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TLTR version: I do not recommend the base game, but I recommend DLCs.

There is a lot of potential in this game. I guess the best thing here is its setting: shortly after WW2, there is a drug, that makes [most of] people happy - you already can spin quite a lot of this and delve deep into people's psyche. But somehow all this potential goes down the drain in the base game.

  1. Firstly, I was not able to emphasize with the characters. In order to be as spoiler-free, let's touch upon Arthur, who is the main protagonist in "Act I" of the game. His motivation is quite loose. He has mood swings. He is not consistent and does not develop through the game. Or rather the story tries to tell you, that he changes, but he does not, really (choice in the epilogue proves this point). Even adding some inner dialogue about his current (not past) feelings could could make Arthur more relatable.
  2. NPCs are [mostly] copy-pasted. Don't get me wrong, I get that this can be seen as an artistic choice to show the uniqueness of the world here, but they are too identical. Yes, characters in the main story are "unique" although still boring and/or cliched/flat, but if you go for side-quests - "character" is simply missing in those "characters". Is this done specifically to emphasize on how everyone is virtually identical on the drug? I think, we have already gotten in through the masks.
  3. Lore. Or rather, how it's presented. As I said, the setting is interesting you can tell quite interesting stories in it, bring up difficult moral choices, experiment with psychology... And it should have an interesting background, that is "past" (relatively to our "present". And the above is all true, but it's spoiled by how the lore is presented: "memories" which are found as collectibles and letters. "Memories" as supposed to clarify Arthur's motivation, but they are scarce, short, static (literarily: a static picture with voice-over), fail to deliver any kind of emotional impact, even though the words are supposed to be doing that. And you can... Miss them. I would understand if they were "mementos" like "my old toy", "medal for a marathon" or something like that, but when you are expected to use them for empathy - this doe snot work. As for letters - I do not know. They seemed repetitive in their themes, cliched, predictable. Some of them were "series", but you, again, can miss them and thus do not get a conclusion to the series. Personally, I'd prefer them to be replaced by optional cutscenes or simple dialogues (I mean the lore says, that there are more and more people like Arthur, so that would make sense).
  4. Speaking of Collectables: Jack TVs. The videos themselves are ok. They are consistent with the setting, they fit them, but, why would you, actually, bother stopping in the middle of a street to watch them, especially at night (if you do not have a perk)? And they even have a schedule and achievement for watching all of them (thus using that schedule). There is no benefit from them for the player or character, although those videos do try to explore more of the lore. I'd just show those videos at homes you can visit and show those, that are relevant to current quest, for example. I think, Max Payne or something from that time had similar feature.
  5. Let's move to gameplay and start with auto-generation. This is bad. I mean really bad. It creates inconsistency in the story even! Map is rebuilt between acts! Houses are moved around (Dr. Faraday's). Personally, I'd prefer them to limit auto-generation to, say, optional houses and ruins, but not things related to quests.
  6. Speaking of inconsistencies (and I am not even referencing those in Acts 2 and 3): AI. Lore says, that it's bad if you enter other's houses. Then why do AI do that? There are some houses, that are locked initially, but when you unlock them, there is a chance, that someone from the outside will come in and walk around. There were also cases, when someone was standing next to an alarm and was not pulling it. It looked as if no one tested this properly.
  7. Speaking of testing: did anyone test how it would actually play to be stealthy, yet need t cover kilometers of distance crouching? I guess, not, because it plays awful. This is another case of inconsistency: if this is stealth, why are you nudging me towards running through these streets because of boredom and desire to finish this as quickly as possible?
  8. And if you start to run - high chance you will be attacked (unless you have a perk) and you will need to fight. And you will be forced to fight quite often and it will also be quite boring. Yes, you can shove people, but that does not make it that diverse. Different weapons do not differ much in terms of gameplay: yes, they can feel slightly different (at least, speed and animation), but overall - clickity-clack that button, till opponent is down. At least, give us guns... Not counting darts.
  9. And once he's down - heal your bleeding, hunger and thirst. Because this is a survival game! For now reason whatsoever. I mean, as a separate mode - why not? As part of the main game - this is more of annoyance, especially considering how difficult it may be to find some resources. From the lore perspective - yes, ok. From gameplay, when you want to tell a story - no.
  10. Then there come bugs. Animation mainly, unhittable enemies, collisions, missing voice overs... Generally, they are not that big of a deal, but they spoil the picture even more.

Perhaps, I could think of some other flaws, but I am getting tired already, to be honest, and I do really want to commend the team for DLCs. Because DLCs are awesome. It looks as if the guys knew the mentioned flaws themselves and thus made them this way.

  1. Characters are interesting. They do actually develop (mostly) compared to their somewhat secondary roles. They do face some sorts of dilemmas, doubt themselves. They are not perfect, they could have more dimensions, I guess, but they are far more superior to other characters. I think what helps here is the dynamics of how the stories are told: they are fast-paced and to the point.
  2. Same as gameplay. There is no survival here (I mean from hunger and thirst and sleep), pure action with interesting mechanics and some acrobatics. Yes, it's linear, but in this case - this is a benefit. Even maps are better designed, more realistic in terms of proportions, more detailed. Stealth in 3rd DLC is even better: it somewhat reminded me of Dishonored and I think this is how the main game should have been structured instead of being open-world.
  3. While the DLCs are not perfect (I did find a few minor unpolished moments there), they are consistent through out each episode. The pacing of action, of character development, gameplay, AI. They all made sense. Even letters were more on point here.

So, as you might surmised, my main problem with the main game is "consistency". I think it started as a slightly different game and then was rushed (the way Parade District in Act 1 and then Act 2 and 3 build the narrative prove that). And, perhaps, there were ideas for 2 games, that were pushed into 1, that's why it looks as if it's missing its own identity, as if those NPCs, leaving nothing but a stylish clothing. For DLCs devs seem to have had more time and focus and thus their talents shined there. I think, with slight adjustments, those could be released separately from the main game even. More people would be able to try them. I mean, right now, judging by achievements statistics - not so many people bother playing them.