Wot I Think: Precursors

By Jim Rossignol on January 4th, 2011 at 9:15 am.


This seems like an appropriate way to start the year. Deep Shadows’ FPS/RPG space-adventure Precursors was released to Russian-language markets just over a year ago, and recently it’s been playable in English by modding the Russian version. Now, however, that modded version seems to have been released via GamersGate, making an English version commercially available. If you’ve played Deep Shadows’ previous open-world offering, Boiling Point, then you probably have an inkling of what to expect from this. That said, it’s bigger and bolder than I could ever have speculated, and should probably be the first game that you consider buying this year.

Look, we’ve been talking about games for a while now, so you probably know what to expect from me: I’ll put up with a lot of nonsense if there’s something interesting to be gleaned from a game’s fundamentals. I just want an interesting experience. I don’t mind it being messy or peculiar, so long as there’s something chewy in the centre. That’s pretty much what’s going on here: Precursors is an absurdly ambitious project undertaken by a team that didn’t really have a hope of pulling it off. Except they kind of did. It’s clunky and quirky and unpolished, and that doesn’t really matter. Precursors actually does work, despite having being impossibly amateurish in places, and having a constant, base-level wonkiness to it that makes you expect it to grind to halt at any moment. As I write this I’ve not yet finished the game off, so a broken quest could stop me – and it already almost did, but I bodged my way through – and that is the philosophy here: bodge onwards and sample the unlikely variety of experiences that Precursors contains, including a number of serious problems.


Precursors is a science-fiction space opera of predictable content. Guns, aliens, intergalactic terror, that sort of business. It’s a first-person shooter with a level structure that opens up perks – bonuses of various kinds – and an inventory for the putting of stuff in. It’s a linear story – the central quest arc puts one mission after the next until the game is done – but it’s an open world. Once you get past the garish tutorial level you find yourself in a bustling and rather beautiful city that is basically Mos Eisley with a hint of City 17. Okay. Pretty neat. However, the smile arrives on your face when you realise that the city isn’t the entirety of the level, and there are miles of desert outside, full of oases, bandits, robots, crashed spaceships, weird flora, random villages, and queer happenings. The smile gets bigger when you discover there are six planets, each with similar maps of various sizes. They’re not all has well-furnished as that starting desert-place, but they are there.


Sadly, you can’t really pull too far away from the quest-spine of the game – as with Stalker, there’s always a direction to be heading in – but the possibilities for messing about in the margins expands as the game goes on. Additionally, there are faction ratings for every faction you encounter. These seem to be superfluous, but I suspect there is potential for creating a rather different (and difficult) experience if you alienate one of the main factions through your actions. That doesn’t seem possible if you just stick to the path, which is largely what I have done. However, what impresses me about Precursors is that it has a faction rating system at all. The entire game seems like too much. You can see all the areas where Deep Shadows could have said: “No, the surface of that extra planet isn’t strictly necessary,” and yet they did it anyway. It is Mass Effect without constraints. It’s a weird cousin of the Bioware opus whose vision is much bolder, and whose optimism isn’t constrained by all that silly QA stuff…

(We’re probably rapidly shedding readers here. Another half-formed horror from an Eastern European developer is going to taste bad to many, but that’s fine. Everyone else should continue.)


Precursors feels like two or three games that were born together, their vital organs inextricably linked. It relies heavily on shooting, but there are a bunch of other possibilities in there, with bombs and living weapons, and even talking. You can’t talk to the monsters, but you can negotiate with bandits, aliens, and drug dealers, and a bunch of people who might otherwise get shot. There’s simply loads of dialogue, and as such it’s not always combat that decides things. Precursors tries to be versatile. There’s an invisibility perk to allow you to do some brief stealth and sneaking. There’s trade and the shops you’d expect, because the world is teeming with items ranging from space debris to vodka, from starship weapons to delicious cola drinks. There are ground vehicles, including buggy-jeep things and stompy robots. These are both bound up in scripted events and random toys that you get to play with. There’s even an entire spaceflight section that links all the planetary adventures. It’s almost a game in its own right, allowing you to perform missions in space, trade with space stations, get jumped by space pirates, upgrade your ship in an Elite-lite sort of fashion, save space tourists from destruction or kill them up yourself, and so on.


