Let's talk - Binary Domain - Part deux

Hello! Thanks for coming! Let's continue, shall we? I will again issue a GIANT SPOILER-WARNING right here. If you want to play this game and not have it spoiled, skip this entire piece, since I will be going into plot-ruining detail. You have been warned!



So, to set up the story: It's half-past the future and global warming has hit the earth like a young “Ingo” Johansson. Most of the world is flooded and a large portion of the planets population has been wiped out. The governments of the world decide to build new cities over the raised water-line using the old ruins as foundation. Since most of the worlds population is sleeping with the fishes, robots are built to supplement the diminished workforce. When the game starts, robots are very commonplace and have been integrated into most facets of human life. Since there are so many robots around, the “New Geneva Convention” institutes a series of laws called Clause 21. Clause 21 makes it illegal to research, manufacture or distribute robots that can pass for humans. Supposedly, this is meant to keep robots and humans as separate as possible, as to not wake any strange ideas of “robot rights”.

Terminate much?

At the start of the game, we see a person come into the Bergen Corporation Building in Detroit carrying a gun, behaving erratically and asking who he is. As it turns out, underneath his skin, he is a robot. This revelation has caused the man no end of distress and he seems very upset about it. He is taken care of (with extreme violence) and the UN security council is called for an emergency meeting. It is discovered that this man was a “hollow child”, a robot so life-like that the machine itself does not know that it isn't human. All signs point towards the Japanese robot-manufacturing company Amada Corporation. The problem here is that after the global-warming incident, Japan has become an isolated state. Shutting itself out from the world and ruling itself with autocracy. Without any means of contacting Amada Corporation, the council is left with only one option: to send in a Rust crew (a specialized task force trained in dealing with robot threats) and capture Yoji Amada, the mysterious CEO and head designer of Amada Corp. This is were the game begins and you take control of Dan Marshall, a member of the Rust Crew sent into Japan. You infiltrate Japans outer borders and make your way to Tokyo. Accompanying you is your childhood friend Roy Boateng, and you meet the rest of the members of the Rust Crew as the game progresses.

Along your way you meet citizens of the differing social-strata of Japan, from the downtrodden and forgotten to the nobles living in the ivory towers. The game makes an effort for you to see how the world as it stands have changed, and how it is very much the same.

When you do reach Amada Corp. you discover that Yoji Amada is dead, and have been for a long while. It seems that the man was experimenting not only with creating hollow children, he was also developing “self-aware A.I”, and succeeded. He made the A.I. self-aware by introducing the concepts of pain and suffering into it. Here is where all up-and-coming mad scientists need to take note, since what happened was a success, but the A.I. repaid Yojis ingenuity with death. It is also revealed that not only are the hollow children almost human-like, they are so human-like that they are able to breed with humans, creating offspring that is human, but are imbued with extreme physical conditioning and immunity towards most diseases and afflictions. As the cherry-on-top, it turns out that one of the Rust Crew is such an offspring: Faye Lee, the teams sniper and protagonist Dans love-interest. The last revelation shatters the squad and their trust. Eventually the squad finds Amadas A.I. core and a battle erupt that not only tests the squads prowess, but also their trust. Roy Boateng, our fair protagonists childhood friend reveals that he is a mole for the UN security council, who by the leadership of Bergen Corp. It seems that the UN wasn't really interested in maintaining Clause 21, they just wanted to get to Amadas mainframe and steal the A.I. core. Who survives depends on the trust gained throughout the game.

As you might have figured out, this game is really heavily inspired by existing sci-fi and cyberpunk works. The hollow children draw heavily from Blade Runner (or “Do androids dream of electric sheep” by Philip K. Dick) and Terminator (some shots of the Hollow children with damaged skin are really on the nose). There is corporate espionage and political intrigue. There are even discussions about class and what makes a human. The whole game is filled with all of these fun little interesting moments which are surprisingly poignant. I say “surprisingly” for a reason, and the reason is the characters.


rust crew

If the story is full of small moments of interesting (and sometimes serious) discussion, the characters are full campy fun. See, this is one of the most questionable, yet genius, moves of the game. Where the story is written by some hardcore sci-fi nerd, the characters are written by someone who has a profound love of camp and action movies. This really throws the “serious subject-matter” off, but in a very good way. The characters are campy and enjoyable, so you kind of naturally start to like and appreciate them. So when the shit hits the fan, you're there with the characters: feeling for, and with them.


