by Ingvi Snædal, reviewed on
As a Polak through marriage, I can't help but be happy about the rapid growth of the Polish video game industry. CD Project, Techland, and People Can Fly are just three of the sixteen game developers listed in Wikipedia's “Video game companies of Poland” category. This category cannot be trusted implicitly, however, as it does not include the makers of our subject: Intoxicate studios.
Afterfall: Insanity is a third person horror game set in an underground bunker housing the survivors of a cataclysmic nuclear fusion explosion. A mysterious virus rears its ugly head in the complex, causing madness and aggression. You, playing as psychiatrist Albert Tokaj, are sent to the infected levels to investigate reports of behavioural problems. This is when the proverbial “shit” hits the fan.
The game was originally released almost a year ago, but an extended edition is set to be released on Steam in December after getting the go ahead through Steam's Greenlight program which allows players to vote for their favourite games, possibly earning them a spot on Steam's release schedule. The new edition features upgraded lighting mechanics, an improved melee fighting system, better animations, and an overhauled tutorial. Considering the original's relatively low score, some major changes were necessary.
Speaking of which
The melee combat in general definitely feels better than it did in the original version. During my time with the game I never once fired a gun unnecessarily and had plenty of close combat alternatives available to bash my enemies' heads in with. I held on to my trusty Firefighter’s axe right through to the end. Watching a madman's head split in twain and his limp body fall to the floor is almost as gratifying as the finishing moves which send blood splatters to the screen.
The overall look of the game has the appearance of professionalism and I would not have been surprised had this game received a triple-A classification. The script and the voice acting, on the other hand are quite bad. Some of the characters have British accents, others American, and yet others sound familiarly Polish. One would have thought that a group of people locked underground together for a number of years would end up sounding the same. I do like that they pronounce the names in their original forms, however; rolling their “R”s when saying “Karrrolina” and such.
The sense of danger that makes or breaks horror games wears off very soon, however. It is quickly established that your character saw action during a recent war and the ease at which you dispose of your enemies makes them more of a momentary nuisance than bringers of your impending doom. Even as enemies get tougher, the challenge remains easily surmountable.
Common sense prevails
Despite the bad voice acting and relatively easy enemies, I found myself intrigued by Afterfall: Insanity. It was very satisfying to play something other than a white-bread American for once, and although the story is chaotic and the characters are quite flat, I genuinely wanted to find out what happened next. The game threw in some challenging puzzles as well which could have been better explained, but once common sense overrode my desire for the game to tell me what to do, they turned out to be quite interesting. The lack of a manual save option turned out to be a major malfunction, however, as the checkpoint system in the game failed to remember where I was. Most bugs like this one are fixed very quickly, but for a game that relies solely on checkpoints, having to replay large chunks simply because of a faulty system is a big issue.
Production value wise, it's hard to believe that Afterfall: Insanity is an indie game. When the script and voice acting are thrown into the mix, on the other hand, it's amateur hour. The game-breaking save bug that I encountered looks to be the exception - not the rule - and with that in mind, I would recommend the game to anyone who enjoys a bit of horror. If not for the game itself, then to support a developer that dares feature a protagonist whose native language isn't homogeneous English.
Good lighting effects, visually stunning compared to indie standards
Bad voice acting, weak story, sense of danger doesn't last