You use the ship to travel from planet to planet and space station to space station. All those stations have an interior to explore, of course, and so does your own craft. The planets that you can land on each have a large, wide-open map on their surface, which throws up side missions and random content like a volcano throws up ash and hot rocks: dangerously and seemingly at random. I boggled at some of this stuff, particularly the spacecraft interior. Your ride isn’t exactly Mass Effect 2′s densely-populated and stylish fun-club, but it’s still an amazing amount of content to find sprawling out in front of you from this remote backwater of a game. And you get to fly your own ship in combat, too.


The visual design of the game is all over the place. It’s never ugly, as such, but the sci-fi theme often meanders off into the hideously garish and kitsch, particularly in space, where it’s all glowing lasers, swooshing comets, and spinning warp portals. There are times, however, when the game looks spectacular – the starting city is lovely, and the desert beyond is as full of life and detail as any large game environment you might care to mention. The level of incidental and ambient detail is often quite extraordinary: cleaning robots pootle about in hallways, harmless bugs scurry about in the dusty streets, people go about their business. As sci-fi worlds go, it might not feel mature, but it almost always feels alive. (Except perhaps in the jungle, where it really was a bit stiff and cardboardy, but oh well.) It’s never particularly sexy or accomplished – all the art in the game feels like you’ve seen it before. It’s a sci-fi vision that seems to have been cobbled together from the scrap-heap remained of a dozen other gaming worlds.


So yes, we’re getting to those problems. The worst of these is that the combat simply isn’t very good. It’s not broken, but it is perfunctory and often dogged by frame-rate horrors. Most enemies take too many hits to go down, which is an endless issue in these kinds of games. There’s no lean. The general jerkiness of performance made some fights a special kind of grind, and I had to put on my mirror-shades of journalistic determination to get through them. But the nature of the world means that even these issues start to erode when you see what is possible within the tools that you are provided with. In one fight, for example, I was ambushed by bandits. These buggers were a scripted event, but on the second time we fought they managed to accidentally aggro some kind of desert-gorilla lizards that I’d been in a fight with previously. Being outgunned by both sides, I jumped in a jeep, let the gorillas kill the bandits, and then ran over the gorillas in the jeep. Then I got down to looting. (Everyone and everything in Precursors can be looted.) I’m not saying these kinds of situations arise all the time in Precursors, just that it’s a wide open enough game in places that they can happen.


Also bad: the audio. It’s fucking terrible. The environmental audio clips in and out randomly, playing bad loops of inappropriate noise as you move through different areas. Often the sound cuts out all together, and a firefight delivers only about 50% of the noises that are clearly being generated by guns, explosions, and dying men. Worse, perhaps, all of the spoken dialogue beyond the introduction (which is English) has been cut. There’s an expositionary scene a few hours in where you watch a bunch of people silently waving their arms about for several minutes. You have to wait to get back into the game and read the mission text to see what’s going on. Something blew up, and you’re off to another planet. That’s what happened. Subtitles – even to silence – would have been okay at this point.

Ah, text. The translation is workable, but often garbled. There are problems like a star system being called one thing in the mission dialogue and another on your map, or a character having one name in the HUD and another when you actually talk to her. This is compounded by what doesn’t seem like particularly great writing in the first place. The missions are very much “Kill X, Get Y, Transport Z” and could have been generated by a mouse brain in a jam jar. The same seems to be true of the overall plot, which sees you as a Chosen One type hero, dragged into galactic happenings, and doing whatever you are told because, well, you need the credits to continue playing.


There are a bunch of other, smaller, problems too. The spaceflight stuff is basically tedious, despite being a splendid dimension to add to the game. It’s too easy, and just not interesting to play. The encounters are often meaninglessly chaotic, and don’t seem to actual resolve because of your input. Unrelated, but also annoying: there are too few human models in the game, so that you are faced with absurdities such as being sent from one man with a beard in an office on the planet, to meet another identical man with beard sat in an office on the orbiting space station. There’s no difference between them aside from their name. It’s not fatal, but this kind of failure of content does routinely impair the game, and it seems weird when there is so much incidental content going spare.

All this adds up to a rich, incoherent game that needs lashings of work before it even comes close to the production values of most games released by big publishers today. That hardly matters, because the scope and energy of the game diminish most of what those publishers are trying to do with those games and the experiences they provide. As I Alt-tabbed in and out of Precursors to chat to people online, I found myself checking in with a friend who had just completed Call Of Duty 4 for the first time. His weary sadness at the rigid scripting and predictable militarist point ‘n’ shoot of the game was made to seem ludicrous as I reported alien worlds, weapons that need to be fed, and just the general layers of weird shit that I had uncovered. At one point I said this: “I just found a bunch of people worshipping what seems to be a floating Rubik’s Cube in the middle of the desert!” What was that about? I still haven’t gone back to find out. But I could. There’s no going back to have a poke around for the CoD4 player, because the game just doesn’t work like that. And there are no floating Rubik’s Cubes in that desert, anyway. Precursors’ space imperials might be no more imaginative than Call Of Duty soldiermen, but they live in a far more surprising neighbourhood.


