Just because your characters are running around equipped with guns, does not mean that your run’n’gun shooter skills will be the deciding factor of your success. Quite the opposite actually, because the monsters – called sleepers – react to light and sound. If you run around or shoot, the sound will wake up all monsters in the vicinity and start swarming you. And even if you survive the fight, you will be left with low ammo, maybe badly wounded and not ready for any more fights.
Therefore, it is required for you to instead scout, sneak, plan ahead and coordinate as a team to take down enemies with melee attacks strategically while they are still sleeping and unaware of your presence. This way you can save your ammo, healthpoints and utility tools, because resources are scarce on the map and you wont be able to take many fights in a row before you have nothing left to fight the enemy with.
The game does this very well, because it seperates each mission map into rooms and connects them with doors. So basically every room plays like it’s own mini-level – a mini-puzzle – which you have to solve by deciding which groups of monsters you want to take out first so that it does not alert other monsters currently listening nearby. And you can always decide when to continue on to the next room. All these elements add a rogue-like feel to it. Each time you clear a room, you are rewarded by looting boxes and lockers safely for ammo, tool charges, medipacks and quest objectives by being able to explore it freely without the fear of being swarmed by monsters. This gives you a short breather in which you can decide what to do next and prepare for what is to come.
Which brings me on the next point: The terminal. Since the map is divided into rooms, called zones and areas, you need to find certain objectives like door keys or the main quest items. Each zone has a terminal, which allows you to search for certain items in the current zone or – if the item is not in the current zone – it shows you to which zone you need to move to find it.
This allows your team to plan ahead on levels with a branching layout and decide which rooms you need to visit and which one are optional. So if your team is in desperate need of some supplies, you can check if something is nearby and where you have to go. So you are not just mindlessly clearing room after room, the smart player will always try to optimize his path through the level. Espacially since the level layout does not change each time you play the same mission again, however the monsters and items do. And each different mission can have a different objective for you to complete (which also brings some varity to them), so you always need to adapt to the current situation.
There currently is no progression in the game, other than completing missions successfully and unlocking the next tier of missions, but even those will likely be wiped once a new set of missions (known as a “rundown”) will release periodically every few weeks which will keep the game fresh and competetive. However, I kind of like that there is no superficial account progression in the game. I always think account progression is artificially extending the life of the game by having you unlock features sequentially. And the current range of selectable weapons and utility tools are small enough to not feel overwhelmed at this point anyways, so I definitly like that everything is unlocked right from the start and you can try out everything and see what fits your playstyle.
On the start of each mission you can select one primary and one secondary weapon as well as an utility tool (bio-radar-tracker, deployable-mines, sentry turrets, foam-launcher) and a skin for your melee hammer weapon. The list of weapons are standard (SMG, DMR, Pistols, Shotguns, Sniper) and what you would expect from a shooter, however from what I gathered from the lore, the weapons themselves are not ment to be any elite equipment. Which is why they dont feel very powerful against the monsters. And by design, you are not supposed to feel powerful!
In general, the genre “horror” is very broad, so be aware that the horror aspects of this game mainly come from the grotesque monsters and the fact that you – as prisoners, no elite squad – are basically send completely under-equipped on a suicide mission far down into an abandoned underground facility. There are no jumpscares or complex horror scenarios. It is just that you are basically doomed to die and the only way to live another day is to do the task the mysterious Warden entity wants you to do. It’s that help- and hopelessness that makes this game to be classified as “horror”. If you make one mistake, monsters will swarm you and you might be done for.
But you still have your guns to help with the monsters. Even if you wake them up you can make it out alive with some good aim. However, spraying and praying is not adviced. Most weapons feel weak however thats only because they require you to aim for the enemy weakspots to be effective. Blasting a full magazin randomly into a horde of monsters is not. Therefore, if you are a great shot, then you can easily and quickly take out a group of monsters on your own. The fact that you can hit enemies running at you to stagger them helps with that.
Nevertheless, it is always an option to clear an entire room with gunfire. Sometimes you even want to do that! For example when you are dealing with a scout which summons an additional wave of monsters you simply take him out and shoot the remaining.
There currently is not matchmaking in the game. You can create lobbies and invite players from your Steam friend list or invite them by sending them an invite code generated for your lobby. The devs provide Discord channels to search for groups. Furthermore, there is no Voice-Chat Ingame, so I currently would recommend Discord for both Group Search and Voice Coms, because you definitely need at least three players (because the game is balanced around four, no matter how many players start a mission) and need to communicate with your mates. Overall, I dont think this is a big issue, because I dont see myself having a lot of fun when playing with new complete strangers each and every time. This game is best played with people you like playing with and you know you can lose with. And if you always play in the same group, then you will create your own group dynamic and strategies which I find very interesting and rewarding and where I think the main long-term satisfaction of this game comes from.
I recommend this game to anyone in for a challenge, who likes to play slow and methodically and who does not give up even after dozens of failed missions in a row. As long as you take something out of every mission for next time and you and your teammates are willing to cooperate, you will have a lot of intense and satisfying moments in this game. And I definitly think that playing in a group of at least three, idealy four, with people you know or play a lot with helps having fun and succeeding in this game.
However, I do wonder for how long the stealth hit-them-with-the-hammer gameplay can hold up. Time will tell! For now we can only look forward to planned content based on the roadmap and hope that they add more depth to the monsters and stealth mechanics to keep the game fresh.
With ~3-6 hours of gametime for each mission (depending on how well you do, adaptable and experienced you are) I think this game is worth its asking price (there currently are 6 missions in the first rundown). Espacially since it seem that all missions will be hand crafted and will release on a regular basis.
Score – 9/10