In between reviewing the hottest, newest releases and clearing my prodigious backlog, I often find myself partaking in free indie games. Quick Frees is my response to those free games. Every now and then, when I have the time, I’ll be giving you my quick impressions on a free indie game – the good points, and who I think might like it. It’s like a mini review without the score – or the price tag.
So, let’s commence.
1916 – Der Unbekannte Krieg is an interesting little first person horror/war/maze Unity game from twelve member student development team Kriegsgraben und Stormvogel, hailing from Denmark . The premise of the game is simple – you’re a World War I German soldier and you have to find the ladder. Simple. Possibly. Complicating your task is the narrow maze of the trenches, gas, and an unrelenting enemy that wants to eat your spleen, or possibly your pancreas.
You begin in a trench with a blood-stained scrap of paper with a hasty German scrawl and a drawing of a ladder: Finde die leiter! So we begin down the monochrome trenches in search of this mysterious ladder. We come to some easy to navigate dead-end paths, which set a scene of confused geography. The first body we find is a faceless, pathetic creature sitting in the mud, and next to him is another note in German. All the notes are written in German – a language I don’t understand, but the developers claim that none of the notes provide hints and are just for atmosphere, and it gives a good sense of strangeness of place to the game. The navigation gets rapidly more complex, however, presenting a series of interconnected areas, often sporting little alcoves smattered with notes or bodies.
In true, historically accurate military tradition, you start completely unarmed. You can scrounge around for a number of items, including flares or individual bullets or, if you’re lucky, you may find the single, solitary rifle. But it is not other humans that hunt you along the narrow dug-out ditch – it’s something else entirely. Stalking you along the dark twists is a threat so horrific it will curdle your blood. Are you ready? Are you sure?
Urm, yes. Steel-armoured velociraptors. Rather ungainly hulking beasts that are bizarrely transposed on the horrors of World War I. It’s an… interesting choice of antagonist, but you soon learn not to trifle with the prehistoric buzzards. Three hits will kill you, and the trenches are too narrow for you to pass by them, leaving you often with only one recourse – to sprint back the other direction and hope that there is not another dino sneaking up behind you.
You can also shoot the dinosaurs, but this only slows them down momentarily. A flare will distract them, but they are in severely limited supply. Grimly, the dead bodies that lay sprawled in the black and white mud puddles serve more purpose than simple set dressing – in a pinch, you can tear off an arm or a leg to throw to the dinosaurs, giving you a few spare seconds to flee for your pathetic little life.
It’s rather simply presented, with a black and white film grain appearance that evokes the time period. Textures and models are simple, but they are all functional. Sound is particularly nice, with distant gunshots and screams punctuating the heavy war atmosphere.
The game can be finished in under five minutes if you know what you’re doing, but it will take a good half an hour to an hour to get comfortable with the rather unforgiving difficulty. The maze is less complicated in reality than it feels when you’re scrambling around in it, but it is the same every time, so each death is a learning process. It somewhat inhibits the replayability of the game, but the first hour of scrounging around in the muddy death-holes is quite an enjoyable experience.
Things to like –
+ Pleasingly bleak and artistic monochrome aesthetic
+ Tense atmosphere of alienation and survival
+ Focused game direction gives a clear sense of player purpose
Play it if you liked –
Amnesia: The Dark Descent, Miasmata, Dino Crisis, Cryostasis