Ultimately I expect a large number of you to buy this game simply because your curiosity should, now, be overwhelming. You might be disappointed, which would be a shame, because I have provided ample warning. It’s less buggy than Boiling Point, and really lacking in the brighter sparks of imagination that would have made it into a weird masterpiece. But perhaps there’s something else a purchase could be saying. It would be this: “Yes, I do want games to be more ambitious, to over-reach spectacularly, to be more open and vibrant and mad. Additionally, the people who make games like this deserve to keep making them, because they’re what makes gaming worth exploring.” If the gaming world worked in the way that the late ’90s seemed to promise, then there would be a game like this every six months. It’s disappointing, I suppose, that I am getting excited about exploring this naïve and jittery half-world and recommending it to you today.


Yeah. Exploring is what it’s about. Not always being pushed along the conveyor-belt of events that so many games have carefully laid out for us like passing firework displays: pretty, remote, pointless. Precursors suffers from its linearity in many places – the quest structure is what seems to be a pure straight line from start to finish, and you can’t “unlock” Planet 2 until you have to go there, even if you can fly there in your spaceship – but when I realised that the desert was out there, waiting for me to explore it, and when I realised I could just wander off the path into the jungle… Well, that’s when it made sense. Precursors had to exist, and I’m glad it does. It’s an astonishing sequel to the bizarre chaos of Boiling Point.

Also, as a footnote, this might be ripe for modding. Someone really should take a look at that.

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150 Comments »

  1. itsonlydanny says:

    You’ve sold it to me! Indeed, I’m one of those weirdos who actually quite liked Boiling Point.

    • tanith says:

      What killed Boiling point for me is that my car with all my stuff disappeared after a very tedious and long mission – but until that point I loved that game.

      Might take a look at Precursors, already spent too much money on steam and gog.com :/

    • Kadayi says:

      Sounds like it’s worth a punt simply to marvel at their ambition, however like many after the excesses of the Steam & GoG Christmas/New Year sales my fun fund needs a couple of months recovery.

  2. Ging says:

    Importantly, does it have an awesome bit of music that plays while it installs ala Boiling Point?

    From the north to the south, coming to the boiling point… what a classic.

    • Colej_uk says:

      I remember printed across the original Boiling Point manual was:

      ‘It will become your most unforgattable…

      …Holiday!”

      It still makes me laugh out loud.

    • Stuart Walton says:

      I reinstalled Boiling Point last year primarily to hear the song again. Does Precursors have an install song? Maybe something synthy with Belew guitar.

  3. Eclipse says:

    Faction ratings are a direct sign of the Boiling Point lineage :P BP had faction ratings too but they weren’t too useful if you played by the rules.

    Boiling Point was a very interesting game, this one looks even better so count me in! I’ll grab it for sure

  4. yhancik says:

    Oh, I saw it a couple of days ago, wondering what it’s worth. It’s good to have you, Jim ;)

    I will definitely try this at some point. I only recently tried Boiling Point, and it was an interesting experience. I don’t know how the factions thing works in Precursors, but I thought that it worked pretty well in BP.

    And what about White Gold, the actual sequel to Boiling Point?

    • roryok says:

      yeah, I want to see a white gold review!

    • Spacewalk says:

      And I want a paragraph dedicated to any shark riding experiences.

    • backcountry says:

      i loved boiling point – i saved a load of cash got a chopper and zipped through the side missions.
      when I got to the last mission on the main story i got a horrible quest bug cause i used the chopper to skip a into a later part of the mission, thus breaking the game. And with only a recent quicksave I was screwed.

      Anyways, we need a White Gold review. I don’t dare to go near that game after Boiling Point took 2 straight weeks of my life, but I wanna hear if it’s any good.

    • brulleks says:

      I’ve been playing White Gold – you can buy it through a few russian d/l stores.

      It’s very much like Boiling Point, and also how Precursors sounds from this WIT. Full of interesting stuff, weird conversations that just about make some kind of sense, underwhelming combat, lots of vehicles to bomb around in and tons of bugs, ranging from hilarious to game-crippling. The game engine seems almost identical to Boiling Point’s, just looks a bit glossier.

