Category Archives: Indie

Games I Didn’t Review in 2016: Obduction


Silly old me thought for the longest time that the title of the semi-spiritual successor to Myst/Riven/All-That-Good-Stuff point and click adventure was a mere typo or perhaps creative indifference to the spelling of abduction. As it stands, I think it rather ironically would encapsulate the narrative in either its present spelling or that alternative. Obduction instead refers in no small part to something along the lines of opposite subduction, or rather oceanic lithosphere forcing itself over continental counterparts.

All that scientific banter aside, Obduction really is a fitting title for this game and since I’m seeking to avoid spoiling the majority of the narrative, I’ll say little more than that. At first glance it seems like just another adventure seeking to cash in on this newfangled idea of nuevo-retro. What I mean by this is that it takes an old gaming concept and places it into a new gaming era and melds the best of both worlds, or in this case multiple realms. The narrative and lore behind Obduction is certainly one of its strongest points and like the Myst saga, I really enjoyed how it was fleshed out and how things are rarely as they initially seem.

Even with Cyan Worlds having developed the game with the thought in mind for it to be a spiritual successor to Myst/Riven, the only ways in which it is truly similar stem from the gameplay and some of the ideas of travel and various worlds and time displacements and similarly intriguing alien technology. If you know anything about the Myst series- whether it be lore or gameplay or overall narrative, then you may find this particular title engaging as well. The most interesting of all the narrative elements and potential in Obduction is definitely the meshing of several worlds and several time periods. For example, there is an advanced alien subculture lying dormant right alongside a displaced wild western town straight out of the late eighteen hundreds.

Perhaps another of the unintended and yet awesomely interesting elements of the game is the ambiguity surrounding narrative and character choice. Certainly, some things will undoubtedly seem and in fact be very linear throughout the adventure. However there are also particular points littered throughout the story where your character’s journey or the concurrent adventures of the few other beings you encounter may come to an abrupt and even brutally twisted end. I won’t say much more for fear of ruining some of the finer endgame moments, but suffice it to say few things are as they seem.

Obduction, if it aspires to be anything else or anything other, is certainly a game revolving around unintended consequences and brilliance of simple design. I think that is probably one of its other admirable traits, and it is definitely something we don’t see as much nowadays or perhaps ever. I thoroughly enjoyed the adventure itself for the feelings it elicited, the narrative tropes it trod, and the lore it hid slightly beneath the surface. It is always invigorating to experience something along the lines of a thrill ride in such a seemingly archaic and simple adventure game revolving around core mechanics such as light puzzle solving and information gathering. Yes, it can inevitably have its boring or even low points, but if you stick by it then the payoff is totally worth it.

For what it’s worth, I have only good things to say about this particular title as a whole and I would probably give it somewhere between an 8.0 and 8.5 out of ten. That’s high praise coming from me and something I believe it is entirely deserving of as well. I implore you to give it a whirl if you’re into old school adventures, an interesting story, or simply want to branch out into a new genre of gaming.

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Games I Didn’t Review in 2016: Chronos


Last year was a busy time for me- in fact, this year and every year for the past four or five have been incredibly busy. Therefore, it only makes sense that I approach the veritable heap of a backlog of reviews that I owe the universe. These are titles that I’ve played and already formulated opinions on, and yet for whatever reason I could not find the time to review in full. However, I will write some brief remarks regarding each game that I decide to do this for. Essentially, my goal is to provide ample detail- although avoiding spoilers to some degree, in regards to the overarching plot lines or major details of the games themselves.

Chronos is an intriguing game in many ways. It was one of the headlining titles for the Oculus Rift and has received excellent reviews to date. It sits somewhere around an 80/85 percent out of one hundred. It isn’t your traditional virtual reality experience, and when I say this I mean you can actually see a playable character as with any traditional third-person role-playing game. While there are light role-playing mechanics present within the game, the experience is mostly atmospheric and not necessarily deep enough to rival anything like The Witcher or The Elder Scrolls in terms of questlines or overall narrative prowess.

The story seems to draw on some ancient roots of Greek and Roman mythology and the title may even allude to such as well if you think about it- as well as the passing of time. You take control of a hero on a “lifelong quest” to purge their homeland of an almighty evil and to delve deeper and deeper into a mysterious labyrinth which is central to the plot. Another interesting thing in regard to time and the title itself is that said labyrinth only opens once a year and if you fail to delve deep enough to uncover its secrets you will be cast out until the next time it chooses to open. At its core, Chronos is an adventure game first and foremost and as such it offers plenty of thrills and gorgeous visuals.