Rust Crew:

Dan “the Survivor” Marshall (voiced by Travis Willingham)

100% American beef. Dan is the protagonist and the hero of the game. He is a man of simple pleasures. He likes women and blasting robots. He sees himself as quite suave, but ultimately he comes of as childish. While he seems to be a very capable person, we find out throughout the game that he is from a troubled household which still affect him. His father was an alcoholic who beat his mother, and Dan in kind, took out his frustration on the household robot. Which is the probable cause for his disdain for robots of all kinds.




Roy “Big Bo” Boateng (voiced by Alem Brhan Sapp)

200% American beef. “Big Bo” is Dans childhood friend and constant supporter. He is the first squad-mate we meet and it's his and Dans relationship that is tested the most at the end of the game. While he is the squads resident comic-relief, he is also quite rough around the edges, which has a tendency to cause friction with the other team mates. This friction is however quickly eroded whenever a fire-fight brakes out since he truly shines in the heat of battle.




Faye Lee (voiced by Laura Bailey)

The sole survivor of the Chinese portion of the rust crew sent into Japan. She is a no nonsense soldier who's very capable at her task as the teams sniper. At the start of the game she has a very stand-offish relationship with the rest of the team, but as the story grows, her trust grows, until certain details around her status as humanity is elaborated to her and the squad.

She fits into the cast as one of the straight-men, and she fits the role alright. While she isn't as fun to have around, as say Charles, she does have a good way of bringing the rest of the crew back down to earth when the situation calls for it, and her character does a whole lot of growing throughout the story.




Charles Gregory (voiced by Troy Baker)

Charles is the rust crew's trusty leader and an all around straight man. He is a by-the-book kind of soldier who constantly clashes with Dan's cowboy-demeanor. The game truly revels in playing with Charles, and there are a lot of really fun scenes where it takes the piss out of his very serious personality.

He is on the other hand very capable and leads his crew well, even while he is clashing with Dan. And by the end, both Dan and Charles feel like they have both grown from eachothers company.




Cain (voiced by John DeMita)

Cain is the only non-human in the Rust Crew, he is also the only Frenchman. This is probably by coincidence. He's the fan favorite and any soldiers best friend. Cain is a combat-robot given a certain amount of autonomy. He comes equipped with his trust auto-pistol, grapple-hook, USB-port and a very dapper scarf. With all of this in mind, his stand-out-feature is probably is relentless optimism and positive view on any given situation.




Rachel Townsend (voiced by Nayo Wallace)

The team's demolitions expert and “strong silent type”. While Rachel is given the least amount of screen-time, she is still a great character. She seems to always come out on top and always have a strong sense of herself. While her job is to blow things up, she admits that personally, she likes to spend her free time quietly with a book.

Other notable characters:

The game is filled with fun characters outside of the Rust crew, but it's hard to talk about them at any length, since they do not get as much screen-time as the main team. There is however a subplot involving a Japanese police-officer who tracks the rust crew and helps to unravel the mystery of the Amada Corp. This entire subplot seems to be a nod towards John Woo-style cop movies, and is very appreciated by this writer. There's a mobster who has some great dialogue with Charles and then there is Amada himself (itself) who kind of shines as a “good guy turned bad”. There are more interesting characters that appear in small parts of the game, but talking about each and everyone would be to text-consuming and too drawn out. So I'll just settle it here.

Closing statements

I love Binary Domain. I still remember the night I picked it up on a whim. I was feeling like playing a stupid third-person-shooter, and the choice was between Binary Domain and a game called Inversion. From the moment I started the game it felt like I made the right choice, and by hour two of playing, I was thoroughly invested. I mean, for a game in a genre saturated with “grim dark”-moods and “dumb bro shooters”-mechanics to stand out on its charm and interesting mechanics is quite unique. Now, I'm not going to sit here and tell all of you who haven't played it to go and buy it. Its not a perfect game, it still has its flaws and might not be for everyone. But for this one right here, Binary Domain has a very special place in my heart.