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Underrail Preview at GameBanshee

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Underrail Preview at GameBanshee

Preview - posted by Infinitron on Fri 8 November 2013, 10:59:34

Tags: Stygian Software; Underrail

GameBanshee's diligent newsposter WorstUsernameEver took some time off from posting news to write a five page preview of Codex indie favorite Underrail, which was recently released as an Early Access title on Steam. Have a snippet:

At first glance, it would be easy enough to mistake Underrail for an unofficial Fallout sequel. Both Fallout and Underrail are turn-based post-apocalyptic RPGs that put you in the shoes of a single character of your own creation who can specialize in many different skills, from bludgeoning mutants with a hammer, to stealing, to the fine arts of diplomacy. And the similarities don't stop there, given that most quests are designed to allow for different approaches, the most common ones being stealth and combat.

Look beyond the obvious homages to Interplay's masterpiece though, and you'll find hints of titles like Metro 2033 (the underground post-apocalyptic setting), and even the original Deus Ex, the influence of which isn't immediately apparent, yet pervades every aspect of Underrail's gameplay, from skill usage to the level design. Basically, Underrail is a game that wears its influences on its sleeve and tries to recapture the brilliance of an era of gaming that ended almost unceremoniously, and that only now is seemingly coming back. Will Underrail be among the first of these newer RPG titles to live up to its promises?

While the game is still unfinished and there's much work ahead for Stygian Software (a name behind which hides one-man-band developer Dejan Radisic), I'd be willing to give it a tentative yes. Underrail might lack the strong personality and writing of classics like Fallout and Arcanum: Of Steamworks & Magick Obscura, but makes up for it with some impressive system design, which feels like a natural evolution of its spiritual forebears.

[...] About the only criticism I have for Underrail's quest design is that it didn't surprise me. The game covers all the bases, offering a variety of tasks, from saving hostages to stealing key cards in highly surveilled gambling dens, and the vast majority of these have at least a couple of possible solutions depending on your build, but there's nothing that quite jumps at you for its uniqueness, whether for narrative or design reasons.

That said, Underrail is decidedly at its best not when it has you running undoubtedly entertaining errands in its populated settlements, but when it sends you to desolate locations, and that's because its dungeon design is a fantastic hybrid of Fallout and Deus Ex. Every location has multiple entry and exit points, plenty of locked doors, containers, surveillance cameras, computers, trapped passageways and more. There's a wonderful sense of place to them too, an underlying logic that helps you forget the fact that you're dealing with the same repeated art assets over and over: see a camera and you're likely to find the surveillance monitors (which you can utilize, by the way) somewhere nearby, find traps and you're likely to find those who placed them, and so on and so forth. They're little details that are easy to overlook, but manage to greatly enhance the atmosphere of the game.

[...] Underrail's alpha wasn't anywhere close to perfect, as it should be abundantly clear by now, but still shows an immense amount of potential. The game is very entertaining even in this early and unpolished state, and, assuming something doesn't go very wrong during the last stretch of development, it should, at the very least, be as entertaining on release. Stygian Software's title tried to take the pen and paper aspirations of Fallout and Arcanum and a pinch of the simulational aspirations of the early 3d titles from Looking Glass Studios and Ion Storm, and added to them a great dose of ambition (again, it's worth noting that the game was, aside from some art, completely developed by one single person), so you'd be forgiven for being a bit skeptical about the results. And yet it works, and in light of the recent news of the financial success of the title on Steam, the real future is looking a lot brighter than the fiction of it that Underrail presents. Brighter than ever, in fact.
Interesting. As someone who hasn't been following this project as closely as I probably should have, I wasn't aware of its similarities with Deus Ex.

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