Leveling, as with most role-playing games, is an important part of your adventure. However, Chronos approaches this in a way that sort of reminds me of Fable and yet is totally original in its own right as well. Each adventure into the labyrinth ages your hero as they must wait to return another year should they fail in their quest. Obviously, things are not going to be easy enough for you to just run through in your first year- so coming back is completely in the question. As you age you start to lose stamina and agility and gain other attributes like magical prowess. It’s a neat and refreshing give or take system and it definitely changes the way you play as well.

As with many of the Oculus Rift launch games and with virtual reality adventures in general, Chronos isn’t necessarily a very long game. That having been said, it is probably one of the lengthiest and best virtual reality projects I’ve yet to play in my own experience with the consoles with provide VR. Most people should clock in anywhere from twenty to thirty hours on it and could definitely see more than that if they make a goal of finding every single secret and scrap of lore within the adventure. The attention to detail, the solid mechanics, and the overall aesthetic experience have such a level of depth and attention to quality gaming that it really pleasantly surprised me.

Gunfire Games deserves all of the praise they’ve been getting for Chronos and I definitely would recommend it to anyone interested in playing a few VR titles in the future. Once the price for VR headsets and equipment goes down a little bit and there are other quality titles to accompany this one in your collection, you should definitely make a point of at least attempting to play it whether adventure-RPGs are your “thing” or not. In my mind, it’s at least a solid 8 out of 10 and definitely worth the time and effort.

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Absolving Us of our Sins


Today’s post has to do with two games that are coming in the as of yet undetermined future, but supposedly within the bounds of 2017. The first title is Absolver- an action oriented role-playing game seeking to meld concepts of RPGs and MMOs in terms of story and open-world gameplay. The second is similar in design but follows a more rogue-like situation as it is none other than Capybara’s Below. While these two games bear similarities in both initial glances and potential expectations, they couldn’t be more different upon looking at the winding paths they’ve taken during their development and overall tenure in creative production.

I’ll start with Absolver, which is being developed by Sloclap- a studio made up of former Ubisoft veterans who have worked on a number of titles in the past including Ghost Recon. It is being handled on the publishing side by Devolver Digital- more widely recognized for their work on the Shadow Warrior reboot and sequel. In terms of technicality, the game is going to be rendered fully in a version of Unreal Engine 4 and therefore should be pretty versatile in what it can handle and how it can evolve throughout the single and multiplayer components of the campaign and story.

The game is set in a fantastical land rife with martial artists and warriors seeking to prove themselves worthy of admission into a class of peacekeepers which derive their names from the title of the game itself- Absolvers. The game seems to want to meld plenty of preexisting attributes from other titles into an original and inventive experience, which is commendable to say the least. Players will find themselves in 3v3 and 1v1 matchups against computer controlled and player controlled opponents throughout the story as they traverse an open-world setting. While at its core it wishes to be a fighting game, movesets will be determined by collected cards and skills- meaning the more gear and bonuses you desire, the more exploration and combat you’ll inevitably face.

As of right now, the game is set to be initially released for PS4 and for PC, which brings me to my smooth jazz transition to Below- set to show up on Xbox One and PC initially. Below has been in development for what seems like a very long time, and has consistently been one of my most anticipated titles of the year. Luckily, it seems like we may have an opportunity to actually witness its arrival in 2017 and alongside a slew of promising content and activities as well. I’ve already mentioned that it shares some single and multiplayer similarities to what Absolver wishes to accomplish, that it is a rogue-like title, and that it too has an evolving and open world. What also catches my attention is the fact that perspective and exploration play an even larger role in Below than combat and evolution seeks to.

It is, at its root, an adventure title seeking to send your tiny player-character into the world and the depths of caverns and crags in an ever-evolving experience and story. You will very definitely be able to write your own experience and your own narrative in the way you explore and the things you discover. The difficulty and overall mechanics sound very close in execution to Salt and Sanctuary- a title that many have enjoyed comparing to an independently developed Dark Souls, essentially for lack of a better comparison. If you think back to Double Fine’s Massive Chalice, which featured randomly generated worlds and stages and an interesting overarching narrative woven into the player-characters’ survival, you’ve probably got a firm handle on what Below seeks to encompass.