      There’s also far too much ocean. The landmass is just tiny islands separated by massive amounts of water, but fortunately you get access to helicopters and boats fairly quickly. It does mean that for a lot of the time you’re just flying / boating with nothing much of interest to look at other than the occasional refuelling depot.

      Haven’t found any sharks to ride yet either. If you enjoyed Boiling Point, as I did, then you probably have the right kind of masochistic humour required to enjoy White Gold too.

  5. Serenegoose says:

    Eh… The reason I stay away from these sorts of games is that I don’t have the money to support developers who over-reach ambitiously and almost make it but don’t quite. I need some sort of assurance that the game I buy will be enjoyably playable because I can’t afford to spend money on such ambiguous maybes. If I buy a buggy game it needs to come with the reasonable expectation of heavy patching, not that at some point down the line my financial input will pay off, good karmalike, in a game that is mad, exploratory, innovative, perfect, and bug free. Gods I’d love to have the money to go ‘even if this game is utter crap I’d like there to be more like it’ but I don’t, sorry. Still, I hope enough people who can afford to be more generous do encourage this developer. I find it highly distasteful that due to outside restrictions I’m forced to spend my money on ‘safe bets’ rather than being able to do my part to foster creativity.

  6. Meatloaf says:

    Yeah this has definitely sold me on the game.

    “Yes, I do want games to be more ambitious, to over-reach spectacularly, to be more open and vibrant and mad. Additionally, the people who make games like this deserve to keep making them, because they’re what makes gaming worth exploring.”

    Half of the games that I buy, I do so for that reason. Some of them I don’t play often, but I want them to exist. So, so bad. More madness in developers, please!

    • qrter says:

      Yeah, that sold me too. I felt like saluting while reading it, which is a bit disturbing.

      Also, the talk about exploration. Games need to be explorable, and not because you have to find four million gold-plated carrier bags, or because it’ll make some achievement bell ring… but because exploring is fun if there is stuff to find.

    • zoombapup says:

      I’ve got to admit, as a developer the comments on RPS really do make me feel all warm and tingly inside.

      The fact that you guys are happy to support games that can be, well, lets call them experimental? Fills me with hope that there’s an audience somewhere for me own games, because I tend to want to do bat-shit insane kind of mashup games.

      So, I guess I’ll say thank you all (as a proxy for these eastern european guys who would probably say the same if they spoke english).

  7. Spacewalk says:

    This sounds absolutely fantastic.

  8. DigitalSignalX says:

    What are the chances all the bugs you’ve written about will be patched? I’d wait on a buy if (like other popular Russian titles) they’ll eventually get fixed. The Stalker series is famous for being pushed out into retail in barely functional shape, to be eventually patched to reasonable health. If this has already been out a year and basic audio functionality still is a mess.. I’m skeptical.

    • Lukasz says:

      Pathalogic never got proper patch did it.

    • Urael says:

      Practically zero at this point. What you see is most definitely what you’re going to get.

    • Archonsod says:

      Most of the audio issues derive from the fact the mod ripped out the Russian dialogue.

    • malkav11 says:

      The mod did not rip out the Russian dialogue. Trust me, I’ve played the original Russian game with mod. I can only assume that whatever they’ve done for the “English release” did, which is bloody dim of them if so. I also really hope the text translation in this version is significantly better than what I’ve played as some sort of compensation.

      It really is a brilliant game, though. All sorts of strangenesses and cool encounters and things.

    • Javier-de-Ass says:

      yeah, they cut out the russian voice audio for this release and didn’t replace it with anything. but the text is also a lot better than what you’d get from the babelfish style mod. the optimal version of the game is this english versions text file inside the original russian version with russian audio. the yuplay.ru version of this is only 7 dollars, so if you’ve already bought the gamersgate version it’s not that expensive to get the audio fixed.

    • Eplekongen says:

      How to get russian voice in dialog on the english gamersgate version:

      The GamersGate version of the game has english cutscenes but all other dialog that was originally in russian is not dubbed and is simply removed from the game along with a bunch of background sounds that also included some random russian voices. It’s just text with no sound.

      But it is possible to install all the russian soundfiles into the english games. It requires a bit of medium-level computer skills and messing about though.

      Download the Russian audio (1,3GB) here: http://board.deep-shadows.com/index.php?s=&showtopic=1568&view=findpost&p=8243

      then follow the instructions here: http://board.deep-shadows.com/index.php?s=&showtopic=1568&view=findpost&p=8256

      That tells you to use the grp unpacker that you can get from here: http://board.deep-shadows.com/index.php?showtopic=1582&hl=unpacker

      It makes the game a lot better simply by adding a lot of ambiance to the world. You’ll get the best of the two, the official translation (still bad, but better than the fan-made), and russian voices.

