Friday, June 15, 2018

Old Hat

She's a "Replika"
although I'm guessing
not a Nexus-6 model
I recently became aware of a new game in development called Signalis.  According to the official website, the game is a sci-fi survival horror experience harkening back to the 1990s roots of the subgenre.  Looking at screenshots and video clips it's easy to get that vibe from the slightly pixelated graphics and low-poly 3D models.  By their own admission the two primary people working on the game are big fans of the H.P. Lovecraft mythos, Resident Evil and, especially, Silent Hill.  I'm also seeing a sprinkling of "Blade Runner" in the presentation.  Overall, it sounds exactly like my kind of video game.  However, for reasons I'll get into momentarily the idea of playing Signalis leaves me feeling a bit tepid.

This screenshot reminds me
of Space Quest for some reason
I think the problem stems from my excessive familiarity with these kinds of games.  When it comes to survival horror, it would probably be a lot quicker for me to list the games I haven't played rather than the ones I have.  As such, it's a bit too easy for me to anticipate the overarching plot.  Elster, the main character, has to make an emergency landing on a snow-covered planet.  After that she puts on her spacesuit and walks over to the nearby underground base.  Said base appears to be abandoned, but of course it isn' the core of the game begins with a consistent mix of battling/avoiding twitchy zombies, solving puzzles, encountering survivors and ultimately escaping from the nightmare (which most likely involves a showdown with some eldritch monstrosity).  It's not a bad structure to build a game on, but it is formulaic in that titles like The Colony (1988), Martian Gothic: Unification (2000) and Dead Space (2008 - 2013 R.I.P.) have done this sort of thing before...not to mention a bunch of movies ranging from "Aliens" to "The Killer Shrews."  I guess you could say that I'm worried that Signalis will give me a severe case of déjà vu.  I could be wrong though.  It could be the devs are simply trying to generate some interest in their game by appealing to nostalgic fans of survival horror.  The game is going to be a kickstarter project after all...I hope what we've seen thus far though is just the tip of the iceberg.  Fingers crossed that the majority of the game is filled with some big surprises hidden underneath.  Because of the tight budget and limited timetable associated with kickstarter games though a paint-by-the-numbers approach is usually the only viable way for a studio to fulfil their obligations to backers in a satisfactory manner.  Those sorts of inherent limitations to crowdfunding are why I wouldn't be shocked if what you see is what you get...aside from some little obligatory plot twist toward the end.

I could be wrong fact I hope I am...I'd love to play a survival horror game that returns to they heyday of the subgenre while simultaneously subverting expectations.  Sadly, I think that's asking too much regardless of whether it be a talented team of industry veterans or a pair of enthusiastic newcomers. 

"Attention.  Emergency.
All personnel must evacuate.
You now have 14 minutes
to reach minimum safe distance." 

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