Monday, December 16, 2013

Neo Scavenger, or Apocalypse Manager.

Neo Scavenger is on Steam with the now usual Early Access formula, so approach with caution as many things are unfinished especially the plot/story, but what we have here is a incredibly detailed game about surviving a post-apocalytpic wasteland in a vast Michigan area (including Detroit) while dealing with all sorts of potential problems.

This doesn't sound new, I know.

What is new (although presented in a very old style) is that you literally micro manage thousand of items, containers, conditions, and most importantly actions your character can undertake. You move on an hexagonal map that represents the surrounding areas and while everything is highly stylized (you never see your character, you are just a silhouette in the global map) what happens to you is expressed through detailed lines of text that you can react to by taking actions among the ones that are presented to you based on your skills, traits, items and many other things. What is surprising, as I said before, is the amount of details that seems to be tracked by the game, a task made easy by the quite complete absence of visuals (except for a map, some locations stills, and vast inventory screens).

Here's an old (2012) trailer.

You start the game by waking up in a lab where you've been cryogenically frozen for years and realize that world has gone to hell and you are wearing nothing, it's damn cold, and something is coming, growling, from the dark corridor in front of you. Based on what you pick at character creation (among talents and flaws, which allow you to pick additional talents if used) you are offered different ways to deal with the situation, and get a taste of how the game always offers you different ways to do something, and different rewards based on it. For example, I started a game as a medic, and I was offered the chance to wake up people in other cryogenic tanks to distract the beast. As an electrician, I could reconnect the lighting in the place and make it my new base camp. As an eagle-eyed person I could spot a weapon that I would have otherwise missed, and as a tough mean melee fighter I could have just punched the attacker into oblivion.

The general feeling is that you are playing something between a management simulation, a roleplaying game, an overdeveloped Oregon Trail, a piece of interactive fiction and Pick Your Adventure of book. All adorned with a seemingly impressive amount of items you can collect, craft and interact with, about a hundred "story" encounters, a meaningful amount of randomization between each game, and the obligatory perma-death as in any rogue-like (yeah, almost forgot about that) inspired game. The author is super active on the Steam community, and basically jumps in to discuss and debate every meaningful topic and seems very open about ideas and explaining the gears and bolts behind it.

The UI, while clearly in need of a lot of work, is somewhat pleasant to deal with once you got the hang of it as the actions you can partake are presented to you as buttons, with new ones popping up whenever you have a chance for something you couldn't do before, so there's almost a sense of discovery that comes by playing through the interface itself. Fight is another text-buttons based thing. It reminds me of Bard's Tale and Wasteland (the original ones) but with many more options and details, which reinforces the feeling you are playing the last great game of the 80s more than with a tiny indie project from the 2010s, but that isn't a bad thing unless you simply can't deal with a lack of visuals.

But is it fun? Yes!

Rating: Buy it. 


Post a Comment

<< Home