      (Also, this seems to fix audio problems many people were having on vista/win7, missing audio that would come back and go and change volume at random).

      The MEGAUPLOAD files are only up for 90 days max so this might not be available forever.

  9. Joshua says:

    Will there be a Precursors complete mod? :P.

    The way you describe the game, it sounds like how the original Stalker was going to be before THQ decided to do some exectuvie meddling. And that executive meddling probably was that wat made STALKER SOC in such a good game…

  10. Stephen Roberts says:

    Did someone say EV Nova?

    No?

    Aww…

    Edit: When I post I get messages about strings (demz wurdz) that have been blocked by the spam machine. What?

  11. Ubiquitous says:

    I certainly do want to see more games like this.

    • roryok says:

      So do I, but I’d love to see a game this ambitious being made by a studio that actually could manage it. Deep Shadows (now) have a history of releasing buggy, practically unplayable games.

    • geldonyetich says:

      I not only want to see more games like this, I got tired of waiting and have been cobbling together my own tile-based monstrosity in BYOND.

      Seeing this game, as far as I’m concerned, the Russians won the space race.

    • Petethegoat says:

      Uh, the Russians did win the space race.
      You remember how they did everything except getting a man on the moon first?

      Anyways, I’d definitely buy this if it wasn’t for the ridiculous piles of games I have thanks to Steam.
      Thanks a lot, Steam. I could be playing Precursors, buuuut nooooo.

  12. Urael says:

    I’ve been following this one for years now. The community at SpaceSimCentral has been actively involved in the creation of the English translation patch and we’ve also made efforts to contact both developer and publisher to get this released in English-speaking markets, but I was genuinely astonished to see it on GamersGate having assumed our efforts had been in vain. Also, we’re more than aware of the game’s problems, having sourced it through eBay and other ‘grey’ outlets. Quite how GG think this game is worth the money being asked for is beyond me.

    Speaking personally I have not bought or played the game which, considering this game has held my interest for so long, being the type of game I’d normally give parts of my soul to play, should be taken as significant. I was burned by The Tomorrow War, another East-European game which promised so much but delivered very little and find myself unwilling to be burned in that fashion again.

    Much like The Void, then, or Pathalogic this game should be seen as something with artistic merit only. Something to be experience, but not a great game, per se.

    Oh, and the oddly named Xenus II: White Gold (Formerly just White Gold?), by the same developers, should be seen as the sequel to Boiling Point, not this.

    • Archonsod says:

      U-Play have this and White Gold much cheaper, but apparently only if you live in the Ukraine.

    • megazver says:

      Well, I can’t put The Void in the same category as the other games you mentioned. Whether you like Void’s story or gameplay, the game is technically competent, properly translated, actually accomplishes what its creators set out to do and isn’t a glitchy mess.

    • Malawi Frontier Guard says:

      “Much like The Void, then, or Pathalogic this game should be seen as something with artistic merit only. Something to be experience, but not a great game, per se.”

      Just go to hell and take your idiotic thoughts on art with you.

      Also The Void is a great game.

  13. Stense says:

    I’m afraid to do anything illegal, lest my arse be grabbed.

    It does sound like an interesting game, one that I heard about a while ago then it seemed to disappear off the radar. I haven’t played Boiling Point, and didn’t really care for Stalker, but I loved Mass Effect. So I’m still somewhat on the fence here.

  14. Sergey Galyonkin says:

    Well, too bad Deep Shadows is now developing casual games :( They’ve fired a lot of people shortly after Precursors release.

    It is kind of a sad destiny for a lot of Ukrainian developers. Remember Action Forms, guys behind Cryostasis? They’re making iPhone games and apps now aswell :(

  15. Teddy Leach says:

    “Don’t you dare do something illegal – we’ll grab your ass at once.” I can see that I’m going to enjoy this game.

  16. abuzor says:

    I’m afraid the “too many bullets to kill enemies” problem is a bit too big an issue for me.
    I could’nt finish any of the games which had that flaw (BLACK, etc), it’s simply too tedious.
    Let’s hope a patch corrects this….

  17. fuggles says:

    Ah, the law enforcement of tomorrow – your ass is in safe hands!