While the finer points and details of both titles are inevitably not going to release until closer to said games’ actual release dates as well, I’d like to think I know what to expect but also am open to welcome advancements and surprises. Below has been a long time coming and even Absolver has been in development for several years now, so it’ll be nice to see how they are received and if they live up to the hype and anticipation. I like to think that indie experiences constantly surprise and baffle us more than their triple-A competition, and that they’re more likely to garner praise and receive cult followings than to be belittled like annual releases and large IPs. I know today’s post has been a brief one but I’ll leave you with a gorgeous picture of Capybara’s adventure title as compensation.


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Prey for the Gods


One of my most anticipated games of the near future is one that doesn’t even have a specific release date outside of 2017 or beyond. Prey for the Gods looks and feels like something along the lines of Shadow of the Colossus, but it also distinctively creates its own flavor outside of being an obvious homage. If you would like to view some of the amazing trailers and glean a few more details about the game, you can easily do so here. The project has already met its Kickstarter goal and has over 14,000 backers and $500,000 raised.

I think the thing that amazes me most is the fact that No Matter studio (the creators) consists of three guys living and breathing their dreams. It looks pretty impressive and definitely sounds ambitious as well. So the fact that a small team can put in such work not only shines a light on the hard work of independent developers but also on the continually disappearing line separating triple-A and independent titles and publishers/developers in recent years.

The game is being created in Unity 5 and showcases some of the amazing potential of the project. According to their Kickstarter and web pages it has been in development since 2014 and has been inspired in part by Shadow of the Colossus, Deus Ex, DayZ, and Bloodborne. This much is obvious in the concept of taking down and climbing upon hulking behemoths (SotC), inventory management and resource usage (Deus Ex/DayZ), and gigantic boss battles (Bloodborne). They’ve even speculated as to adding elements such as multiplayer and promise to add others such as dynamic snow terrain, weather, and day/night cycles.

The gameplay also promises to offer plenty of freedom in who you battle, when you choose to approach certain portions of the game, and how you go about it all. Looting will be an essential part of the game- from temples you discover to corpses of fallen heroes or containers with key elements inside. Perhaps one of the most intriguing aspects of the game is the simplistic narrative that reminds me a lot of SotC, as well as the freeform exploration of the open world and the survival aspects packed within that outside of the boss battles.

Some of the littler touches that sound incredibly promising include weapons that break a la Fallout or other RPGs, retrieving arrows that have been shot, and grappling directly onto most enemies (even flying creatures). The combined talent of the composers present within the game spans projects such as Gears of War 3, Rock Band 4, Gigantic, Zero Punctuation, Polygon, and The Escapist which is a healthy and diverse array. The combined studio talent itself spans work on projects such as Titan Quest, Dawn of War, and Rock Band among others.

Overall, this is just one of many new projects being developed by smaller studios that show incredible potential and will hopefully release in the future as well. It’s been my goal to cater to all genres and sub-genres of games and as such I dare not discriminate. I’m definitely looking forward to seeing how the project goes and having seen the release or almost release (as we near that fateful day) of projects such as Final Fantasy XV and The Last Guardian this month, anything is possible. Hopefully I’ve piqued your interest and I plan on writing more about lesser known yet incredibly promising projects down the road as well.

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Pneuma: Breath of Life (Deco Digital)

One of this month’s Xbox Games With Gold titles is a little-known, slightly indie game conceived by Deco Digital and released February 27, 2015. The game runs on Unreal Engine 4 and makes a pretty solid statement where graphics and effects are concerned, even if only in a ‘simplistic’ environment and puzzle-focused game.

If you’re wondering whether or not the game is worth the hassle (or lack thereof) of shelling out the time to download it this month as free title on Xbox Live (for Xbox One), then look no further. Kotaku has a pretty fair review that hits just about all the high points one should need in order to weigh their choices. Here it is.

Sorry for the lack of blogging and reviewing being done here and there, but I’ll be able to get some more done whenever I can here and there. I’ll see you all on the next post.

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An Interesting Experiment- The Flock

[As Read on GIO.]

Lighting up the Shadows

Game Informer has briefly mentioned the aforementioned Indie game titled ‘The Flock’ lately, however many of you all may still be somewhat in the dark concerning the specifics of the project. The game literally just released in full so to speak and I must say it’s an interesting experience but more importantly an interesting experiment in developmental design and many other entertaining and unique concepts. Perhaps the most interesting concept of all is the basis for the game itself: it’s essentially a two-team player versus player online multiplayer game, however it’s far from just any online PVP we’ve ever experienced.

