Last week I finished playing the Quantic Dream video game Detroit: Become Human, and it was quite a ride. I’ve already written about what an intense game it was, but now I just want to share my personal experience with this game. Which means a spoiler-filled recap of my decisions, and where things went awry — because they totally did.
If you haven’t played Detroit, all you need to know first is that it’s a game set in a slightly futuristic Detroit, where androids are sold to serve humans. You follow the journeys of three of these robots: Kara (who serves as a house maid/babysitter), Markus (who starts out as a caretaker for an elderly artist), and Connor (a police droid). Every decision you make has a consequence, which can result in very different endings.
MAJOR SPOILER WARNING! Keep reading if you want to know how the story can go. Turn back if you want to play it yourself someday!
Oh, Connor. The over-eager police droid has some great scenes trying to track down deviant droids and turn them in. But he fails, over and over again. My investigations just did not go very well. Time limits were too tight for me, and I focused on the wrong facts or asked the wrong questions.
The good thing was that I did manage to strike up a decent friendship with human partner Hank. Though Hank is initially distrusting of androids and hates having Connor around, when Connor saves him from falling off the side of a building, Hank warms up to him.
I played Connor very seriously — focused on his mission, never feeling any deviancy. Though he has plenty of opportunities to show human emotion, I chose to make him pretty analytical. At one point, Hank even points a gun at him and asks if he has any emotion, and I had Connor say no. (That actually seems to appease Hank, who drops the gun.)
That said, Connor dies a couple of times in my playthrough. He is always brought back to life in a new version, to continue investigating. Not that any version is better than the last at closing this damn case.
In the end, Connor confronts the leader of the deviant androids but fails to bring her down — or to bring her in. In a final chase scene, he almost catches her — but apparently she gets away at the last second.
As interesting as it was to play him, I felt like I failed at everything he did, and there was no rewarding ending. Maybe if I had chosen to make him a deviant, the story would have been more interesting.
Markus was my favorite character in Detroit. A gentle caretaker for an elderly painting who is now in a wheelchair, Markus is eventually accused of murder and sent to a robot junkyard.
After seeing the androids wasting away there, he pulls himself out of there and looks for Jericho, the rumored land of deviant androids in search of freedom. Following clues, he eventually finds their headquarters — and then joins their leaders on missions to grab blue blood and parts to help their kind.
Along the way, he has choices to kill or show mercy towards those who stand in his way — android and human alike. I made him merciful. When he was a caretaker, his ward was a kind man who actually encouraged Markus to be an individual. Because of that healthy relationship, I felt that Markus would understand the good in humans.
Another android freedom fighter is North, who used to be a sex droid. Unlike Markus, she wants to fight everyone who crosses them. I can understand that, given her background — but this difference of opinion put her at odds with Markus much of the time.
Even so, they have a friendship that develops as they learn to respect and trust each other. There’s a touching moment on the roof of the headquarters, where they confess their pasts to each other to better understand the other. I feel that there was a romance there I might have missed, but I’m glad I didn’t pursue anything like that. Mutual respect was what I wanted for them, and they eventually found that.
There’s an epic scene in which Markus and North free androids from shops where they are being sold, and then turn the town square upside down for their cause. Though they can choose to be violent, I made them pacifist. They don’t destroy thing, they hack them. They are all about liberty. And at the end of the scene, when given the option of killing the policemen who are shooting them down, Markus chooses mercy.
This gets public opinion on their side, which is great. Although news reporters claim they are dangerous deviants, the public seems to understand that they just want to be free. They are not scared of them. That’s my goal, which seems to be working.
But in a peaceful march down the city street one day, Markus is faced with an option: fight the policeman holding a gun to him, or continue walking forward, hands outstretched in peace. At least, I thought those were my two choices.
So, since Markus is a pacifist, I continued my walk, remaining calm. And then the cop shot Markus.
That was the end of Markus’s story. In future scenes, I could see entire story trees dedicated to his journey, but I couldn’t access any of them. In his absence, North takes over the movement, becomes violent just the way she wants, and fails to succeed in achieving android freedom. It’s ugly, bloody, and totally disappointing.
Now, in that peaceful protest scene I had an option to run away from the cop. I should have taken that route, but I thought that would be cowardly and cheating. Apparently, it was the path I needed to take if I wanted to succeed at Markus’s mission of peace. I just felt that the game didn’t make that clear, and so my option was not rewarded.
I also felt that the scenes with North lacked impact. Her violent path was dramatic, and her confrontation with Connor was intriguing — but she didn’t seem to care at all about her friendship with Markus or what he had wanted for the androids. She never referenced him in her decisions. She was sad about his death, but didn’t seem to care about the path he had taken — meaning the choices I had made as Markus accounted for nothing, just because of my one bad decision.
