EA SCOUT the last line of defense for buying on Steam's Early Access
by Johnathan Irwin
previewed on PC
Kona, at first glance, looks like it could come across as one of two things. A walking simulator, or a horror title. Turns out, it's not quite either. In the same vein as Firewatch, or The Vanishing of Ethan Carter, this is a narrative driven experience with some rather tense moments, and I'm very on board with that. Set in the wilderness of northern Canada during the early 1970's, players step into the role of a private eye who is about to find not everything is business-as-usual on his latest case.
My first hour and a half with Kona was spent dipping my feet into the frigid waters of this chilling tale, slowly being pulled into a world that reminds me of some of my favorite experiences in a mysterious narrative from games prior. Alan Wake, Silent Hill 2, the aforementioned Vanishing of Ethan Carter and Firewatch, all littered among a setting that is very akin to a 'light' version of The Long Dark. The comparisons are easy to draw, but that doesn't make Kona a copycat in the slightest. It is its own adventure, and so far it's one I'm looking forward to completing.
Carl Faubert, private investigator, Korean war veteran, and completely unprepared for the set of circumstances about to befall him. While on his way to an isolated village in Northern Quebec to meet tha man who hired him, he narrowly avoids a head-on collision with an erratic driver before running off the road and blacking out. Upon awakening, he finds himself in the middle of a blizzard that has already been going for sometime, judging by how the entire landscape is no longer the vibrant colors of early fall, but a landscape now completely covered with several inches of snow and ice.
Immediately upon the shift in scenario, players are introduced to the warmth mechanic. Stay outside too long, away from fires, and your character will begin to become fatigued. Aim will be shaky, sprint distances will be lower, and later on, once wolves become an issue, a real element of fear will present itself. Thankfully, as far as I've played, wood and fire starter kits seem to be pretty abundant. Searching around the immediate area, I found the other car from the incident abandoned, a small shed nearby for supplies, and a watchtower which didn't provide much more than a more frigid, low-visibility lay of the land. But I did manage to find what I needed, some chains to wrap around the tires of Carl's truck and get him unstuck from the snow.
Just Getting Warmed Up
I spent a lot of time in my truck that first hour, from point to point throughout the town. A mobile safepoint, with some rather catchy music coming over the radio. It was oddly peaceful against the sinister background of the town. With no sign of life, houses seemingly left abandoned mid-day by the looks of some of them, I found more questions than answers. Articles left behind about the town, diaries of inhabitants, and even a few citizens frozen solid in the most unnatural of ways, I can't help but wonder what is out there? The sudden snow storm, the recently-abandoned town, Faubert's 'visions' regarding some of the icebound citizens. It all seems to point to a supernatural element, as of yet unseen. I didn't want to play too far in, as the developers have noted there are major narrative elements that have been left out until the game is ready for a formal launch next month. But, in its current state I can say I'm more than happy with Kona and looking forward to seeing the finished product.
There are no guarantees - but we'd bet our own money on this one. If you're going to take a chance with yours, odds are good this one will deliver.