No new releases this week and we’re still waiting for No Man’s Sky. So let’s put on some boots and walking-simulator, by taking a look at two great examples on how to make a game without combat fun.
Adr1ft & Firewatch
Assigning a genre to a game certainly makes it easy to get an initial idea of what you’re getting yourself into. But with some games, these distinctions become more and more difficult. And one of these reasons are the so-called „walking-simulators“, often story and exploration driven experiences without a distinct combat mechanic, sometimes even without an adversary of some kind. Atmospheric, short and indie. And of these kind are the two games we’re going to take a look at today.
We are Henry. Henry has had a tough few years and decides that, to get his life back together, he has to leave his past behind. To do that, he takes the job as a fire-lookout in the forests of Wyoming. After a two day hike through the wilderness, Henry arrives at his new home for the summer, Two Forks Tower, where he meets his new best friend, a walkie-talkie with his supervisor Delilah on the other end. After a good first night with 14 hours of sleep, we get our first assignment in the evening of Day 1: Get some teenagers back in line who’re launching fireworks in this dry summer heat of 1989. After making our way through the woods, almost falling to our death down a slope and shouting at some teenage ass-heads, we arrive back at our tower. Our ransacked tower with broken windows, stolen sheets and Henry’s precious typewriter thrown out. And with this, a series of mysterious events unfolds over the course of the following weeks. Cut telephone lines, a secret government surveillance facility, ominous notes, abandoned backpacks and a shadowy figure lurking in the forest.
This is where Firewatch shows it’s strength, the dreary atmosphere, the anxiety Henry feels while uncovering all these events. All of this is supported by the incredibly written and marvelously acted dialogue by Rich Sommer (Henry) and Cissy Jones (Delilah), who delivered the most honest and sincerest conversations, from humor to fear, throughout the whole 6 hour experience. Even after a slightly disappointing ending, Campo Santo’s Firewatch is still a very satisfying experience, with a beautiful art-style and simple yet fun exploration in a well designed world.
Firewatch by Campo Santo was released in February for PS4, PC, Mac and Linux
Less a walking-simulator and more a floating-simulator, Adr1ft puts us in the (space-)suit of Alex Oshima, mission commander aboard the Northstar IV research station orbiting Earth in 2037. Following a catastrophic event that leaves parts of the station destroyed and exposed to the vacuum of space, Alex has to make her way through the remains of crew quarters, hydroponics and access corridors to bring essential systems back online to secure her escape. A task more difficult than it initially seems, as our space-suit is leaking and has to be filled back up with oxygen from canisters or recharge stations from time to time. While we make our way through the four main systems of Northstar IV, activating power and communications, we can listen to audio-logs to expand our knowledge of the events that lead up to our current situation, scattered throughout an impressively large environment.
The atmosphere of loneliness and despair is felt during the whole 3 hour experience, despite the fact that we hear no dialogue from the character we’re playing as. Only heavy breathing and Alex’s blurry vision when we run low on O2 gives us an insight into her struggles.
The controls, as well as navigating the remains of the space-station, can become frustrating at times, all due to the fact that we’re actually controlling a character in a fully 3D-environment. Sometimes confusing, but as soon as we figured that out it became actually fun.
The only thing that I regret from my time with this, is that I wasn’t able to experience it in VR, either on Playstation VR (as it hasn’t been released yet and I wasn’t able to preorder it anyway) or Oculus Rift (because I don’t have a PC powerful enough to run that shit). And it feels like a VR-Experience through and through. Nevertheless, it’s been incredible and proves, just like Firewatch, that games solely reliant on narrative and exploration have their place right between a cute indie-platformer and yet another Ubisoft-sequel.
Adrift by ThreeOneZero is out now on PC and PS4, with XBOX One coming later in 2016.
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Beitragsbild: Kevin Wendlandt
Fotos: Campo Santo, ThreeOneZero/505 Games