The main draw of The Flock lies in the fact that it means to meld both story and gameplay (and as a multiplayer game, to boot). Now, it’s no Titanfall- meaning it’s no online multiplayer game that inserts a few story driven aspects between the lines and between the matches, barely in fact adding much to an overall plot other than “kill this, destroy that, capture that, etc.” No, The Flock aims much higher than that but admirably aims to accomplish this by doing much less, in fact. The only real way The Flock means to promote storytelling is through its foreboding environments, twisted enemies, and background history. Aside from that and potentially a bit more meat on the story’s bones, its general interpretation is so far left to players.

One of the most unique qualities of the game is the fact that there is a set, communal death count that, once surpassed, immediately pulls the game from online storefronts and general sale. It will still be playable among players who shell out the roughly fifteen dollars to purchase it, but even then only for a set time. You see, The Flock actually has an ending- it’s not like the majority of multiplayer only games that simply exist until the game is out of date and inevitably shut down, or perhaps updated to include semi-additional story and map content. There, in the grand scheme of things, is some sort of finale of sorts planned for the game, and as of yet all we can do is sit back until the kill count (roughly 215 million or so) is reached.

Now, instead of following the general rule of thumb that multiplayer games must be action packed shooters with plenty of depth and showy gameplay, The Flock takes quite another approach entirely. Its world is grey and shadowy, inhabited by beings known as the titular Flock- zombie like in some appearances, deformed, gangly, and altogether nasty to encounter I would imagine. For years these beings have inhabited what was once a rich, populated planet- Earth in fact, we are led to believe. However the Flock are not alone because lifeforms known as Carriers have appeared and whereas the Flock detest and cannot live in anything other than shadows, these Carriers can accept light and use this to their advantage. Thus exists the basis for the player versus player matches: it’s an asymmetrical approach to the classic light versus dark mantra.

At first glance, matches may seem entirely skewed in favor of the dark side, however each side is not without its benefits. Whereas there is at all times more of the Flock than the Carriers, these beasts of shadow cannot stand the slightest touch of light cast from the collectible artifacts the Carriers can wield, meaning they will essentially disintegrate on contact. However, along with their strength in numbers the Flock also boasts physical strength and size and speed, a near perfect match to the Carriers apparent intelligence and cunning in utilizing said artifacts. Therefore it piques my interest enough to witness this ongoing battle, just as I am also interested to stick around for the finale and see how much players may control the eventual outcome of the horrific war for survival.

Gameplay is simple enough in concept and slightly simpler in execution, making the entire process surprisingly smooth and also somewhat easily addicting I suppose, if survival horror and terrifying close encounters in shadowy settings are your thing. Gameplay is particularly fast as it centers around players rushing towards a random location holding one artifact- the weapon or tool wielded by Carriers that emits massive quantities of light. The first player to hold the artifact becomes a Carrier and now gameplay shifts to one versus one hundred. The Flock attempts to kill the Carrier as the Carrier utilizes their new technology in order to survive and complete specific objectives. There’s one catch to prevent the shadowy Flock from instant death in the light however and it’s quite a doozie. If you’re particularly fond of Doctor Who or any good at the similar earthly game known as ‘Statues’ then you’re going to enjoy this one.

Think of the Weeping Angels and how they only move when you blink, turn your back, or make otherwise entirely too foolish mistakes around them. Now add a flashlight to the mix and change the universal rules around a little bit so that they can only move in shadow but in light they must stay still for fear of death, if they fear such a thing. This is the basic premise for the game and this is why, while incredibly simple in concept, there is actually quite a great deal of strategy in playing as both Carriers and Flock. Although you may be outnumbered as a Carrier you wield quite a powerful weapon against the Flock, however by the same token you are incredibly vulnerable and should the Flock choose to work together and be cunning enough, they will still inevitably overtake you.

Gameplay continues as the Flock kills the Carrier and a new Carrier is chosen and the cycle continues along until one player gains enough points from completing objectives and holding the artifact essentially. That’s a basic rundown of everything that is known about the game, but now let’s talk a little bit more about the experimental part of things and why it is of even greater interest to me than this game alone ever could be, indie darling or no.

Perhaps intended or perhaps not, The Flock could make a very strong case for games forcing opposing players to actually work together in order to achieve some end goal. I’m sure this was somewhat intentional by design, but I still admire it nevertheless. Player versus player is most definitely the goal here as ultimately only one can reign victorious, and there are no teams. However, I particularly appreciate that, once a player ascends to Carrier status, initially the Flock will still attempt to kill them singlehandedly, however if the Carrier player is quite good at surviving then the Flock will be forced to ultimately work together in order to be cunning enough to take them down. Sure, the Carrier should never really be hunting the Flock whatsoever so survival for the respawning Flock is no big issue, however they still need to survive long enough in order to get remotely close enough to stifle the beams of light emitted from the Carrier’s artifact.

