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Infection, Evolved

  • NTC3
  • 03/06/2017 12:50 PM
  • 1154 views
The demo of We All Fall Down is the latest game from InfectionFiles, whose first game on here was (surprise, surprise) Infection, a monochrome turn-based take on the zombie apocalypse which was pretty good. I didn’t follow his later zombie games too closely, partly because I’m not very interested in the theme itself, and partly because they were real-time, which I am generally less interested in. However, this game is not only a different kind of an apocalypse thematically, but it’s also turn-based, and builds upon the systems unmistakably present in the original Infection, and makes a clear effort to improve in other areas as well.

Storyline



Narrative is certainly one of those areas, given that it was barely present in Infection. Here, there’s considerably more of it, and it feels fresher as well. While the plausibility of a nuclear apocalypse of any kind back in 1944 is questionable at best, there’s a clear reason why this particular date was chosen: it severely limits the progress of a “pre-War” world, both technologically and socially. As such, the game feels almost like a pure Western: from the lack of any (working) technology more advanced then shotguns and dynamite, to racism and the pre-feminist understanding of gender roles. The amazing work done on the aesthetics further reinforces the thick atmosphere, and makes the current demo very interesting to play through. However, there are certainly areas for improvement as well. For one thing, the opening is quite different to Infection, but I cannot call it an improvement, as much as I would like to do so. That previous game began with a brief but effective recounting of the protagonist’s marriage vows he failed to live up to, and then he and the other woman, Michelle, had to start moving immediately and narrative faded into background. Here, there is a notably long conversation between the current male and female lead, William and Patricia, at the start, as they wake up alone in an abandoned bunker, which could certainly be improved. For one thing, it more-or-less begins with one of the most maligned lines in screenwriting:



And other than that, it throws way too much at the wall from the start. As I started the game, I mainly just wanted to get quickly and see what the world looked like now. The protagonists, having lived in it all their lives, obviously have different priorities, though, and so instead we have the attempt to set up the romance above, as well as them guessing at who might’ve gotten them from Comstock town (reference to Bioshock Infinite?) to here, before they tease out the identity of demo’s antagonist, Butch Samson. According to the game’s own internal clock, it takes 3 min. 54s. for it to convey all this information before you get the keyboard control, which is way too long for a non-interactive conversation. There are a few other moments where it’s like this: the first pre-battle dialogue with Samson (after which he just walks away and lets his flunkies die to your blows), and the one after the second battle where he’s defeated both clearly drag, often feeling like they restate the things we already know. That’s partly because Samson is so clearly a bad guy (to the point his most interesting trait is that he harvests organs from anyone he catches, including children) that you don’t need to hear many back-and-forths about it. Even so, those particular dialogues feel like they would be best broken up, and same information delivered in several shorter ones as you move along. After all, most of the time you just explore the surroundings without talking about anything, conversations only triggered at these few key moments, or when you first encounter some peaceful NPC.



The trader, Barnabus Baines Bertram, is the most interesting one of those, mainly because he delivers the one worthwhile twist in the game, pictured above. Finding out that the Verminkinders (tall, bipedal blade-wielding rat figures who often fight alongside their lesser evolved Giant Rat brethren), are sentient enough to properly trade and negotiate was actually interesting, after assuming they are still closer to beasts, since they will always attack you on-map without any dialogue triggered, and you never hear them speak. Of course, same goes for the so-called (human) Barbarians you encounter in their own cave, and having formed a roadblock on the railroad going towards the next populated town. On the same route, there’s also the building populated by the similarly silent “Inbred Greys”, it being unclear whether they are actual aliens who have devolved so much (as “Alien Body Parts” loot item implies) or mutants of some kind, like the said Verminkinders, or the creepy Mushmen. It would’ve been really nice to get more conversations and context for those things in the full game, at least as you enter unfamiliar buildings and areas.

Right now, though, it’s clear InfectionFiles had thrown them in a little haphazardly after the main story of the demo (Butch plotline) ended to tease their expanded presence in the full game, which is fine for this demo’s purposes. What is not so fine is the “forgetting” problem, or its particular incarnation here, more crudely referred to as “women in the refrigerators”. Essentially, both Will and Patricia meet each other in the bunker because Butch kidnapped them for separate reasons. For Will, it’s because he’s a bounty hunter who has a contract on Samson, fine. Patricia, though, ends up there because she witnessed a rape and murder of her (unnamed) room-mate at Comstock – a person and an event completely forgotten afterwards and not brought up during the final battle with Butch, or probably ever again, the way the plot seems to be going right now, and which I certainly hope gets addressed.

Typos (other then one in the screenshot):
His breathing had stabalized.
Hired gun’s can be moody.
Then I’ll spilt the reward money with you.


