11-11: Memories Retold Review

No matter what you are told by first person shooters, war is not fun. 

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It is a terrifying prospect for all involved, leaving irreparable scars upon the world and its people. It changes you. The friendships built are lifelong – formed in the horrors of war and the simple primordial instinct of keeping each other alive. 

And as the globe commemorates in the armistice centenary, that is something we should never forget. The immeasurable sacrifice made by soldiers in the First World War is something I pray the globe doesn’t have to go through again.

This is the side of war that games which associate themselves with this historical context fail to capture… Usually, it’s just a new, pretty setting in which to shoot someone in the face on online multiplayer.

At this point, it is my pleasure to introduce you to 11-11: Memories Retold – a short single player experience by Digixart and Aardman Studios that should be celebrated for efficiently capturing this reality of war in one of the finest stories you will play all year.

This non-linear story throws two characters on opposite sides into the “extraordinary crucible” that was World War 1 - forming an unlikely friendship which is tested to its breaking point. Fair warning: the plot is a gripping emotional rollercoaster, grabbing you from the scruff of the neck any good book.

And like any Telltale Game at their height of their storytelling prowess, every decision comes with consequences that you can’t help but take personal responsibility for and feel invested. But sometimes, the gameplay does get in the way of full immersion, putting in place some awkward mechanics that grow tedious.

On one side of the war, you play as a photographer, which plays well into Aardman’s hands for showing off the beauty of this game while keeping you engaged. Meanwhile, the other side pitches you as an engineer, playing through a real mixed bag of mini-games from tolerable to a bit of a pain.

Fortunately, as a story-driven title, these can be easily forgiven in the face of a beautifully written tale that you can’t help but see through to the end.

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But chances are these won’t be the first things you notice… Let’s talk about the oil painting of the elephant in the room. 

If you’ve seen a trailer or a screenshot, chances are you were primarily taken aback by the visual style. 11-11 channels the growing impressionist era of the time of World War One and produces a game that looks like a living painting, complimented by a beautifully matched orchestral soundtrack.

As trees rustle in the wind, new paint strokes form to represent the movement. Water is repainted as the current moves, and the lovingly recorded (at Abbey Road) orchestra gently hums in the background – demonstrating the peace of this moment at odds with the context. Make no mistake about it, this is a beautiful game most of the time.

But by committing wholly to this art style, they come face-to-face with some flaws. You’ll have some difficulty finding in-game interactive elements at sometimes, and things don’t look so good when you move out of the big open plains of the battlefield. 

Sure, this impressionist style is nothing short of jaw-droppingly beautiful when it comes to outdoors. Move things to tight quarters or indoors, however (like a trench), and that sale oil painted picture looks more reminiscent of an old PS1 game. 

So, where does this leave us? Gripes aside, Aardman has done an incredible job with their first major title. From that handmade look and feel you know and love about the company, to the story that hits every emotional note with a level of maturity rarely seen in gaming, and a one-of-a-kind style that has to be experienced to be believed. I have no doubt you will be satisfied dropping £25 on this.

11-11: Memories Retold is one of the best told stories in gaming this year. Just don’t expect to finish with dry eyes.

8/10