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Alpha Impression: Sir, You Are Being Hunted

I have been spoiled by other games’ betas. That is clear to me now.

This part is okay.

This part is okay.

Sir, You Are Being Hunted is a game I mentioned being excited about back in May, then promptly forgot about. Recently, it was up on Steam Early Access at a discounted rate, and I decided to take the plunge. A few hours of gameplay later, and I feel thoroughly soaked.

The problem I have with the game is that it is basically a sandbox without any sand. When you start playing, you are introduced to the core gameplay – find pieces of the Device, plug them into Standing Stone – given some binoculars and food, and sent on your way. As a veteran of Don’t Starve, this opening felt perfectly fine. What became readily apparent however, is that the game utterly lacks interactivity in its present state. Alpha is alpha is alpha, yes. But when I rummage through three entire villages and am armed with 3 alarm clocks, one bear trap, and two empty bottles against robots with shotgun sniper rifles, things feel lame.

Now, of course, the name of the game is to be, well, hunted. But the present AI behavior reminds me of the delicate, high-wire act that all stealth games must perform. If you have enemies patrol in a set pattern, it turns stealth gameplay into a sort puzzle game with logical, measured moves. It might feel less “realistic” to have the guard always look to the left for three seconds when he walks to the balcony, but as a game mechanic it is grokkable and feels “right.” Alternatively, you could have enemies who basically follow no pattern whatsoever, looking randomly in any direction at any time. More realistic? Sure. More frustrating? Absolutely.

Right now, Sir basically has the worst of all possible stealth worlds. The world is procedurally-generated and I’m not really certain one of the procedures is to place the Device pieces near cover. I basically spent the last 40 minutes trying, futilely, to grab a Device piece in the middle of a field where two robots were “patrolling.” And by “patrolling,” I mean they walked in random, jerking movements in a 3-meter radius around said Device. Tenchu, Dishonored, and Deus Ex this ain’t; the only possible solution is dropping an alarm clock, crab-walking as far away from it as possible, and grabbing the Device and running.

Of course, the robots run as fast as you do, are armed with shotgun sniper rifles as mentioned previously, and the only way to lose them is to be crouched in foliage. Which they immediately begin to search, because that’s the name of the game. But considering how you can’t really sneak through the foliage at any appreciable speed, they will find you immediately and GG.

98% of your gameplay time is this.

98% of your gameplay time is this.

Alpha is alpha is alpha. But right now, Sir You Are Being Hunted is basically a crouching simulator and not much else.

Keeping An Eye On

I am not usually someone who risks getting my hopes up for games that aren’t even in beta, but I have the occasional moments of weakness. Here are a few of the games I am keeping an eye on:

Sir, You Are Being Hunted.

Basically an indie procedurally-generated, open-world survival game where you are being hunted by British robots. Yes, really. As much as I like the premise though, this is the sort of game that is going to live and die on the player perception of how/if the robots “cheat.” Were you really engaging in risky behavior, or does the AI just sort of auto-spot you within 30 meters? Maybe it is fun either way, who knows. The game is supposedly going to be released in July 2013, aka two months from now, so we’ll see how it shakes out soon enough.

Dying Light

Dying_light

First-person free-running zombie survival game from Techland, aka makers of Dead Island. Whatever your opinion is on zombies it’s wrong, a lot of Mirror’s Edge comparisons are being thrown around, which automatically makes it potentially more awesome. Some of the news sites are looking at this as a potential disaster given that its from the makers of Dead Island, but as you know, I enjoyed the original quite a bit. More of that in more open environments, please.

Incidentally, I have not picked up Dead Island: Riptide yet (with it’s 63 Metacritic score), but supposedly that game was made by a different team than the original. One bitten, twice zombie… or something. In any case, I wasn’t bitten. Dying Light appears to be a “hopeful” 2014 release.

Hex

The last time I talked about Hex, they were fast approaching their $300,000 Kickstarter goal. As of the time of this writing, they are sitting a $1.3 million, or more than 400% funded. The average backer spent just shy of $160. Me? I only paid $85.

Hex_Backer

My concerns about how TCGs naturally (and insidiously) combine both P2W and gamble boxes hasn’t really changed. What has changed is where exactly I place Cryptozoic on my internal Nefarious Scale, which ranges from indie all the way up to EA.

Cryptozoic is here to make money, no doubt, but their communication and outright concessions throughout the 18 Kickstarter updates has been downright refreshing. For example, their $250 Pro Player tier granted 1 free booster draft for life, which sold out in a week or less. Meanwhile, the other $250 tiers had bonuses tied to the PvE portion of the game, which is less of a value even if you planned to only play PvE (you can use PvP cards in PvE but not vice versa).

Solution? Every $250 tier now grants a free booster draft per week for 1 year.

Now, that could be construed as cynical marketing given that the Pro Player tier was sold out but the other $250 tiers were not – what better way to convince late-comers to boost their pledges than virtually increase the most popular tier? And, of course, it costs nothing to make all manners of promises in a Kickstarter campaign. At this point though, I want to believe. Just look at this:

960K – Keep Defense 
Become the master of your own domain! Every Lord of Entrath must defend their Keep, so we’re turning it into a game. Players will be able to set up a series of decks to defend their Keep, which will be played by our powerful AI (so you don’t need to even be online!). There will be rewards and prizes for those who are victorious in both defense and offense.

“Prizes” probably won’t be booster packs, so I’m not getting my hopes up about that part. But put that aside for a moment: this is asynchronous player-generated content to the max. Can you see it in your mind? Browsing your collection, building decks that you think will be useful in assaulting these keeps. And then turning around and brainstorming decks to stymie and frustrate the worms that dare defy the sanctity of your realm? Shit, I would do this all day long for free! Er… well, I guess I’m quite literally paying Cryptozoic to create content for other people, but that’s okay too.

In any case, this is quite literally the first Kickstarter I have ever pledged towards, and jumping right in at $85 given my mercilessly frugal gaming habits is pretty crazy. Dropping $10 for a beta invite probably should have sufficed. But, well, sometimes you have to put on your Press™ Pants and go full gonzo. At least, that’s what I’m telling myself. The Hex beta starts in September 2013.

Please don’t be bad. Please don’t be bad. Please don’t be bad.