So, no verdicts on my part as of yet- I will wait my time until the death count has been reached and until the finale we’ve been promised comes to light. However, let it be said that I’m going to not only do my part and participate here and there, but also stand by and watch with interest as this project takes shape even more. I think, by design, it sends an interesting message in its dark apocalypse, as well as showcases some brilliantly simple gameplay and settings. I promised I’d stick to my word and write a few more blogs this year despite being busy, so here’s another to add to that list. Ciao friends.

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The Stanley Parable Review

[As Read on GIO.]

As you may notice from some of the resemblances it bears to its forefather, The Stanley Parable was in fact originally a mod for Half-Life 2- and still utilizes that particular source engine today as well. Although its gameplay is limited at best- I guess you could almost refer to TSP as an interactive adventure anyways, even if it is more of a figurative one than a particularly literal one at times. Most interesting of all is the omnipresent, omniscient narrator who seems to know your every move before you do it- or rather before you decide not to carry on and he forces you to do it. Depending on how you look at it, TSP is an intriguing lesson in choice, responsibility, and consequences. Boring as it may seem to traipse through the seemingly same corridors, same empty conference rooms, and same lessons and scenarios- TSP is a highly replayable situation, with each playthrough only lasting around twenty to thirty minutes tops.

As would be expected, you take up the name of Stanley [Insert Name Here] and solve puzzles for science. Er, or rather, you contemplate them and walk about a little bit, so… It’s not so much like Portal, in some ways… Mysteriously, one day you are all alone, and an equally mysterious voice that narrates your very thoughts decides to take pity on you and shepherd you about the place. This is…good, I suppose. Depending on your viewpoint on the deeper connotations of freedom of will and choice, I guess. It’s entirely up to you whether or not you want to give in and follow his advice and clear cut instructions, so it’s not so much an Atlas says sort of thing…at least until you finally give up and do what he wants, and do it again, and again, and again, and- You get the point. It never ends. Although you can see several different outcomes by the end each time, all in roughly three hours or so, depending on how long you wander about. In fact- so far I’ve experienced ten endings, and heard of two others.

What is interesting and often amusing, much to the chagrin of the narrator- voiced by a certain Kevin Brighting I believe, is the fact that you can choose at your whim to obey or disobey the parameters handed to you by said narrator. Whereas sometimes the story may get bent and changed to accommodate these unsightly errors in script, other times you may find yourself strangely teleported back onto the correct path. Or he might just scold you a few times. You can never really be sure what to expect honestly… The best thing is, the more you resist, the more the game resists you and your urge to finish it. Give in, and you’ll make it through no problem. But fight it, and it’ll challenge your previous notions- a la up is down and down is up in Ender’s Game- but on a greater and more figurative level, more often. Ever experience a truly no-win scenario? Yeah- it sucks.

Despite it inevitably running out of steam after several playthroughs, I can assure you that TSP’s basic principle stands, and it stays fresh throughout for the most part as well. The twisting narrative encourages further exploration, even if it’s as simple as walking through a different doorway on the next playthrough, as opposed to trudging fifty miles across Skyrim or something. It’s no less game changing or different or immense for it however, even if it might seem to not be so in terms of literal size. TSP accomplishes what many games cannot do in twenty hours and thousands of miles, in twenty minutes and one hundred yards. It’s unique. The gags are there, the theoretical musing is there, and the morals and values are there. All it needs now is a little more Gordon Freeman.

The premise itself is incredibly simple, but shields a much deeper, more complex matter at hand- as any good thinking material does. It is not two-faced in any way, rather a different side of another coin, not the same one you thought you were holding- if that made any sense at all to you. Bear in mind, it is no more than an experiment to be honest- so not everyone will take to it as well or as little or as much as I have. Make of it what you will. There’s a choice for you.

Concept: Create an interactive experience that challenges preconceived notions of free will and player choice in video games as well as in life.

Graphics: Simple, but not poor.

Sound: The narration is witty and amusing as often as it is spoken- which is the entire time. You should enjoy it at first, even if it does get old later on. The experience is too short for it to become horrendously annoying.

Playability: Basic at best. Point, move, click, interact, slide. Simple.

