Developer: Носков Сергей | Released: 2016 | Genre: Adventure, First Person
This game was full of surprises. It started out with a way too long slow walk through a forest, me and a buddy of few words, making it look like a boring
walking simulator facile adventure, but after the almost six hours it took to complete it, it had also been a real adventure game with objects to find, puzzles to solve, a railroad trolley to ride, and at times even a genuine FPS with a gun or an assault rifle.
It was a bleak first person adventure with a notebook for keeping tabs of inventory icons. Damage or fatigue had to be fixed with medikits or food and a flashlight needed batteries. My buddy usually dictated the direction to walk, but I was free to break off and explore the areas for loot. I could cut ropes on door handles for access or take completely pointless pictures with an old camera.
Sometimes a rare QTE made me mash buttons to complete a cutscene, like winning a fist fight.
The game honestly had too much exploration of areas for way too little loot. There were sometimes several houses or even floors in buildings where I had to search dark rooms for loot, yet too often it was rarer than finding visitors for this blog. There were also traps. After a few exploding deaths I learned to look for wires in door openings that could be cut with my knife.
After a few levels of solitude, my buddy and I started meeting people. There were no dialog trees, but there were often small talks, letters to read, a puzzle, or a task like finding a car battery to power something.
Then evil people started showing up.
It gave rise to a fist fight, a kidnapping, shootouts, and escaping followed by patching up with medikits. This evil presence never quite gave up and sometimes returned to spice up the action. Later there were even bigger shootouts including a pack of hungry wolves versus a freshly found assault rifle.
A really big minus was the save system of the game. Dying was okay – I was rarely bumped back far and could quickly get back to where I was. But if I quit the game in the middle of a level, the whole damn thing restarted next time I started it. This was made particularly dubious by intermediate black loading screens not counting as a bump to that point. I had to retrace the “Bor” level several times because of this.
It still never took long because then I new what 99% of everything didn’t have any loot.
The last level in the game was a big city with dead modern cars left behind in the streets. This was a really nice surprise as some of the earlier levels looked so bleak and simple, it even started dragging down on the general impression. But as I said before, this game was full of surprises and sometimes came up with unexpected goodies that made it slightly better than the sum of its parts.
Nevertheless, there were also things that inevitably dragged it down. The Russian dialog was translated to really bad English, and the subtitles were presented with a small and repellent font.
The areas never had invisible walls. Instead the boundary of an area just stopped me with a message about not needing to go that far. This was actually fine with me. I’d much rather have such a message than an invisible wall, and it also understandable that our hero didn’t want to leave his friend behind.
Let’s talk about that friend. If I have to be honest, he was usually more of a nuisance than an actual benefit. He walked with a really slow pace, which was particularly annoying when restarting a level knowing exactly where to go. Sometimes he started commenting on something that I had to fix, whether I was right next to him or in the other end of the area.
His only real purpose was being part of the story and its cutscenes.
The game started with a head bobbing turned on that was so excessive that I immediately had to turn it off, and I’m usually not offended by those kind of things.
It took quite a while until I learned how to deal with medkits and food as the game tried to be subtle about hinting when it was time to use this. If I got low on health, more blood stains appeared in my notebook and maybe the screen also got blurry. Then double-clicking either type of icon would empty out the blood stains or make the screen clearer. Medikits logically gave more bang for the buck than food.
The flashlight frequently started blinking for a second or two – probably to make me aware of the existence of batteries – but the actual degradation of the light intensity was actually very subtle.
Just like in the excellent Obduction that I completed recently, walking was almost useless – except of course when being wary about traps in door openings. Unfortunately the developers had implemented the really annoying realistic fatigue that occurs after a minute of sprinting. Pant, pant, pant.
A few times it started raining hard, and this created the effect of water streaming down either windows or the entire screen if I was outside myself.
The first action cutscene was running from a bear into a barn. My buddy shot it and we spent the night at a campfire. He sent me out to find a bucket and then get water from a well – and to learn for the first time how little loot the dilapidated houses actually had.
After finding a canister to use with a trolley, we drove for quite some distance on the railroads. Sometimes I had to turn the tracks and even push a carriage away. My buddy turned on some nice music on a radio. Sometimes we crashed right through branches lying on the rails. It was a surprisingly long trip.
