Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Sir, You Are Being Hunted

It's a snooty shotgun-totin' tweed-fest and you're the fox. Tally ho!

The fellow in red, in case you're wondering, is a very British robot spurring on his very British rocket-powered robot hover-horse. Lunglessly puffing at presumably robotic pipes through their respectable handlebar moustachios and accompanied by their fierce Springer Spaniels (Futurama gag, look it up*) he and his fellow gentlebots shall merrily give chase if they spot you and riddle your squishy tea-sipping carcass with shot in the most polite and proper manner. Also there's a macguffin you have to assemble to win the game but let's face it, this is really all about the biscuits'n'tweed.

Having played Miasmata as well, it's tempting to compare the two open-air sneak-a-thons, but where Miasmata was a classic survival horror game, Sir, You Are Being Hunted is really an FPS with a very slow start and a danger setting high enough to make you rethink getting into most fights. Like Miasmata it is largely not a goal-driven but process-driven game, which causes no end of consternation to players used to having their hand held, quests spelled out step by step and being pointed to every single objective by gigantic glowing map markers. Figure out how to move, how to find food, how to fight, and further goals will come naturally. It is even less linear than survival games in general because of its central gimmick, the random generation of each game world upon starting, but I can only wish I could call this its strongest point.

Its strongest points are the humor and the refreshingly non-spammable combat mechanics. SYABH unfortunately earns a good deal of its criticism as to being too empty and monotonous, as the variety of map elements is woefully insufficient to fill maps of the size necessary for gameplay. I hate to say it since I'm a big fan of such devices, but I'd guess developing the map generation algorithms probably ate up too much development time and maybe a few manually-landscaped game maps would've been faster, cheaper and more interesting overall. As things stand, expect to spend a lot of time seeing the same rocks and trees and finding most of the terrain devoid of anything interactable or even interesting. Too small, pervasive and mundane to function as an impressive extreme-environment reference point, too big to ignore, the British heath soon grows frustratingly dull.

The useful/dubious/junk item system could also have used a bit more functionality in the dubious and junk category. You too quickly learn to ignore junk items and the lack of a randomized success rate for "dubious" foodstuffs makes them really just pre-determined junk or food, learned once and offering no replay value. Some of the usable items could have used a bit more usability (flashlight, traps, etc.)

Still, this is one of those titles everyone should play at least once to get a feel for its possibilities. It's highly creative, reasonably challenging and so far miraculously bug-free for an independent project. Insufficient though it is, the randomizer creates some amusing map elements such as half-flooded shacks. With a larger budget and more development time, Sir, You Are Being Hunted could have been something truly great, but even more so than the lovingly, minutely-crafted Miasmata, it comes across as more of a proof of concept than a game - a concept worth experiencing.

As for the ending... fun, but it's been done and she had a better voice.

* Actually, I have to wonder if this whole thing wasn't inspired by that Futurama fox-hunting episode.

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