Her Story is unlike anything you’ve played before and the journey throughout the game is a powerful and emotional one. You will need to rely on your own ability to piece together the story and its eventual outcome as this game never really explains what’s going on. Her Story pushes the boundaries of what video game storytelling can be and fleshes out one of the most emotionally gripping stories I’ve ever experienced in a game.
Set entirely within the Portsmouth Police Database, everything you accomplish will be on this single screen. You’re given some very light direction as you begin to trawl through all the information, enter the search term ‘Murder’ and a number of video interviews pop up with that tag from an investigation which took place in the mid-90s. Due to the age of the footage and obvious transition from analogue to digital there are no other tags in place on the system, which prohibits you from cataloguing these videos further. While the overarching story looks like a murder mystery left for you to observe what it becomes is a much tighter, personal narrative as you delve into these interviews and start to piece together a timeline of events using whatever tagging system you feel is appropriate.
Although I started with the basics drilled into me by years of procedural cops shows: Who did this, why and when? I found that later in the game I was more interested in everything that was being presented and not simply the events on a single occasion. Your subject – at first an unnamed woman, tells stories of her childhood and the challenges she faced through her life. I was hanging on her every word. The actress playing the character does a wonderful job at conveying the emotional charge of the situation and I became completely engrossed in her and I almost forgot why I was here. The choice to go full FMV and simply film her talking takes the concepts that Rockstar’s LA Noire toyed with back in the day and takes them to a whole new level.
The story takes some interesting turns and is completely open ended in nature. The game does have a finishing point where it presumes you’ve seen enough content to throw one final twist at you, however this is unnecessary as you’re immediately allowed back in to find the rest of the content.
I filled in pages of notes while watching the videos – new search terms, placing the interview snippets in what I thought was the correct order based on my assumptions and thoughts on the true nature of the case. I can’t tell you if I’m wrong or not, there are so many areas open to interpretation and the non-linear nature of the story means that even though I’ve seen every snippet of footage, there is no definitive answer.
I decided to check other gamer’s opinions and theories, only a couple of minutes on the internet and I found numerous people coming to completely different conclusions. It’s the same cultural phenomenon found from movies such as Inception, where the ambiguous nature of the ending allows fans to speculate for years to come. This is refreshing for video games, all too often developers feel the need to explain everything in minute detail.
Her Story isn’t going to appeal to everyone. There are people who won’t want to take a lot of notes as they play, some want to feel that sense of accomplishment in having something come to a full and complete end. It is worth sitting down with this game and simply looking at another way – seeing something taken completely outside the box and played around with. Her Story challenges the concepts of what we call a video game and puts a nonlinear, tight, personal narrative over gameplay concerns.