Tuesday, October 22, 2013

PC Spotlight #33: NEO Scavenger

Title: NEO Scavenger
Developer: Blue Bottle Games
Platforms: PC, Mac, Linux, Browser
Price: $9.99
The raiders left you with nothing, nothing but the ragged clothes on your back and a glass shard. It had been foolish to rest in such an exposed location but the desperate search for shelter from the freezing rain had trumped your nagging exhaustion. And now your mistake had cost you dearly. Another night, another restless sleep in the rain. Hypothermia is a given now. Have to find shelter, real shelter, and supplies...or else death would be coming for you sooner rather than later. 
Movement. A lone bandit in the distance. You hurriedly cover your tracks and hide. From your vantage point, you can see the rusted crowbar, the patchwork hide clothing, the backpack. Supplies, warm attire, weapons. The opportunity is too good to pass up.
That's just one moment from a typical NEO Scavenger playthrough. It's a bleak gritty post apocalyptic roguelike with a focus on realistic survival and it's one of the most intense and immersive experiences I've played in a while.
NEO Scavenger is a turn-based roguelike, set across a hex-based map, action menus, and text vignettes. That may not seem all that exciting, but it's the underlying gameplay mechanics that make the game stand out. Set in a world ravaged by supernatural occurrences and warfare, you awaken in an abandoned cryotube facility. Choose your traits and skills wisely, as different specializations open up new choices and options. (i.e. an Atheletic person can easily outrun enemies, but a person proficient in Hiding could more easily find cover and sneak away). Once you leave the facility, an expansive map is open to explore. How long you'll survive is another matter.
Sleep in the rain without a sleeping bag? Prepare to come down with severe hypothermia overnight or maybe you'll just freeze to death. Run away from bandits over treacherous terrain? Maybe you'll trip and break a rib. Forgo sleep and stay on the move? You'll pass out from exhaustion. Get cut in a fight? You'd better have painkillers and bandages to prevent the wound from getting infected. Forget to hide your tracks before sleeping? The raiders will have found you by morning. The wealth of options and variables to consider are astounding. Life is short and cheap, death is always lurking on the horizon. The combat is ruthless and brutal, akin to the quick violent encounters seen in The Road or No Country, and while the encounters are experienced through menus and text, you always have a wide array of tactics at your disposal, ranging from simply fleeing to trying to break line of sight and hide to forcing enemies to surrender or just surrendering yourself. Raiders and bandits are numerous and merciless, but the otherworldly creatures and mutants that roam the map are even more dangerous.
Despite being quite playable, NEO Scavenger is still in beta, with more areas, weapons, items, enemies, story vignettes to come. The developer regularly provides updates on what he's working on and adding, and the full game is set to release early 2014. You can purchase the beta here or on Desura. A demo is also available.

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