Entertainment: The majority of the entertaining qualities come from each ending once you discover them, and the branching choices of each path as well.

Replay Value: Moderate.

Overall Score: 8.0

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Rise and Shine- Part Two

[As Read on GIO.]

Previously on R1S3 and SH1N3…


Part One…Jul. 13, 2012




“The end of the world began without resounding explosions or momentous stirring, but instead with a silent sigh as Mother Earth finally gave up her last breath and heaved into death’s blanket of comfortable, unending night. As the hours wore on, and not a single creature stirred upon the face of the Earth, hope slowly faded as well, and with it- humanity’s final gambit was lost. But before we go into extraneous detail and needless wastes of what precious time we have left to us in these perilous days of darkness and cold, let us look back onto what brought about the apocalypse we now know as reality…”




P4R7 7W0


As I mentioned before, this all began eight years after the great industrial failure of ’30. We thought the first apocalypse would be our last, but thankfully, I guess, we were wrong about that- it was only the beginning. Half the world’s population gone in three brief hours- another 1.2 billion dead in the following two years, and that was only the warm up stroke. 4.1 billion folks left on the planet by the year 2040, and things looked pretty stable for a time- or at least, as stable as they could be when martial law was declared in each surviving nation around the world, the gasoline and oil supplies had long since run dry, and the world was literally slow roasting from the enormous hole in the Ozone layer stretching from Japan to Ireland- over 5,972 miles. The oceans had boiled down profusely and were since unsafe to venture in without volcanic-level heat protection suits to shield yourself from the scalding waters. Even battleship grade steel would melt like butter in oil. Those that had died had been the lucky ones, because the sins of the people were coming back to haunt the living- having turned the world to Hell before their eyes.


Kind of ironic that it wasn’t war or famine that brought us down that first time, punching us in the gut and taking us to our knees in one blow. It was the Green Mother herself, sickly though she was, exacting her revenge one by one- life by life. Funny that such a small thing as a non-toxic and non-deadly gases would bring the world to its knees- rising up into the atmosphere and bringing down the former international space station that had once been so majestic in the night skies. There was certainly nothing majestic about the flaming behemoth descending upon the world, all but completely wiping out life in a five hundred mile radius. It wasn’t the impact itself that did the majority of us in- but a combination of the resounding inferno seeping through the spreading ozone tear, the monstrous dust clouds choking out the plant and animal life, and the boiling seas evaporating and condensing in the form of searing rain. That rain was essentially acid rain at its finest- about three times more potent than the best mixture of hydrochloric acid on a good day.


But that’s just the start of things. Not our issues- no, they started a long time before this calamity. This particular holocaust was not so prejudiced as the last, and ignored class, gender, and values altogether- opting instead to bring the once haughty and sinful human race to its feet, running from the echoing death knolls of the planet they called home…


4 L3773R F0UND…










T0 B3 C0NT1NU3D 1N P4R7 7HR33


L3T M3 KN0W 1F Y0U F1ND 4NY 7YP0S 0R 07H3R 7H1NGS 7H47 Y0U 7H1NK N33D 70 B3 C0RR3C7ED. 7H47 W0U1D B3 MUCH 4PPR3C1473D 1ND33D. 7H4NKS 4G41N GUYS. -JW

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Outlast Review

[As Read on GIO.]

I’ve got to admit- I love Outlast. I don’t really know why just yet, as it is quite scary and unforgiving, which aren’t exactly my two perfect choices for gameplay, but hey- it’s really interesting. There’s really not too much gameplay going on other than running away from creepy maniacs wielding knives, and using your camera as your only source of light and vision, and occasionally doing some simple platforming. Honestly, in its own way, there really is no gameplay, or at least not much. It’s not like Gone Home or The Walking Dead where things are more interactive than pure action, because Outlast has plenty of action indeed. It’s just the fact that most horror game essentials aren’t there that make Outlast both a simplistic blessing and an unconventional title. But hey, I guess that’s why it’s an independently developed title, because most bigtime producers wouldn’t be willing to take the risks to make a game like this.

You can’t attack your enemies or fight back, you aren’t a particularly stealthy person, you aren’t honestly any good at platforming- although you can manage at times, and you really shouldn’t be in the asylum you’re now trapped in. Those are all things that I’ve come to realize over the last few days, and that have thus far made Outlast an endearing, if a little short, experience for me. When I say that there isn’t much in the way of gameplay, I am referring to the fact that all you can really do is run and hop (it’s not really a jump so much as a skip). You can’t fight your attackers off, and you can’t even really sneak around them with much success. I guess that’s just what makes Outlast challenging and interactive and realistically scary at the times it needs to be, which, *hint, is pretty much all the time. What’s worse, is that I’m not really quite sure whether or not it was intended to be that way, or it was just a matter of budget and time. Either way, it works in its own way, and the experience is all the scarier for it.

