Walking Simulator is an interesting phrase. First off, I’m always for lowering hyperbole down to reality. An awful lot of so-called “experiences” can be boiled down to a walking simulator. Second, it’s interesting because normally the sentence “all you do in the game is ____” is one that I find to be mostly used by non-gamers. All you do in Call of Duty is kill people. All you do in Grand Theft Auto is commit crimes. All you do in Mario is jump. So to hear a gamer passionately dislike a product because all you do is walk is something I find kind of fascinating.
Regardless of the criticisms, this sub-genre has received, it appears to only gain more products with time. Creators of said games don’t care what the response is, and go on to create them anyways, which I’m all for. Mainly because I’ve experienced both great and poor games in this sub-genre. The Stanley Parable was a hilarious self-referencing romp that had me in stitches from beginning to end. Meanwhile, Dear Esther had me in a self-induced coma within the brief time I spent enduring it.
What I’ve come to recognize about this genre is that so far, all the best games I’ve played in it include as few intrusions as possible. Something as simple as the character’s movement speed can be enough to ruin a game in this sub-genre. Because they don’t have shooting, platforming, or any extra gameplay loop for the user to engage in it always feels as if the “experience” is holding you by the leash and it’s hard to keep going. I’m afraid that’s the largest concern I have with Hevn. Despite the demo’s brevity, and how much of the experience is left to be seen in the full release, I was already feeling the frustration and boredom by the end.
Now it certainly has nothing to do with the game’s movement speed, as there is a dedicated sprint button and it is glorious, especially considering the game’s opening mostly consists of long corridors. Sadly, what the game makes up for in the speed of your character, it loses in the speed of the plot. You are Sebastian, sent on a mission to help mine resources on a planet light years away from Earth. Being Sci-Fi it’s not a surprise to find each sector has its own robot, tasked with assisting and answering any questions you may have.
“Despite the demo’s brevity, and how much of the experience is left to be seen in the full release, I was already feeling the frustration and boredom by the end.”
Unlike most adventure games, however, there is a hint of the survival sub-genre here as well. You’re able to pick up and scrutinize almost everything in the world, and you need to keep track of your stamina, and hydration, as well as your overall health. Not bad for running on Unity. How important resource management will be in the full game remains a mystery as the demo ended too quickly for it to be tested.
Storywise, there isn’t as much intrigue as I hoped for. Positively, the lack of an atmosphere engineered to frighten is refreshing, having to communicate over long-distance texts on tablet to people on Earth is something I haven’t done before, and the game’s concept of fellow employees leaving behind texts in certain locations is ripe with potential.
However, when I mentioned intrusions, it’s in reference to this game’s opening act. Just when you’re starting to take in the atmosphere, you need to complete a tutorial with a robot. When your mind is curious about a subtle earthquake, you’re forced to add a circuit board into a machine that isn’t clearly located, and not a single robot is able to help you find it. When you’re ready to go outside after finding out about a possible intruder, you need to open the entrance to a storage room with a levitating hammer and grab a helmet missing from your locker. Despite this demo’s brevity, I felt that the story couldn’t be experienced. Reminding me of old-school adventure games, having to complete X for no other reason than to move the story forward, even though it seemingly doesn’t relate to said story.
Hevn also runs into an issue many games suffer from, where there’s plenty of backstory about the relationship with fellow employees, who send texts to each other, bet currency, and generally behave like friends. It creates a disconnect with our protagonist from the beginning, as he’s involved with people and stories we don’t have an inkling of a clue about. It’s hard to invest yourself in a narrative when you barely relate to your own character.
As someone who’s a fan of science fiction, System Shock, and story-driven games, I want Hevn to succeed. There’s plenty of time between now and the game’s release date, and as I sit here surrounded by snow and the night sky, I want to be immersed on this sand planet filled with technology, and intrigue.
*** PC code provided by the publisher ***