We found a small village and helped an old grandpa and his family against a group of thugs. A fist fight was a genuine QTE here and I actually died if I didn’t follow it through. Then the grandpa invited us inside for dinner. I solved a jigsaw puzzle for a kid, read a letter, and adjusted a picture on a wall.
Then I got stuck.
My buddy was standing right outside the house but didn’t budge. I thought for quite a while that I needed to fix something and searched the entire village over and over. After wasting way too much time with that, I finally discovered that a bed inside grandpa’s house had a sleep mode. All I had to do was go to sleep!
The game could have telegraphed this better. Me yawning, my buddy claiming we were tired. Anything.
Then the antagonism was stepped up. I got knocked out and woke up in a cellar. Both my friend and I were dumped in the back of a truck. Luckily my buddy got his hands lose and knocked out the guard, acquiring his gun in the process. Then we escaped through a dried out canal while shooting and getting into cover.
From then on, the feeling of being followed became part of the game. The thugs never let go.
We came to the level of “Bor” – big buildings with multiple floors and also the one I restarted a few times. This level was probably the worst regarding zillions of rooms with almost no loot. I found a safe and even a possible code for it, but it wasn’t clear how the knob mechanism was supposed to receive the numbers. It rejected everything I tried. Eventually I just gave up and left. I didn’t need the achievement anyway.
Oh look, the thugs are back in a truck. Run!
We barricaded a door and I turned on the power for an elevator. It involved flipping switches and sliding numbers to add up 24 for the exact amount of volts required. It almost felt like I was back in INFRA.
After the elevator ride, my buddy and I split up. I had to follow the underground rails while he took off in a different corridor. I never saw him again, except in a cutscene in the end picking up a photo I left behind.
As you might have guessed, I was actually fine with it just being me from then on.
The underground tube area was really dark. I had to find a code for a keypad, and I was slightly stuck there until I discovered that I had to use my axe on a vent grate to get to a bottle and a letter with the code on it. Lots of red herrings. I could turn a valve, turn on a monitor, and lift a cargo box. All for nothing.
The thugs came back, because why not. I blocked a door and found a UV flashlight which revealed two crosses on a wall that I then smashed through with my axe. It created a flush of water. Later I used a small raft across a pool of water, which again reminded me of a similar (but much longer) sequence in INFRA.
Then came a puzzle that I thought was a bit much to begin with, but that I actually ended up applauding as probably the best puzzle in the entire game.
A really thick metal door had to be opened with a switch that pulled out a big piston arm attached to it. Unfortunately the arm was missing a big pin for a hinge. Nearby was an industrial grinding machine for honing metal rods. I actually had to wind up a pin and then slide a grinder left and right to make it slightly thinner each time. And it had to be just the right size. Too thin and it just dumped right through the hinge hole when I flipped the switch for the door. Too big and I had to go back and grind some more.
I now came to a big chamber (perhaps an empty water cistern) where I found a gutted body with an assault rifle and some ammo. A pack of wolves came rushing in and I had to keep my backpedaling distance and off them one by one. I made it in the first go without having to jump onto something first.
I may not be the best at FPS, but I’m not that bad either.
After ascending a ladder, I “woke up” in a subway station with a conspicuous abundance of ammo for my assault rifle. All of the many bronze statues started moving in my direction and I had to shoot both them plus a few extra wolves thrown in for good measure. I only just about made it after using all of the ammo I could find. In my opinion this part was harder than the wolf pack. It was also just a dream.
Finally I reached the big city that I mentioned earlier, the one with the many dead modern cars. Lots of apartments to search through here. I found some ammo here and there, which was odd as it somehow indicated that there would be more shooting. But there was no one attacking. They should have thrown an angry dog in one or two apartments, just to spice it up and give me a reason to use the rifle. I even thought I found one in a room, but it just turned out to be a snoring guy.
I did find two batteries that I swapped for a lockpick. The lockpick gave me a puzzle much in the vein of similar minigames in many RPG, only much easier. Inside this final apartment I unlocked a room and found a photo album with pictures of the hero and his wife and kid. A cutscene then showed that his earlier buddy was once involved in a car crash that killed his family. Ouch.
I now feel even happier about the fact that I parted ways with him after the elevator.
The game had the fastest exit to desktop I have ever seen. It was literally instantaneous.
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2016 Носков Сергей6h 2