You don’t need the massive inventory system of the Resident Evil games- you have your camcorder and batteries. You don’t need to scrounge for items aside from aforementioned batteries, which are like gold. You don’t need a massive open world to explore- you have the creepy Colorado asylum that is big enough to get lost in and small enough to feel claustrophobic at times and with enough differing environments to be refreshing, even if it is always dark. You don’t need mini-games- you have too much on your mind just focusing on staying alive without having to deal with crossing wires and connecting the dots. You don’t need perks or weapons- you just die when your enemies corner you anyway. You don’t need upgrades- there’s nothing to upgrade, aside from your camcorder, which already has infrared and night vision, so what more could it possibly need (a longer battery life, maybe?!)? Getting where I’m going with this? Outlast is a game with a simple premise, that many horror games have forgotten over the years as they try to get flashier and flashier- scare you sh**less every time you play.

The game has a text-based exposition, but quickly thrusts you into the heart of your horrific misadventure, which takes place completely within (and without and about) a massive (literally, it’s the name) asylum set high in the Colorado mountains. The story is slim, but gradually expands over time as you explore the insides of the insidious nightmare itself, and investigate just what fishy business is going down. The asylum was shut down amid cries of malpractice and scandal in the late seventies, and later reopened in the later months of 2009 by a research company. If that doesn’t scream “horror story”, then you’re as insane as the people who opened it are. (But wait, there’s more!) You play as a reporter who, for the sake of the story, doesn’t really need a name, but is called Miles- as he investigates the strange goings-on after receiving a tip from a contractor for the research group at the facility. In cliched horror movie format, the dingus falls into what soon becomes- not the “scoop” he thought he would get, but an undeniably horrific and scarring experience of a lifetime.

The moody and oppressive atmosphere and environment should foreshadow all the hell that is to follow your seemingly incognito entrance into the closed up and darkened asylum. Which- by the way, was a terrible idea, especially once you get a look at the conditions of the outside of the place alone, much less the inside. The place seems haunted, although I wouldn’t go as far as to say the inhabitants won’t be able to harm you, because that would definitely be a mistaken thought. There are blood trails just about everywhere, rambling inmates and patients cursing and huddling, sobbing in corners- when they aren’t thirsting for your blood (manic depressive in its extreme format, I suppose), the classic shutting door scare, and jump scares galore, all just waiting for you inside. Don’t think the story or gameplay is rooted in the realm of realism either, just because things aren’t so high-end as games like Dead Space or Resident Evil- no, there are some truly insane moments here as well. They just don’t require massive explosions or over-the-top action to be scarily frantic and tense. Enter: Deranged men with knives jumping out right as lightning strikes. Yes- tense.

To be fair, the majority of the inmates aren’t trying to kill you, and are instead striving to survive as well- mainly by staring mutely, while shaking uncontrollably, at their television screens or howling in corners and under beds. You’d almost pity them at times- if you had time, or weren’t constantly trying to distance yourself from their slightly more manic compatriots of course. Don’t be fooled into thinking all of these pitiful souls are insanely benign, because there are a few conniving predators who will playact as the sobbing victim only to leap onto your back and stab you to death with a glass shard, and then pull your guts out as the omniscient camera watches on in gory detail. Yes, it’s moments like this that scare the daylights out of most sane human beings- if you can stomach them, that is. Then of course there’s the stereotypical hulking serial killer figure who constantly appears to give you hell and follow you about the asylum, all the while trying to kill you in a variety of fashions. Yeah, he almost makes the Raincoat Killer seem tame by comparison, and far less disfigured anyway.

The gameplay, with its lack of mechanics, is what really gives Outlast its kicks and giggles, and players a hard time and challenge. Your only real defense is to run away from the horrors chasing you, very much like Amnesia, might I add- and with equal success in terms of terror and death, the majority of the time. I don’t know what else can get your heart racing and blood pumping faster than suddenly seeing a scarred face poke under the bed and a clawed hand rip your camera away, leaving you practically blind before eviscerating you and feasting on your remains. Quite, quite, quite horrific indeed. Hiding and running are your only two real options in most scenarios, and that can be a turn off for some players, whereas for me, it was nice to just focus a bit on the story and then have some really tense moments present for the majority of the game. It might not be realistic in the sense that most people would find objects to use as weapons and fight back with, but hey- it sure scares you every time to not be able to and to get cornered, knowing that you’re totally screwed. Finding that perfect locker or corner where you can break the line of sight of the creatures’ chasing you is a godsend and as good a feeling as reaching that bathroom in Dead Rising with one chunk of health left, broken weapons, and no food.

