Give me a minute here.
I just finished the game and now I need to pour a stiff drink, sit with the lights off for a while and stare out the window at the falling rain, or something like that.
Man, this thing is dark! About a third of the way in I figured out exactly what it reminded me of. There’s an author named R Scott Bakker who wrote fantasy novels. I don’t know, maybe he still does; but I quit reading them.
His books always had this over-the-top combination of lurid prose with a world so supremely awful that no human being could possibly stand to live in it. Everyone was doomed, damned or both. The characters seemed to spend every moment of every day wracked with such excruciating mental and/or physical anguish that you simply couldn’t believe that they all wouldn’t just lie down in mute surrender and await the merciful embrace of death. You can see why I stopped reading these things. It’s not called “The Great Ordeal” for nothing.
Well, this is basically R Scott Bakker: The Game.
The first thing that catches your attention here is the bold visual style. Come to think of it, that’s pretty Bakker-esque too. For all his excesses, he had a real way with words when it came to describing two particular things: underground ruins and magical pyrotechnics. The rest of it may have made no sense, but if you really want to feel like you’re lost in the unfathomable depths of an ancient tunnel or being burned to ashes by a wizard, he’s your man.
These guys clearly have their own vivid sights that they’re eager to show you, although you’re going to have to use your imagination to see them.
Visually, they depict their desolate hellscape of a world in a through-a-glass-darkly sort of way, as if the solid matter is merely shadows and abstractions hiding an underlying truth. The enemies, the zones on the map and your character itself take the form of strange geometric symbols. The forces of nature, in contrast, are much more realistic: raindrops splashing on the barren ground, blinding flashes of lightning and wind howling through the canyons–in a nice touch, it actually can affect bullet trajectory.
Everything is black and white, of course, save for the flames and bloodstains on the ground. It’s like they’re trying to say that the only real things are chaos and pain. Geez.
They really lift the veil, though, during the text interludes tucked away between chapters and before many of the zones. There you get to experience the suffering of the protagonist in its full glory and scrutinize his every agonized emotion and tormented thought down to the subatomic level.
At the beginning the plot is still more or less tethered in a version of reality. You play as a warrior summoned to another world to bring it back from the brink of death by shooting everything in sight. By the end things come totally unglued and, well, I don’t really know what the hell was going on. It sounded pretty bad, though.
Ultimately I think it’s supposed to be some kind of nihilistic allegory about facing death in a world without meaning or something like that, but you never really know with this kind of stuff. They might just like the way it sounds.
The gameplay elements are just as confusing and feel as if they were all abandoned in various stages of completion.
At first shooting things in this hyper-stylized world is kind of fun and different, but without much variety in the enemies or abilities it turns into a pure grind by the end. You’ve got randomly-distributed weapon drops that range on the usefulness scale from “very” to “not at all.” Upgrades that are never fully explained. A crafting system where most of the time you can’t find the right ingredients. Yeah, I’d have thought it would be much easier to get my hands on charcoal in a place like this, but I searched in vain. Then there’s this whole food and water system woven throughout the item drops and crafting options which seems like it might have served a purpose at one time but now has been rendered completely obsolete.
In hindsight turning a concept like this into a top-down shooter was a bizarre choice to begin with. The whole time you get the feeling that their heads are way up in the clouds somewhere, transfixed by whatever hellish cosmic vision they’re witnessing, and that making the actual game was just an annoying distraction. Maybe they should have made a walking simulator or a visual novel or something less interactive so they could focus on crushing our will to live with their depressing story, since that seems to be where their heart truly lies.
Hard to say what you should do about this. It’s so damned weird that on one hand it really is kind of an interesting experience, but if you if you try to absorb it completely it’ll make you feel bad in more ways than one.
Developer: Incubator Creations
Publisher: Incubator Creations
Purchased on: Steam
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