Having been a writer for nearly a decade, I’ve made a living critiquing, reviewing, previewing and even helping to make many forms of digital and traditional media. Books, music, games, radio shows, I’ve done it all. As you would expect, this means I’ve been involved with Beta testing for quite some time, and in that time I’ve suffered through some pretty horrific early builds of games. Hell, I’ve even bought into my fair share of Early Access games.
But this game, Alone in the Dark: Illumination, it takes home the prize for least enjoyable Beta test I’ve been involved in.
I appreciate the fact that this is the “Initial Beta Build” of the game, I do, but even with that in mind there’s no excuse for a 3+ minute load time before even reaching the first menu screen that can crash in the background. After my first 30-40 minutes of gameplay, which was exceptionally disappointing, it became readily apparent that there was no reason for this load time. That is, if you manage to make it past the load screen. I sat through multiple crashes and KTD’s. And this wasn’t restricted solely to my personal experience, even a skim search through other tester comments turned up similar reports.
"I appreciate the fact that this is the “Initial Beta Build” of the game, I do, but even with that in mind there’s no excuse for a 3+ minute load time before even reaching the first menu screen that can crash in the background."
Once I battled my way through the lengthy load times, I was introduced to my character. “The Hunter Class” character goes by the name of Theodore ‘Ted’ Carnby, a Leon Kennedy-esque, leather jacket clad pseudo hero that dual wields two six shooters and pulls an AK47 out of thin air.
Despite running the game at it’s “Extreme” settings, the character model is a chore to look at, what I could see of him at least. The field of view is eye-achingly narrow and it gets only more narrow when you aim your weapon, that’s not to mention what it does when you sprint, look down or jump.
Sprinting throws just how awful the character model is, into the harsh light of criticism. ‘Teds’ shoulders couldn’t fit a standard fire exit and his jumping animation is more akin to being lifted into the air by a hook.
Moving forward into the game, I ran into horrible lag. The visuals, soundscape and overall aesthetic of the game, despite being in Beta, can’t fully justify the games dreadful performance. Running the game on Extreme settings and running it on Low settings sees no improvement to performance on my end, but other testers have reported performance ranging from abysmal to great.
The specifications listed on the Steam page aren’t very demanding and my PC crushes the required specifications, so the performance is an objective concern that needs addressing. The one redeeming factor that I can point out in regards to visuals is the Skybox which really is beautiful. Layers of cloud can be seen blowing in overlapping folds while lightning rips the sky asunder.
Gameplay is unfortunately a let down. The overall gameplay feels disjointed and disappointing which is unfortunate because the gameplay premise is at least a little bit interesting. Keeping the lights on, staying safe and staying on the move keeps things feel as though they’re moving forward. The demonic hell spawn that rush you pose a considerable threat when they close the distance and start clawing, their ranged attacks however, are easily avoided.
"The best aspect of this game is its level design. The stages are expansive enough to ensure you’re never able to watch all the corners."
The catch to their charging attack style is that they are nigh-unstoppable when you simply shoot them, the trick is to get them into the light then shoot them when their skin crackles. Only then do you really have a chance of killing them in numbers enough to survive the attack. The downside to this is that it’s not implemented nearly as well as it is in say, Alan Wake.
On the subject of killing your enemies, it’s actually rather difficult to tell when you’ve scored a kill or even a hit for that matter. There is absolutely zero feedback in the game. If you’re playing with a keyboard and mouse then you’re probably acquainted with the lack of vibration feedback, but this is often compensated for by powerful feeling weapons.
Firing your weapons doesn’t feel powerful or at all meaningful, this may have been excused if it was a problem that was exclusive to silenced weapons, but even your dual magnums, which are typically comparable to cannon blasts, are quiet and pathetic. This lack of punch coupled with the fact that enemies barely react to bullet wounds, really makes the entire experience feel flat and uninteresting. The melee animation, which is hopefully a placeholder, is laughable.
The best aspect of this game is its level design. The stages are expansive enough to ensure you’re never able to watch all the corners. There’s an interesting mix of close quarters environments and larger more open spaces. When you’re in the smaller areas there’s no real sense of horror, but the threat is at least more prevalent. Open spaces leave more room for the enemies to close with you and bring their claws to bear. Some tweaking needs to be done though, switches are tricky to press in the middle of combat and there’s constant buildings and textures popping in.
As I said in the beginning, I understand that this is a Beta and these problems may well be fixed by the time the game ships. There is a lot potential for this game and it has a lot of space to grow, it’s certainly a title that would prove interesting when it is in a better state. Hopefully Pure FPS can take the feedback from testers and turn this game into something worthwhile.