Caty's currently working through her 2017 backlog in the weeks leading up to our Game of the Year discussions. Over the weekend, she finally finished Gravity Rush 2.
I imagine for the average person whose job isn't to play video games for a living, their backlog after this packed year is even greater than my own. Somehow, even comparing to friends and colleagues, I still manage to have a pretty steep backlog, despite feeling like I was on the ball (in terms of playing new games) all year long. But when I gaze at my own list, I see a wealth of big games and small games; all things that seemed to slip in between the cracks.
But I'm basically free this month. Aside from Okami HD and Xenoblade Chronicles 2 on the horizon, both games that I doubt I'll finish (the first for the third time) before 2017 is through, I'm free to clear out that pesky backlog of mine. So I'll be doing so over the next couple weeks, writing these teensy little blogs all across my journey. On my current docket (concerning games I either missed, or started and never finished) are: Assassin's Creed: Origins, Prey, Resident Evil 7, Battle Chef Brigade, Everything, Observer, Hellblade, Dujanah, ECHO, Rain World, Divinity: Original Sin 2, and Oikospiel. Totally feasible, right? (Not.)
Over the long holiday weekend, I returned to a game that I abandoned long ago in favor of greener pastures. I lept, or rather gravity-shifted, back into Gravity Rush 2.
Spoiler Warning: Vague spoilers describing elements of the Final Act of Gravity Rush 2 ahead.
When I last left off with Kat and her galaxy-imbued kitty cat, we were back home in Hekesville, which apparently was enough to make me bounce off the game entirely. Hekesville, for those who missed the flawed original game on PlayStation Vita, is the same town from the original game. It's very beige and French-inspired, and thus quite different from the entrancing tiered city of where the game drops you in its opening hours: Jirga Para Lhao. While here in Gravity Rush 2 the town feels vaster and thus more interesting, it still just felt a bit too much like deja vu. Despite the game's increasingly endearing side missions, which had me do everything from playing fetch with a dog to attracting customers to a local ice cream shop to being a makeshift photographer, the main missions weren't enough to hold my attention by the time act three rolled around.
But this weekend I returned to it. And I'm so, so glad I did.
The story has always been the least interesting part of the Gravity Rush games. Their worlds, and the many angles you can explore them in, was always the highlight. Especially in Gravity Rush 2. Cities turned upside down, explorable from every wall and angle, with secrets to uncover at every nook and cranny. Cities dense with people, livelihoods; barred by the steep lengths of the sky and troublingly separated according to wealth (starkly similar to reality).
That's probably why when the game took me away from the city I was so immensely invested in about two thirds of the way through the sequel, I felt bitter about it. I wanted to go back to those floating islands with skyscrapers rooted onto them. I wanted to hang out on the side of a building, watching the city from a horizontal angle, as if it had folded onto itself. But then as I clumsily glided through the familiar territory of Hekesville again in my return, I remembered why I admired the series—flaws and all—in the first place.
And then its story got properly weird. And I mean, really weird.
Technically, the credits roll after act three. Kat and company have a happy ending. Hekesville is suddenly within flyable distance to Jirga Para Lhao. I could return happily to its colorful, impeccably designed areas and clean up the few side missions of delivering newspapers and such that I abandoned. Then there was another story, buried in its epilogue-esque final act. Except, the story there feels hardly tethered to everything that came before it. It felt like the third entry in the series overall, packed into a hyper-condensed final few hours.
While it definitely suffers because of it, and yet, the final act is the most engaged I ever felt with Kat's story beyond her inherently naive, do-good personality, beyond the side missions she weathered in the past. The game goes in bizarre directions, including a monotonous, action-free sequence that lasts around a half hour, showing Kat's new daily routine as things slightly change and veer in increasingly odd directions. Later, Kat finds herself in a series of puzzles, gathering her memories from centuries past. To get there, she navigates the lifesize puzzles, utilizing gravity too. The puzzles, oddly enough, felt like they were stripped straight out of the mobile series Monument Valley. I wonder if that was the inspiration behind it.
The sequences are seemingly constructed to be purposefully uncomfortable, like how Kat feels in the moment: a far cry from Kat's errand running or monster fighting. She's adjusting to this change, but feels confused while doing so. She's not shifting gravity at every turn, she's not walking on ceilings and walls; nor gliding across island-cities either. She's just Kat without the Kat we know. Then she reclaims herself.
The compact epilogue took risks where the main campaign, that is the first three acts beyond a very cool boss at the end of act three that was reminiscent of the end of Akira, did not. While the world and exploration are still Gravity Rush 2's shining achievement, Gravity Rush 2 finally gave me a reason to care about the lore behind the game's lovingly detailed world. Which, honestly, is what the series always felt like it was missing in the first place.