by Marko Susimetsä
previewed on PC
Enter the covert action team (cntd)
Thus far the developers have been more wordy about Myra Lee than Aron Alvarez, which is quite natural given that Aron is the muscle of the team and every gamer is familiar with the stereotypical muscle in an action title. Myra, on the other hand, is the covert specialist and far more interesting of the two especially when we find out interesting details about her tools of trade.
Some of Myra's core skills include hacking and lock-picking. Unlike in some other similar titles, these skills are not represented as repetitive mini-games in the midst of the main story. Instead, hacking, lock-picking, sabotage and other skills in Myra's arsenal are time consuming actions that require Myra to make sure that she will stay unnoticed while she performs the task. You may be required to, for example, lure a guard away from his post for long enough for Myra to hack a computer.
Myra will carry various weapons with her, one of the most interesting of which is her crossbow. Whereas modern stealth games often rely on pistols or sniper rifles with silencers, Black Lion Studios has chosen to go the old-fashioned way. But that's only the outward appearance: the crossbow bolts come with all sorts of high-tech gadgets that will be triggered when the bolt hits the target. One of these is a so-called Attractor Bolt that can be shot on, e.g. a wall, and it will start flashing and beeping frequently. These sounds are apparently designed to attract and hold the attention of nearby guards so that Myra can play with the nearby computers and move around without them noticing her.
Other high-tech toys include nanites that the crossbow bolts can inject into a target. These will spread into the target's body and then activate to cloak the body so that it is rendered invisible as it falls on the ground. Myra's bladed weapons will also include this nanite feature. Naturally, Myra herself also has the ability to cloak herself for limited amounts of time, as long as her stealth suit has enough shield energy left to support it.
In action, you can switch freely between the characters, using their individual strengths to solve problems and situations. In most cases, both of their skills sets are required for optimal conclusion of a mission, but the developers state that the player is not forced to these decisions: instead, the open level design lets the player choose different sorts of tactics to complete a mission. Somewhat contradictorily, the developers also point out that the open level design does not mean an open world design. This probably translates into relatively railroading design with some more open areas and optional paths along the way to spice things up.
As a third-person action title, the characters will be controlled in basically two modes. Whenever the characters are moving around with weapons holstered (no aiming reticule), the camera can freely rotate around them as they move around in the environment. But when the weapons are drawn and aiming reticules are needed, the camera will be behind the character, except when the character is taking cover or moving along walls etc. Basically, it will be the traditional shooter control method.
The developers have stated that they have given a lot of attention to the enemy AI. The enemies will seeks cover if they are hurt or reloading their weapons – and also if they realise that you are more heavily armed than they are. And, naturally, they are not willing to face a heavily-armed enemy alone and will likely call for reinforcements as soon as they get the chance.
While Shadow Harvest: Phantom Ops doesn't look like the best thing since sliced bread, it still seems like something that is worthy to keep an eye on. We will know a lot more when the playable demo is released, but, until then, we can also look forward to the next developer diary that will shed more light into the character of Aron Alvarez – will he prove to be something more than the stereotypical muscle? I hope so, since that will definitely up my expectations.