Kara’s story turned out to be the most satisfying for me, although painstaking in its own way.
In her story, she serves in the household of a single dad who does drugs and abuses his daughter, Alice. She’s about eight years old, and when Kara witnesses the abuse, she can’t hold back. Breaking free of her code to obey her owner no matter what, she intervenes in the abuse — but a few minutes too late for an easy out.
In my playthrough, when Kara confronts her owner, both she and Alice are beaten and have to flee the house in a dramatic chase scene. It was intense. Kara was bleeding blue android blood, and I barely made it out the back door, with Alice’s father yelling at us the whole way.
After that, Kara and Alice spend the night in a car (after I failed to steal clothes and money to get a hotel room for us). In the morning, Kara changes her look — cropped gray hair all the way! — and they head to the home of a man who is supposed to help rogue androids.
Alice is wary of the man right away, and even I felt uneasy playing. You can just sense when something is off. But Kara insists that they have no choice but to trust the man — so they follow him into his basement, where he immediately turns on them. It was a pretty terrifying moment, having him tie up Kara and delete her memory, while kidnapping Alice to murder later.
Fortunately, Kara is able to pick up clues throughout the house that remind her of Alice, until her memory is restored. She reunites with Alice and ends up racing and hiding through the house, eventually burning it down in their escape. They also leave with one of the man’s other androids, Luther, who becomes part of their makeshift family.
Their journey takes them to another safe house — a real one this time. There’s a great moment of Alice riding on a carousel in an abandoned theme park, smiling for the first time in days. She relies on Kara, seeing her as a mother figure. And that’s how Kara transforms: she feels that Alice’s life is more important than her own, just as a mother would.
Eventually they make it to Canada, but it’s a long, hard road. Along the way, I had Kara make thoughtful decisions, being moral as a way of teaching Alice good values and kindness. Yet she was also real with Alice. I never pretended things were better than they were, but just tried to be realistic even while comforting Alice. It was a nice balance that felt right for their relationship, and it definitely made Kara a compassionate character.
All of this led to a terrible choice toward the end of the game. To flee to Canada, they have to steal a bus ticket from somebody — so they steal from a couple of parents with a baby. I learned later that I could have stolen the bus tickets from somebody else, but in the moment I was so panicked to escape that I didn’t care. I felt bad, but I had to get Kara, Alice, and Luther to Canada no matter what. (We had just saved Luther from a firing squad, after all!) Alice was horrified by the choice, but we made it to the border.
Along the way, it’s revealed that Alice is actually an android. But that doesn’t change their feelings for each other. It’s an interesting moment for me, as a player, since for a split second I felt like it meant that it didn’t matter as much whether Alice lived or not — but they I felt awful thinking that way. This is a story about androids who think and feel as humans, and so they should live as them too. I realized then that I wanted Kara to save Alice, and for them to be happy together. Alice being an android didn’t change a thing, in the end.
In the final moments of the game, it becomes clear that Canada’s border security is heat-scanning for androids. Kara can sacrifice Luther, or another android she saved earlier, or just try to proceed without any sacrifice. Or she can sacrifice herself.
Kara dying for Alice felt like a natural end to this story. It was a heartbreaking decision, but it was the one I wanted to make. I wasn’t sure if we would make it if nobody was sacrificed, and I didn’t believe Kara was the type of person to sacrifice somebody else. So she let herself be scanned and killed so that Luther could cross the border with Alice, to freedom.
For me, this was the most heroic end to a story about love and family. As sad as it was, I really enjoyed being able to make this choice, and see Alice make it to a new and better life.
If Markus had lived, the final confrontation between my serious version of Connor and my pacifist Markus could have been amazing.
Unfortunately, because I played Connor as such a stickler, I didn’t get any reward at the end of his story. If I was supposed to play him as a deviant, I wish the game had made that the only path for me. But instead, the game gave me a choice, and my decision led to a story ending that made me feel like I had made the “wrong” choice.
The same thing happened with Markus — only it was worse. I loved Markus, and I feel a little tricked that he died. If he had still been present in North’s mind after his death, influencing her decisions, I would have felt better about things. Instead, it feels like the game punished me for making Markus brave and self-sacrificing. It was a useless, fruitless martyrdom.
Still, Detroit has a very engaging storyline with characters I really cared about. I just struggled knowing what certain choices would lead to, and some of the storylines felt like they weren’t fleshed out enough. A part of me wants to replay the game to try to get the outcome I want — and just to explore Markus’s story more — but the game was so intense that once was probably enough for me. At least for now.
If anybody else finished the game, I’d love to hear your thoughts and how your stories ended!