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Pre-Historic Survival Game ‘Before’ is Looking Quite Beautiful, Won’t Have a Kickstarter Campaign

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A couple months ago we interviewed Bill Lowe about his upcoming survival title, Before. Time for a little update.

From the time that we last talked to Bill, it seems that Before has really begun to take shape as you’ll see in the screenshots below. Some new details were released via the Before blog as well as to how the game would play and what you can expect in terms of difficulty. Checkout the details straight from the blog just below.

The game controls much like a real-time strategy or “god” game, though I think of the player as more collective conciousness than deity. You command members of your fledgling tribe to perform various actions and pursue goals; moving around the landscape, hunting animals and gathering resources.

The core of the experience is survival; guiding your tribe through their life in an often dangerous world. Ensuring that they find food, keep an eye out for dangerous predators and find a safe place to sleep each night.

As the tribe grows, so will their desire for somewhere to call home. Deciding where to settle down is the first step, before gathering wood for the fire and materials for building.

Screenshot05

Bill also notes that the game will feature a “collective permadeath” system meaning that once your tribe completely dies out, then the game is over. In addition, the game’s world seems to be quite ambitious as, “each creature in the world has some basic simulation which determines behaviour; eating when hungry and sleeping when tired. As time passes, creatures grow older and will eventually die of natural causes.” As you’d expect, however, the other living species in the world, as well as your tribe, can be killed at any time by predatory animals. We’re guessing Sabertooth Tigers and those half raptor half bird creatures from the movie 10,000 BC will be part of that equation.

Adding even more detail to an already ambitious project, Lowe plans to have, “each player’s tribe to feel unique; the culture they develop and the mark they leave on their surroundings serving a visual history of the time spent playing.” He continues,  “You’ll be free to explore the world with your tribe; building boats to cross the seas, descending into underground caves, unearthing mysterious artifacts, even discovering other tribes.”

 

Before is sounding quite interesting as development progresses and if the latest screenshots are any indication, the game is looking quite lovely on the Unity engine. Bill did have plans to bring the game to the Kickstarter platform, but has since decided against it and will announce the future development plans of Before soonish. If you haven’t already, you should certainly read our big interview we did with Lowe a couple months ago to learn a bunch of new details on the game.

Don’t forget to follow us on Facebook and Twitter to stay up to date with all the latest on Before. Feel free to discuss the game in our forums as well as we work on building up our community there. We’ll be doing our annual summer giveaway series in a few weeks time, and the forums will be a big part of it so we hope to see you there!

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198X Review — A Nostalgia Trip Without a Destination

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198X

Some short stories feel more like chapters—snipped out of a larger work—that struggle to make sense on their own. 198X represents a translation of that ethos to video game form. As a result, the game feels unfulfilling, though that does not detract from the overall quality on offer. Ultimately, the player’s appraisal of 198X will depend on whether they place more stock in story or gameplay because while the former leaves much to be desired, the latter will be a hit for anyone with fond memories of the 8- and 16-bit classics.

In the framing and overall structure, 198X is decidedly modern, but everything else pulses with a retro vibe. At its core, the game is a compilation, weaving together five distinct experiences under the auspice of a story of personal development. From the Double Dragon-infused ‘Beating Heart’ to the turn-based dungeon RPG ‘Kill Screen’, each title feels slick, if a little undercooked. Those old-school originals could only dream of being as smooth as these throwbacks. However, the two-button input methodology results in the games feeling just a touch too simple, though their brevity—each clocking in at a maximum of 15 minutes (depending on the player’s skill level and muscle memory)—makes that less of an issue than it might have been. If more depth is present, it is hidden well, as the game lacks any sort of tutorial to guide players. Nevertheless, the stellar presentation goes a long way towards papering over the cracks.

The pixel art aesthetic of 198X is staggering. Each of the worlds that players make their way through is pitched perfectly to fit the mood it evokes. From the grungy brawler of the first game to the more melancholic mood of the open-road racer, the screen is drenched in lavish colour and far more detail than one might expect from such a seemingly simple art style.

Easily a match for the visuals is the audio. The in-game sounds of a car engine or bone-crunching strike are low-key, which allows the music to come to the fore. Those tunes are all from the electronic genre, simple, yet layered with enough depth to not feel tedious or tiring. Easily overshadowing all the rest though is Maya Tuttle’s voice-over narration as The Kid. Her tone is one of pervasive resignation that works to reinforce the same mood within the script.

That melancholia will surely strike a chord with anyone who has grown up on the fringes. The Kid speaks of once loving and now hating the Suburbia of their childhood, where memories of happiness collide with a contemporary feeling of entrapment. The words and lines are powerfully evocative—made even more so by the connection between the gameworlds and the prevailing emotion at that point. The problem is that they amount to nothing. The story comprises of these snippets—these freestanding scenes of life lived lonely—that never coalesce into anything. The Kid may find an arcade and speak of finding some sort of home and a source of strength, but it goes nowhere. The game ends just as things start to get interesting. Setting up for a sequel is no sin. Plenty of other games and media products—from Dante’s Inferno to Harry Potter—have done just that. However, to be effective, such first parts need to offer a story in and of themselves, not just the promise of a story to come, and that is where 198X falls apart.

With each game in the compilation being a straightforward, one-and-done affair and the overarching narrative feeling like a prologue at best, 198X is wafer-thin. The presentation is simply remarkable, and the package has enough variety to be worth a look, but the unmistakable impression is that something is missing.

OnlySP Review Score 2 Pass

Reviewed on PC. Coming soon to Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One.

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