Ultra Ultra’s first game had me curious. All the trailers that we posted didn’t have a lot of detail on how the game went or what you were going to go up against. I knew there was a wonderful lead character named En and she was going stealth around some mean looking antagonist. What I found with the game was far better than that, even though it’s tough as nails (dare I say the Dark Souls of space stealth action games). Let’s get right into it, shall we?
The story of the game revolves around a rich girl named En, who firmly believes a loved one is locked in a cube attached to her back. She is also led to believe that if she goes through the royal halls of some far off planet that she will be able to bring him back and life will be beautiful. Her helper, a British man who she chats her ear off through a communicator, believes otherwise, but is willing to help her find answers in hopes of proving her wrong. En eventually finds herself going on an adventure through the dead halls of a man-made planet and finds that everything is really not what it seems. Once she turns on the power to the royal halls, which have been off for years, the hall begins to take on a life of its own. The first flicker of power produces black specs on the ground. The second begins to add shape to the black specs. As the flickers continue the shapes begin to turn into something terrifying and something that literally echoing her body and shape. After several iterations of flicker the beings end up taking the shape of En and they can do everything she can. Even worse they want her dead.
That’s a helluva story, isn’t it? That shit is straight out of a horror movie.The gameplay is twice as terrifying. The game, as shown in the trailers, is filled with stealth puzzle action. That’s a lot of genres in one space, but stay with me. You have to figure out how to get from checkpoint to checkpoint with En and must figure out how to avoid drawing unnecessary attention to yourself. Once you alert the echoes of En’s presence, they will be on an all out hunt for her. What’s worse is that the flickering still commences through the game, where the lights go out and it’s tough to see where the echoes are coming from. In a Resident Evil-esque fashion you will find yourself scared to death when you’re grabbed by one of them. It’s terrifying and it’s tough, so wear some clean underpants.
In a sense, this gameplay is pure puzzle. You don’t have much moving of things or sitting back and figuring out how to get to the next room through a combination of buttons — nothing like that for the majority of the game. It’s mostly just you trying to figure out how to not get seen by the terrifying clones. You may have rooms with multiple doors. You might have multi-layered rooms where you must get to the lowest level to progress to the next checkpoint. There are a lot of tough and sometimes confusing puzzles in the game that require every one of your senses to be on point and ready to go. It’s a beautiful, anxiety-ridden type of gameplay.
To help out you get a few things.
First, you get a weapon. The weapon has to be recharged at certain stations or you can wait for the weapon to recharge itself, which takes time. The weapon is mainly used to get out of sticky situations, which you will find yourself in a lot. You can also use the weapon to take out multiple echoes in the game, if they’re lined up in a row. Regardless, this is something that should be a last resort, as stealth is the best plan of action.
A second plan of action in the game is your ability to take down enemies silently by grabbing and twisting the neck of the unsuspecting echo. If you get too close while in range of another echo, then your cover is blown and you have to go to plan B, which is probably run. If you make noise, which alerts the echo you’re trying to silently take down, then you’re going to end up pushing them down instead of killing them. Pushing them buys you time, but it also alerts everyone to your presence. You don’t have a lot of options to take down enemies, but this one is probably the best, if you need it.
A last main element of attack, which is out of your control as you maneuver through rooms and to checkpoints, is the flickering of the power. Every time the lights go off and the scene fades out (it will dip to black), then the room will reset. This means that enemies chasing you will reset to their original places. This also means enemies that were dead are born again. If you use this right and wait for the the precise time, then you will find a rhythm of sorts with the flickering of the power and also solutions to progress in the game. It’s a tricky use of the deadly reset, but that’s what makes this a puzzle/stealth game.
On the surface the gameplay is simple in structure. You may only get a few things to use when you’re trying to find your way out of a room. Below the surface you have a variety of different ways to use this structure to see your way through. Ultra Ultra did a superb job of keeping the gameplay tools simple, but also providing different combinations to make it somewhat complicated, in a good way of course. They did a great job and set a new way of seeing how good gameplay can be constructed without much added into the mix.
One element of the game that is absolutely superb, I mean really gorgeous and atmospheric, is the presentation. The eery confines of a rich hall that glimmer and shine like some marble-built Goliath from the Victorian age is something to be behold. I loved how it looked, how the textures shined a rich reflection off the floor and how the lighting was captured perfectly. You’ll notice early on in the game how jaw dropping the visuals are when you’re racing to switch on the power and you get this constant echoing flicker of light running down the hallways. It’s truly breathtaking. It looks like something from James Cameron’s Aliens.
Adding to that is are the leads of the game, who are amazing and convincing in their plight. Rose Leslie leads the way as En, while Nick Boulton plays her voice of cynical reason from London. The pair make the game feel atmospheric and creepy, while keeping a desperate sense of heroism in the mix as well.
To be perfectly honest, I was shocked with how good the game looked and how well the actors did in the game to add more layers to it. This is a well-built game, especially in the presentation department. If nothing else impresses you, then this will certainly do it.
All of the above said, is there a downer to the game? The difficulty could be the crux that makes people turn away from it. It’s tough and frustrating, folks. It requires intelligence and patience, the latter being the hardest thing to overcome for most gamers. Most people will want to run and gun, but this isn’t that type of game. You will mainly run and gun when you absolutely need to gun, but if that is your strategy, then you’re going to be incredibly disappointed with those results. Believe me, I tried. That is probably going to be a turn-off for most gamers, but for those looking for a challenge, mainly the Dark Souls-type of gamer, then you’re going to be getting one. It’s worth it, though. This is what makes the game intriguing and damn good.