Your flashlight dies leaving you sunken in utter darkness as you navigate the mazelike hallways of the facility. The walkie-talkie you had brought with you to keep in contact with the ship had died some time ago. Now, you are completely alone in the dark. You call out, hoping that your friends are still alive to hear you. Yet, you get no response. Creeping forward in the darkness, straining your ears for any disconcerting noise, you feel panic begin to set in. You start to run. Just as you round the corner a strange creature erupts from the darkness spelling your end. Your screams quickly turn to laughter as you join the dead chat and recount with your friends how they ended up there. This is Lethal Company.
Solo-Developer Zeekerss’ co-op survival game, Lethal Company, burst into the mainstream only a short time ago. As of November 21st, the smash-hit indie game is outselling Infinity Ward’s Call of Duty: Modern Warfare III. In fact, at the time of writing, the game has sold over 1 million copies and counting. Still the question remains, what makes Lethal Company so good? What gives Lethal Company its mass appeal that is capable of reaching the top of the Steam charts? There are many factors but it does boil down to a few.
Die Together: A True Co-Op Experience
A blending of horror and co-op antics is not new to the video game world. There is something about trying to survive a horrific set of virtual circumstances with some of your best friends that often ignites the funniest gaming moments. Lethal Company takes the concept of co-op horror, wraps it in a roguelike adventure, and executes it perfectly. Importantly, the game takes some of the most interesting aspects of a co-op horror game and makes them its own.
For instance, the game’s use of proximity chat is both hilarious and horrifying. Not only does it add a layer of terror, to know that players can be separated from their friends, but also introduces an important gameplay aspect with the walkie-talkies. Interestingly, the walkie-talkie gadget allows for proper co-op communication between those who brave the darkness of the factories and those who play as the “man in the chair” back on the ship. The proximity chat aspect of Lethal Company is an immersive and well utilized tool that makes the game that much greater.
Yet, aside from proximity chat, the game is a true co-op experience. It is meant to be enjoyed with friends as you all work towards the same goal. Making tough choices, laughing, screaming, looting to meet quota, and dying, are all done together. Lethal Company embodies the spirit of playing games with your friends outside of a competitive setting and brings the feeling of comradery not often felt these days.
Simple, Silly, and Scary
On the surface, Lethal Company is a fairly simple game with a straightforward objective. Players work for a hyper-corporatist company that demands they gather scrap to sell and make quota, or be fired. Of course, by fired, they mean out of your spaceship into the cold void of space. As such, players head from planet to planet searching for abandoned structures to loot for scrap. Easy right? However, it’s been said that no plan survives contact with the enemy. Or, in this case, no plan survives contact with the fauna of these alien worlds.
Lethal Company succeeds in making its objective clear and easy to follow. Of course, the game becomes more complex as players discover what new items do and fill up the bestiary, but that doesn’t take away from the simple idea of the game. In fact, the simplicity of the objective, allows for the other aspects of the game to shine. For instance, the game does a great job at building atmosphere. The hallways and dark corridors of the abandoned facilities are claustrophobic and terrifying. The alien worlds are desolate and uninviting serving to make the small interior of the ship feel even more homey. Furthermore, the sounds both on the surface of the planet and the interior of the structures work to immerse and horrify. This all works so well because it is building from an easy premise.
Yet, the game also has a sense of silliness and comedic timing that work to its advantage. The animations, while smooth, are silly and the character models are funny in and of themselves. It all blends together to be scary and fun. Though unproven, the game also seems to have a comedic sense of timing and karma built right into it. Find yourself laughing at your dead friend’s mistake only to be eaten by a monster right after to laugh alongside them in dead chat.
A Game That Feels New
Perhaps one of the greatest things that Lethal Company has going for it is that it feels fresh. Though its pieces are nothing new to the video game world, the final product certainly is. The game delivers on a fun, exciting, and replayable experience with no strings attached. As such, it keeps people wanting to play it. It is the type of game that draws people in and holds them. In actuality, the gaming community has seen this type of vast enjoyment before. Game’s like Among Us come to mind. It is in co-op experiences, playing with friends, that something special really gets developed.
Lethal Company is a game that manages to take the popular aspects of several genres and package them in a new and exciting way. Each run is fun, exciting, scary, funny, adventurous, and teachable. Additionally, as the game is still in early access, players can hope for more and more content to come from Zeekerrs in the form of updates to the game. As such, who knows what awaits the brave company employees in the future.
Yet, there is something to be said about the enjoyment of being able to play a game with your friends. A game that allows players to connect, get scared together, and laugh about it. It strangely feels like Lethal Company taps into a time of gaming that sometimes feels long past. A game made just for the joy of gaming. Maybe it isn’t the game itself, but the scrap we failed to get along the way.
From one company employee to the others, stay safe out there. Oh, and remember to charge your flashlight.