While many video games often tackle the events of World War I through its physical actions — the shooting, the explosions and the death that ensues — “11-11: Memories Retold” instead focuses on the humanity of war through carefully crafted storytelling and a beautiful impressionist art style that turns the game into a living painting.
“11-11: Memories Retold” is a third-person narrative adventure game developed by DigixArt and Aardman Animations and published by Bandai Namco Entertainment. Set during World War I, the game follows two soldiers on opposite sides of the war. The story that unravels as they both struggle to survive and return to their loved ones.
On one side is Henry (voiced by Elijah Wood), a young, optimistic Canadian who enlists in the military to become a war photographer, hoping to make a difference with his photos and impress a girl he likes back home. However, his naivete is shattered when he reaches the front and realizes that war isn’t as valorous and victorious as the newspapers back home say it is. On the other side is Kurt (voiced by Sebastian Koch), a loving, German father working in a factory who hears that his son’s infantry unit goes missing on the front. Determined to find his son and bring him home, he leaves behind his wife and daughter to enlist as an engineer in the military.
Aside from the stellar voice performances of the two main characters, the game’s art style sets it apart from other games in the genre. Reminiscent of Claude Monet’s work, the impressionist art style helps the game paint a humanistic depiction of World War I through the eyes of its characters.
The gameplay is a little different for each character. At the beginning of a new chapter, the player may choose which character they wish to play as first. Harry (the photographer) is able to take photos of his surroundings, and the player may choose to photograph different aspects of the war, highlighting the good and the bad. When Harry talks to the postman, he can send home a photo to the girl he likes, Julia, and depending on the photo, will shape her feelings toward Harry. Meanwhile, Kurt has the ability to interact with different electrical devices, which make up most of the puzzles in the game. The more people Kurt talks to on his adventures in the war, the more he’ll have to talk about in his letters home to his daughter. However, the player is also warned to be careful about what they write home to Kurt’s young daughter, as it may change how she perceives her father. The choices the player makes and the people they talk to will later influence the ending of the story.
Some of the best sequences of “11-11: Memories Retold” are the ones that depict the horrors of war. Both characters are present at the Battle of Vimy Ridge. There’s something haunting about playing as one character who’s witnessing soldiers die around him as he rushes through the battlefield, trying not to be torn to shreds from a machine gun, while the opposite character is rushing to get water to prevent the machine gun from overheating or fixing the wiring in an elevator to ensure his fellow soldiers have ammunition to keep fighting.
Overall, much of “11-11: Memories Retold” has players walking through environments and absorbing the atmosphere, and its action sequences are few and far between. It’s the small moments of humanity between characters that really connect the player to the story and make the game shine for one that takes place during the first world war.