Prison Architect and other Early-Access Games

It’s been a while since I’ve posted up anything, but that’s what happens when you are in the midst of moving and don’t have the time to play any video games… a sad day for all.

So to make up for a lack of activity, I’ve decided to do a review on three games that were recently released on Steam as “Early Access” which are more or less games in their alpha stages. After playing them, I’m not sure how I feel about early access games. You’re paying money for an incomplete game, which seems completely stupid when you think about it. It’s like paying a tradesperson for a job before they’ve finished. You know it will get finished, but you have no idea when or to what quality. Too often there have been games that while in production, have promised a lot more than they end up delivering.

But my main issue is that you’re seeing an unfinished product. And the thing about unfinished products is that they can pretty crap, and in the case of the games, incredibly buggy. Despite my skepticism, I have done the stupid action and bought at least two of these games and downloaded another.

 

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Kinetic Void

I’ve always been interested in space simulation games, having always been interested in science-fiction. But they often suffer from two problems. The first is that there is generally a steep learning curve. In a bid to be realistic, the games try to simulate every single button you could possibly have in a spaceship. And there is navigating your way around the 3D universe, space stations, conducting trade, mining, battles and whatever else the game can throw at you. If the game attempts to teach you all of it, it takes 4 hours of gameplay to do so which makes it a very boring process. And this brings me to my second point. Space simulators can simply be boring. Too much time is spent getting from place to place or micro-managing the components of your ship. And this was more or less the experience I got from Kinetic Void.

The release starts you off in a ship-building mode where you get to construct your own ship. This would normally be fun if it was accompanied by some kind of tutorial process. But without this process, I never quite built a decent enough ship, despite googling the process (something you shouldn’t have to do mid-game). My first ship lacked the engine needed to warp from place to place as well as only being able to go about as fast as a push-bike. Also, my ship was facing the wrong way when I built it so it ended up flying backwards.

Once I had finally built a ship capable of travel at a reasonable speed, I immediately set about exploring. Unfortunately, my exploration didn’t yield a much asides from occasional distress calls from ships that moved too fast for me to do anything to help. The first (potential) release from Badland Studios has a lot of potential, but in its current incomplete state, Kinetic Void is nothing but confusing and frustrating.

Kinetic Void is available as early-access on Steam and as pre-order on their website for $19.99. 

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Haunted Memories

This episodic series under the name Haunt from MadMan Theory Games has kicked off with a free release of the first episode named Haunted Memories. This game has arisen from the recently made popular Slender Man myth. Slender, for anyone who doesn’t know — or doesn’t have access to a ten year-old boy willing to tell you all about it including their personal encounter with the Slender man — is the Blair Witch project of the current millennium. Slender Man is a tall, faceless man in a black suit who stalks people and then kills them. There have been a couple of games released by indie developers about the Slender Man, but this is the first one which has been done well, hence why the game has the subtitle, “The Real Slender Game”. It’s like playing Amnesia in a setting similar to Alan Wake.

As someone who isn’t overly familiar with the Slender myth, I learned pretty quickly that approaching that floating, suited creepy man will result in your death, so don’t do that. You have to constantly keep moving to avoid Slender Man catching up to you while you collect all the pages explaining what happened to the foggy nature reserve in which you’re wandering around in. This game is relatively complete considering it’s still early-access. I did end up climbing up a lighthouse for about 5 minutes before realised I would never reach the top. Going back down, I ran into the Slender Man and jumped off the edge to avoid him, surviving the fall like a bad ass. I felt it was a little aimless until I turned to reliable Google which told me I had to collect pages. But there’s nothing wrong with being a little aimless in a survival horror since the aim is just to survive.

It wasn’t exactly scary, though most certainly atmospheric with the varying weather; heavy, scared breathing and the simple action of turning around revealing the location of your killer-stalker.

Haunted Memories is available for FREE from Steam, Desura, IndieDB and their website.

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Prison Architect

Prison Architect, from Introversion Software, is a game I’ve played an unreasonable amount lately, to the point where I’ve been playing through scenarios in my head of what I would do when I’m in jail (all of them involve become the toughest guy’s bitch).

I initially played through the tutorial which was surprisingly amazing and complete. You have a new prisoner for which you need to build some new facilities. All the little figures are little cartoony heads floating above little cartoony bodies with little, detached, cartoony hands holding shivs or batons. But then you constantly reminded by Polaroids that you are in fact running a serious prison which will ultimately keep murderers at bay and occasionally put the worst to death, which you did in the tutorial’s case.

The game is fairly well-planned out, though definitely in its alpha as it’s still very buggy. You nominate the rolls of each room and the characters seem to act appropriately, except when my workers decided to go on a smoke break with an indefinite ending. The interface can be a little cluttered and convoluted, but I’m hoping they will change this. Asides from bugs which prevent the development of your prison, Prison Architect is still reasonably playable.

After going to the game’s website, it became apparent why these games have bothered with the early-access process on Steam. Prison Architect, despite being in the alphas process, has sold almost 250,000 copies. With a minimum of $30 for a game, that’s over $7.5 million. That a lot of money for an indie-developed game, before it is even released. Though I’m still not sure I like the idea as a consumer. I don’t want to waste all the playing of a game before it is even finished. More so, often a single bug is all it takes for me be turned off a game. I don’t mind beta-testing or even alpha-testing a game. But I do mind paying money (a relatively large amount) for these games.

Prison Architect is available from $30 upwards on Steam and their website.

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