The Other 99 Early Access Preview
Hunt or be hunted. It’s the man versus man conflict distilled to down its base component. An idea that has been explored many times in fiction going back to 1924 with, ‘The Most Dangerous Game,’ a short story by Richard Connell. In the story, a big game hunter ends up on – tada! – Shipwreck Island where he becomes the game hunted down by a Russian aristocrat. The basic idea of this story has been adapted many, many times over in movies and TV shows. Films such as Hard Target, Bloodlust!, The Running Man, and The Hunger Games franchise are a few examples. TV is rife with episodes based on the same concept: Get Smart, Fantasy Island, even Gilligan’s Island and The Incredible Hulk!
Such a primal conflict is meaty material for video games and the latest iteration comes in the form of Burning Arrow’sThe Other 99. You wake up outdoors with the rain pouring down on you and a cryptic note at your side. “The only way to get off the island is to get through the other 99.” It’s a perfect distillation of the hunt or be hunted conflict. Your vantage point places you in a location where the island setting is quickly established. The mood and tone of the game are reinforced by awakening in the dead of night in the midst of a thunderstorm. Lightning bolts briefly illuminate the surroundings giving off a war time bombardment vibe.
Your HUD is designed in a rudimentary manner that reinforces the raw nature of the game. You must monitor your health, weapon efficiency, thirst, and hunger. Standing around will lead you to perish from lack of food and water. There is also an inventory screen where you can examine objects in greater detail. You can also review notes and hints collected that entice with the possibility of escaping the island alive.
“It’s a perfect distillation of the hunt or be hunted conflict.”
A wrist monitor tells you how many other opponents are still alive in the game. One of the cool things I really like about the game is that the other characters can die without any action from the player. This creates the illusion that the world of the island is a dynamic one and there are other stories and lives playing out in tandem with your experiences. The graphics will not blow you away but they are certainly more than adequate. Character models are serviceable but don’t make you feel they represent real flesh and blood people. The foliage looks good but when you crouch and wade through it just passes through you. There is no bending and sliding of it around you. Spoiled by the foliage of Uncharted 4 this lack in The Other 99 may seem like a small thing but it’s the small things that make a game stand out.
As an early access prospect, The Other 99, has its shares of warts and blemishes. Some are easily fixable such as game engine optimization to smooth out frame rate drops but there a couple that would necessitate a major reworking. The illusion of freedom of movement is quickly broken. You soon feel like cattle being herded down a chute to the butcher as you cannot bypass some encampments and must stand and fight. So the notion of a stealth option is quickly lost. Also, the NPCs don’t allow for interaction to form alliances or provide any narrative meat. As soon as they see you, they attack. No brokering of any type allowed.
“As combat sits now, it’s a game breaker and must be fixed.”
And that leads to the game’s biggest issue; combat. Offensive actions are based on a lock and mouse swipe action that just doesn’t work. Target lock is too easily lost and battles feel like a slap fest instead of hand to hand combat. This schema may work in a VR mode but not for traditional gaming. A combat system built on a jabbing action is needed badly. As combat sits now, it’s a game breaker and must be fixed.
Burning Arrow says they are taking this feedback to heart and are looking to retool the combat so we will have to see what they come up with. It will be interesting to watch Burning Arrow’s response. After all, this is what early access is all about.
*** PC code provided by the publisher ***