Some of the more detrimental aspects of having limited resources and very little gameplay and virtually no HUD whatsoever are the fact that you literally cannot sneak by enemies due to your noise level, can’t track them when trying to avoid them because your line of sight is virtually nonexistent and there is no heads-up on when they appear, and there is no map system with which to chart your progress through the dilapidated hellhole. I get that Red Barrels wanted to craft an Indie, low-key horror experience, but come on! Even the game I would compare it to most (or series, rather), Penumbra, lets you utilize objects to solve environmental puzzles and other such things. Another game very similar in setting and story would be Dementium, but it also allows you to use weapons and other items as well. So, I guess in terms of originality, Outlast is pretty unique, because despite its similarities to Amnesia, it never really lets you use any other items at all.

Another reason the experience is so horrifying is once more because you have no way to successfully navigate through the facility. The place is unfortunately a maze, basically, and when you have missions or goals on the other side of the place or in a certain area, it’s pretty improbable that you will be able to find it without stumbling upon the same places or enemies thousands of times. Which could be quite a frustrating experience for most people, even those open to some classic trial and error. Being trapped somewhere with maniacs wielding sharp instruments of your destruction is quite an experience, but even its horrors only hit the tip of the horror iceberg that is not having a navigational tool or technique present, as well as the world being a pretty big one (or seemingly so) to navigate without a map. You might also want to note that you will almost always be scrounging for spare batteries with which to power your camcorder, a la Alan Wake’s flashlight. As annoying as this might seem, they are pretty abundant, and the only trouble comes from when you either unexpectedly run into an enemy and have to hide so long that your batteries die and you are left in the pitch black, or when you don’t pay attention to your camera’s life and it goes off unexpectedly. Yeah, that sucks. The good thing is, for all these mundane tasks and seemingly boring thoughts of exploration, there are certain setpiece moments such as mini explosions and homicidal maniacs dropping from the rafters.

Don’t ask what the above substance is, but my guess is its not kool-aid, or water, for that matter… While it is quite true that many aspects of gameplay were seemingly sacrificed in the production process, I’m glad that Outlast was made the way it was, instead of maybe incorporating combat or something into it, and then it sucking and ruining the aesthetics and atmospheric experience. What it might lack for substance, it really makes up for in originality and fast-paced terror. It has its moments where it is stuck in the doldrums, but for every one of those, there are two or three scares that leave you shaking and hiding in some closet for minutes to come, hoping that the prowler that you stumbled into has gone away, but not knowing for sure until you step out of your sanctuary…

I’ll admit, it might not be every gamer’s cup of tea, but Outlast is a very fun and terrifying game, if that’s your thing. Especially if you want a more retro, classic experience, with the updated looks of a current generation game. It gets a check in each box.

Concept: Taking a few cues from classic horror titles, as well as from movies such as Rec. and V.H.S, Outlast proves to be a terrifying and adrenaline inducing experience on the whole.

Graphics: The environments, while very similar in most parts, all look pretty good, and match with the mood. The characters, however, are pretty much all hairless, buffed up miscreants and murderers. But that’s alright, because you’re probably going to be too busy running anyway, rather than engrossed in the “beautiful” animations of an inmate ripping your guts out of your throat.

Sound: There isn’t a score so much as there is a chaotic blend of high pitched whining, low moaning, distant- and close screams, terrible grating noises, thunderous crashes, and meaty chomping and slicing or flesh. It’s horrifically engrossing, but if you’re playing at night, I’d recommend going with the volume off. It’s scary enough without it.

Playability: There aren’t really any controls to complain about, seeing as how there are essentially only three anyway- pulling up and putting away your camcorder, running or walking (mostly running), and occasionally hopping low barriers with monsters in pursuit.

Entertainment: I hope you like atmospheric scarefests, because you’ve just paid for one if you purchased this game. Oh, your friend told you it was a platforming game for kids? How mistaken you were in trusting him…

Replay Value: Moderate.

Overall Score: 8.5

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