11-11 Memories Retold revolves around two WW1 soldiers, one from Germany and one from Canada, that become friends although fighting on opposite sides in the meatgrinder of the western front in WW1. It is a story about the humans on both sides of the war and of how the war takes its toll on fighting and non-fighting alike. Everything is embedded in a unique impressionistic art style and a soundtrack done by a real orchestra.
The first thing you notice when playing this 5 hour long adventure is its art style. That was one of the reasons the game got my attention in the first place. Everything in the game is done like an impressionist painting. That means that visuals will always keep this unclear brush painted look. There is no way to deactivate this visual feature. It is basically done to reinforce the “memories” part from the game’s title and leaves some of the details to your imagination.
The game follows two protagonists, Henry and Kurt, through their 2 year journey on the French-German western front of WW1. The first act gives lots of personal context and introduces the senseless meatgrinder of the western front. Every now and then your perspective will be switched between the German Kurt and the Canadian Henry.
Mechanically the first act of the game is similar to Telltale Game’s adventures. You do certain tasks, solve simple puzzles and are limited in exploration. Starting with act 2 this formula gets extended by switching between up to three characters, much like Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons. Simple puzzles support the comradery of the narration. And the third character to play is a cat – yes, a cat.
The final part of the game turns the story more into a drama that will unfold at the end. Multiple endings are possible. I have yet to find a good one. At some points of the story it becomes clear that this is more fiction than fact but the general tone of the war years is kept intact.
Most impressive is that the game humanizes the German population. This is something we rarely see because it is easier to just turn all Germans into villains. There is also an enlightening view on those coming from or living outside of Europe. It was only a matter of time before the funny and friendly Indian soldier fighting for the allied troops got headshotted. The game puts more time on human dilemmas than on the meatgrinder of the frontlines.
Everything gets carried by a magnificent soundtrack. The reason it sounds as epic as it does because it was recorded by an actual symphony orchestra and a professional choir. This soundtrack would also be well suited for a movie.
The same level of professionalism has been put into voice acting. Henry is voiced by Elijah Wood, Mr. Frodo, and Kurt is voiced by Sebastian Koch, a well-known actor in Germany. The voice acting is top notch. The German voices are done in perfection and – as a German myself – I appreciated that native German speaker were used. It is just amazing how much work was put into sound and voice.
It really pains me to say that the actual game mechanics are the thing that soured the overall experience. The default PC controls are abysmal and need to be adjusted before you start playing the game. Interactions with NPCs or items not always work spot on. While I had no technical problems several people in the Steam forums reported game freezes.
Then there is the issue of heavy use of quick time events. You might like or dislike them – I do the latter. For me they killed the immersion when I either could not decide in 7 seconds or let someone get shot instead of saving him because I hit the wrong button.
Overall 11-11 Memories untold tells an excellent story in an unusual way. Graphics are unique and the sound is just amazing. There is also replayability because of its multiple endings and hidden collectables. The mechanical issues are the only thing that keep me from totally loving this game. But it is still a great and unique experience worth recommending.