Aesthetics (art, design and sound)



The game is apparently employing nothing besides a range of resource packs for its graphics and sounds, but it does so very well, sometimes through omission (like in Infection, pretty all of the menu sounds are removed). Like I said before, there’s just a really thick atmosphere of decay, somewhat reminiscent of the original (good) Fallouts, along with that of a more classical Western. There are some really good outdoors maps, like the one above. Indoors locations are a little less interesting, but there’s still a clear effort to make every place look even a little distinct from each other. It’s also helped by the way the items you scavenge literally disappear from where they were. Scavenging, of course, is a significant part of the gameplay like it was in developers’ preceding games.

Gameplay



These are the starting skills, and other than the two unfortunate spelling errors, they are very impressive. On one hand, it builds upon the approach Infection had, with the same system of Bleed/Burn/Fracture/Infect status effects, which will persist well past the battle, but can be addressed instantaneously by any party member. Like that game, it also only lets you the direct attack damage numbers, keeping you guessing about how close each enemy is to death, and how well your status effects work, if they work at all. Lastly, heavy melee weapons like sledgehammers are obviously stronger then, say, knives, at the expense of slowing you down (while knives speed a character up), while guns are far more powerful, but consume actual ammo (in a system that’s bugged right now.) However, there are also considerable differences in gameplay, stemming from your enemies being (mostly) conscious now, and thus understandably smarter than the average zombie. While those mainly relied on grapples and a chance to infect character with every attack, the human(oid) opponents here often have the access to the same skills you possess, while dogs/rats/greys get their bleed and infect moves. When it comes to your own skills, Infection kept them all free and relied on the pace of ATB combat to keep you too stressed to choose comfortably from amongst them. It worked, up until you got an equally free healing skill and could easily abuse its existence. To prevent that, there’s a “pure” turn-based system, and so your own skills have an AP cost now, which is small, but adds up quite quickly, much like the damage from the fights themselves (which are never very threatening on their own – this is no Darkest Dungeon here), and choosing the best way to regain your health and agility is a whole other part of the gameplay.

Again, the resource-scavenging and managing still has the same overarching principle as Infection – you will find a lot of restoration items, but pretty much all of them are quite weak, and attempting complete heals with them will likely drain them pretty quickly. Then, there’s distinction between the items usable in combat and ones that aren’t. Now, however, there’s also a question of how much would each resource add to the AP (if at all), and of how well it restores food/water meters. Some items, like Wasteland Stew, will restore all four, but most are limited to 2-3, and they obviously increase some parameters better than others. Thus, just like how you are never sure about exactly how much damage you need to deal to kill an enemy in combat, you are also never sure about what is the best item consumption strategy beyond the most obvious considerations. Thus, you just choose what feels “good enough” in both cases, and go with it, generally progressing through the game with health at ~50% and AP at ~30. Some items can also be bought from the aforementioned merchant, using the money you get from selling items that are "junk" to you - from Metal Containers to Pre-War Textbook. However, his inventory is restricted, so there's no easy avenue for abuse here. (And the way he also keeps everything you sell to him is another nice usage of that script.) Another script lets Patricia steal some items from humanoid enemies during combat - they'll typically have one easily gained but nearly worthless item, medium-risk/reward consumable and some valuable item that it'll certainly take you several attempts to steal, if ever. The decision of how many turns it's worth to dedicate to stealing items, if any at all, adds another layer to battles.



Then again, there’s potentially a case to be made that generally spacebar-mashing through fights can be a good idea, because then you would save all the AP-restoration consumables for Patricia and her healing skill, which is obviously far more efficient than anything you get from mushrooms or chunks of buffalo meat. You can’t be truly sure about that either, though, and you certainly don’t feel good doing that, so I rarely tried it, instead typically going for some mix of DOT stacked on one enemy and direct damage spam on others. I suppose the enemies could be made to hit a little bit harder then they do right now to make combat more interesting. Then again, I didn’t try to fight every encounter on the screen (which is probably still as impossible as it was back then) and bypassed a significant bunch of Barbarian encounters at the aforementioned roadblock by exploiting a passability bug that often lets you walk on the otherwise empty cliffs. There’s a fair few bugs like this, documented below.















You'll get stuck outright here, with no way to get out.


Conclusion



Silverado Mines. One of the small “teaser” locations near the end, and a really atmospheric place.

All in all, I generally really like the way We All Fall Down is shaping. While it could certainly be improved, mainly when it comes to its storytelling, it already feels like a game I wouldn’t mind paying for in the future.

Posts

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InfectionFiles
the world ends in whatever my makerscore currently is
4622
As always a very good read and a lot of points I'll be taking to heart and working on for the next release. (ouch those passibility errors!)

I know I went overboard on dialogue scenes since most of my games don't have a lot of story xP That is something I'm going to cut down on and try and get better

Thank you so much! :)
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