion. Another asset is the generally strong, if at times slightly uneven, voice acting; Raleigh Holmes, who lends her voice to the protagonist and soundtrack, is an impressive vocal talent (see video below), despite slipping in and out of a New York accent. The music, meanwhile, is tonally appropriate and atmospheric, with shades of Gabriel Knight, but lacks the same memorable quality and could be quite repetitive.
The other obvious issue is that this game is riddled with glitches:
This is quite possibly the buggiest game I've ever played (and I've just finished the most recently patched version). The laundry list of offences is long: heinous graphical glitches marring an otherwise appealing visual style, freezing, seemingly random unskippable dialogue (even when repeated), unintentional dialogue skipping, overlapping audio during dialogue, occasionally unresponsive controls, menu freezing during scenes... As an indie title, this deserves some slack, but I ran into bugs so frequently the game felt unfinished. It also broke immersion, which is one of the main draws of adventure titles for me.
While I truly feel this has sparks of something that could have been much better, for the latter reason alone, I can't rate this higher and wouldn't recommend this to anyone outside of dedicated adventure gamers who are hungry for something to fill the void post-Gabriel Knight.
Verdict: Brimming with potential, but let down by weak character development and a slew of glitches.