Unlike many videogames, Fragments of Him only contains one death. It's a man, a man who had a life, a history, a family, loves, and losses of his own. The game's story, then, centers around those who knew him before an accident took his life. The first version of the game, while quite basic and linear, is quite powerful in places (and freely available), but developer Sassybot is aiming for something much more robust with the new version. I dutifully picked up a few fragments of new info from designer Mata Haggis. Also, I plucked a new trailer fresh from the Internet's trailer fields, and that's below.
Originally Fragments of Him saw you simply removing objects around the environment as your character grieved into an uncaring void, but that's only the jump-off point for the full version. This time around, Haggis told RPS, there will be new interactions and (slight) branching story paths.
"There's gonna be different gameplay mechanics in the final version - not just removing objects. You'll be progressing the story by making choices, too.The story will be slightly branching, but it's still gonna have that same emotional journey if you go through it. Also each time you play through, you might get slightly different perspective - slightly different lines of dialogue and whatnot. While it is a linear emotional journey, there are different ways to go along that path."
And while the Fragments of Him prototype only focused on the deceased man's boyfriend, the new version will delve into the lives of four different characters - including the man himself as he unknowingly lives out his final day. Grim, I believe, is what that's called.
"There's gonna be four different stories. The [one about the boyfriend] is just one aspect of it. The final version is also gonna have the story of the man who died - his last morning. You're gonna be able to play through, find out what his final thoughts were, and what his hopes were for the future. We're gonna have the story of his ex-girlfriend from university, before the man had his boyfriend. We're gonna have her memories, the story of their relationship. We're gonna have his grandmother, how her traditional values don't necessarily match up with his lifestyle, and how they reconcile that."
While the boyfriend's story will still unfold a lot like it did in the original game, the new characters will exist in their own "presents" - not flashback sequences. Haggis described their gameplay styles as "like a mix of Heavy Rain and Gone Home." For instance, you might find yourself making and eating breakfast, but all throughout your character reflects on life and the world around them.
So those are the main things. There will also be professional voice and sound work, not to mention a soundtrack by a former Ubisoft composer. "Hurrah!" he said, fully cognizant of the fact that these things will likely be used to make him cry bitter, bitter tears.
For real, though, the prototype was quite good at wringing emotion from me at the most unexpected of moments, for instance while I was staring at in-game towel racks and toothbrushes. It definitely plays on heartstrings in unique ways, that's for sure. It also ends up deceptively personal for that reason, a musty closet full of "Oh jeez, I've been there" moments. Fragments of Him will be out at the end of 2014. It'll run you $20, which probably won't cover the cost of grief counselling.