Xbox One, PS4, PC, Nintendo Switch
June 23, 2022
When half of a body turns up during a live game show, it’s a horrific incident. Everyone is shocked, a police investigation is launched, and it’s a mystery that doesn’t have a good answer. When the other half of the same body turns up in a stadium six years later, it’s no random coincidence. The unsolved mystery re-opens, and the answer isn’t going to be simple.
AI: THE SOMNIUM FILES – nirvanA Initiative starts with such a scenario, and the mystery only deepens as your investigation continues. Operating as a sequel to 2019’s AI: The Somnium Files, nirvanA Initiative sees seemingly impossible situations occur whilst you are tasked with finding out what’s going on. While a fair share of mundane investigations strip back some of the mystery and intrigue, you will still have to start thinking outside the box to handle what comes next.
You take control of two teams of detective partners. In the “past” timeline, you have Ryuki and Tama, a pair investigating the Half Body serial killings when they first start. In the “present” timeline, you have Mizuki and Aiba, a pair investigating the re-appearance of the serial killings when the other half of the bodies start appearing six years after the first case.
While this game is a sequel to the first AI: THE SOMNIUM FILES, you don’t need to have played the first game in order to understand what is going on with this story. It’s a new mystery (with no relation to the previous case), with new main characters, and additions to the previous game mechanics. However, there will be references that will fly over the heads of those who haven’t played the first game. Thankfully, summaries and tutorials are also on offer for those who need them.
The game takes place in Japan and gameplay is split into two areas. One is an investigation where you will move around to different locations, interviewing people, and looking for clues. The other takes place in the Somnium where the detectives analyse the consciousness of others in order to find clues that will assist them in their investigation.
Investigating will let you meet the cast, learning about their quirks and backgrounds. While the mood around the case is sombre, there will be some comedic moments that you see while investigating. That humour can be perverted and crude at times (and can be more random than the previous game), but it does a good job of giving you the occasional chuckle and reminding you that these are just regular people thrown into an unusual situation.
Diving into a Somnium is where the game’s quirkiness comes to life, as you interact with a person’s consciousness. The events inside can range from odd to disturbing, and you cannot tackle Somnium adventures using the same logic as you would in the real world (which has its own humorous moments). As strange as a Somnium may seem at first, it does have relevance to the mystery that you are investigating. Working through someone’s consciousness to get the clues you need is weird but rewarding as you feel yourself getting closer to the answers you seek.
One of the greatest strengths of AI: THE SOMNIUM FILES – nirvanA Initiative is that all the information you need will be in the areas you explore, whether investigating or diving into a Somnium. The game doesn’t go out of its way to hide information from you, and it will tell you when you have found all the information that you need. While it can sometimes lead to frustration when you believe you have found everything, it also prevents you from proceeding without vital information.
The information you uncover will also affect how the story unfolds. There are several routes that the story can take, depending on what you know and the decisions that you make. As is typical of a Spike Chunsoft game, completing one route is easy to do, but doesn’t tell you the whole story. You will have to replay different points in the story and make different decisions to truly understand the narrative as a whole, allowing you to reach the true ending.
“There is always an answer in the game, you just have to do the investigative work to uncover the truth and unlock more routes.”
There is always an answer in the game, you just have to do the investigative work to uncover the truth and unlock more routes. Some routes will end abruptly, preventing you from proceeding because you don’t have all of the necessary information. While this can be annoying for players, you will need to trust the game and keep learning information unlocked in different routes. This isn’t a typical “choose-your-own-adventure” story; some routes don’t make sense until you have uncovered information elsewhere. The game blocks you from those routes to avoid confusing you, and while you may not agree with the decision, it ultimately works for your benefit in enjoying the story.
For new players, there can be a learning curve. While this game will have the usual logical deductions and investigation work often associated with detectives, finding information to get closer to the truth will involve throwing some logic out the window. This is especially true for Somniums, which have a six-minute time limit. You will be making mistakes as you look for solutions and try out different options. Fortunately, there are retry options to bring you back to checkpoints to try again, and the game will get easier as you start thinking outside the box.
For returning players, there are new investigation features that help you find new clues, such as virtual reality re-imagining and Wink Psync to see strong memories as dreams in a quick Somnium. While these are cool additions, they only serve as methods used to investigate the mystery, and won’t lead to any special conclusions. They won’t unlock anything new (that isn’t already ordained by the story), but they do make you feel like a futuristic detective.
This also means a lot of the new additions aren’t as impactful or as amazing as they appear to be on the surface. While using features like Wink Psync or being able to explore a Somnium in new ways is definitely entertaining, it feels less like a new way of investigating and more like another tool to drive the story. But if you are after another thrilling mystery that gets you thinking, a story filled with twists and turns, as well as a chance to hone your investigative skills, you can’t go wrong with AI: THE SOMNIUM FILES – nirvanA Initiative.
- The story has many twists and turns, making you want to know more
- Characters are fun and relatable
- There's a good balance of humour and seriousness
- It's hard to get stuck because you're missing something
- The new story additions are cool, but feel like extra story moments
- Some of the humour can be crude and random
AI: THE SOMNIUM FILES – nirvanA Initiative can throw a lot of information at you, and it will take some time to digest the tutorials and the events of the game. But once you manage to find your footing, you will be investigating an intriguing mystery that crosses different timelines with powerful tools. It’s a story that requires patience, understanding, and some outside-the-box thinking, but it pays off with a fantastic resolution when you reach the real conclusion.