  18. Stevostin says:

    The sad thing is that it appears NOT to be the modded russian version. Modded russian version seems to be way better : it’s a more recent patch (with no sound issue, I think), it has way more sound dialog (with subtitle) as an audio file size comparison demonstrates. The gamer’s gate version appears to be a weak work from gamer’s gate itself…

    I’ll try to see if I can find the russian version.

    • Javier-de-Ass says:

      nah, gamersgate don’t localise and do that work at all. they definitely just released what was handed to them by gfi. but the localisation, the text for both precursors and xenus2 is a lot better than the early versions that was extracted from the russian releases. so, for me it was worth buying both these just to get the new text files. I’ve plopped those text files into my patched russian copies of the games and this is definitely the best way to play the game. there is quite a lot of environmental audio that enhanced the atmosphere that’s just not there in the english versions along with the severe sound bugs.

    • Waltorious says:

      @Javier-de-Ass:

      OK, so this game sounds awesome and I want to buy it. But I read your comments and I would definitely like to get the Russian audio version with English subtitles, if possible. I want to make sure I understand how to do that. I will need to buy the Russian version from a Russian download site, then buy the English version from Gamersgate, and then somehow combine the English text into the Russian verison? Also I will need a mod for the Russian version? Where do I get that?

      To complicate matters, I am in the United States, so things might not be available from the same places for me. And I’ve never used Gamersgate; do they have DRM on their releases?

    • Javier-de-Ass says:

      gamersgate use only a downloader thing which decrypts the setup executable once the download is finished. I just tried to explain this on page two aswell here, but equally as poorly as I’m about to now hehe. this all happens automatically once you’ve bought and started downloading a game. after it’s all downloaded the setup file will start automatically and at that point you can back up all the setup files without anything tying them to gamersgate from a directory inside where you ran the downloader file from.

      the russian download site is yuplay, it’s run by gaijin the devs that did the il-2 console game (wings of prey) and a ton of other pc games for 1c. a bunch of familiar publishers are on there, like ea. so it’s not a completely shady backwater site you’re going into hehe. precursors is only available on the russian version of the site though, yuplay.ru. but accounts on yuplay are the same for russian and international versions, so you can set up everything on the international site before going to the russian one. I think foreigners will only be able to use either visa or yum (yuplay nonsense currency) from the russian site, but you can also use paypal from the international site to get said yum points.

      what you need to do after the russian version is installed is just copy the resource.qrc file from the root of the gamersgate precursors install into the root of the yuplay install. and that’s it. resource.qrc contains all text in the game, dialogues menus everything.

      oh I should also say the russian version has activation starforce with three activations as drm. it isn’t the crazy old type of driver installing computer exploding starforce, but it’s still an activation drm. the activations can be uninstalled again though from the protect.exe inside the game directory.

    • Waltorious says:

      @Javier-de-Ass:

      Thanks for the info. Upon reading more of these comments, however, I have learned that Wesp5 has made an English translation patch for the Russian version of the game. Have you tried that? Is that what you referred to as the “babelfish style mod”? I guess I’m just asking if it’s worth getting the Gamersgate version for its English text or if I should just use Wesp5′s translation of the Russian version instead.

      Although I might consider buying the Gamersgate version anyway if I like the game enough, to encourage such things.

    • Javier-de-Ass says:

      yeah, that’s what I referred to. the wesp mod is the english translation text already found inside the russian versions of these games. aka. they were extremely early translations, and they’re pretty terrible. although they are possible to play with and they will give you an idea about what’s going on and what you’re supposed to do. but more often than not it’s completely ridiculous to read, sometimes in a good way. but I vastly prefer this new more or less actual translation to those.

  19. Tom Camfield says:

    Sounds splendid – before you mentioned it in the review I was already thinking “I’d rather play this than Call Of Duty”. Like most such games, however, it’s going to take me an epically long time to get round to playing, but hopefully by then it will be fixed by some lovely gentleman or lady, and be available in one sale or another…

    NB A few people have said Fallout: New Vegas is wonderful, and I wonder whether that falls into the same category of “buggy but expansive”…

    • zergrush says:

      I got sucked into other games and didn’t really play beyond the first 10 hours or so, but I didn’t have a single issue with New Vegas.

      It needs some mods to fix the UI font size and other minor stuff like that, and if you’re like me you’ll problably want to put some mods to make the game less ugly, but overall it performed WAY better than Fallout 3 or Oblivion at launch. Maybe because I modded it before the first launch, but I’d say it’s worth a try anyway.

  20. Vayl says:

    Just what I needed after a Steam sale….. but can’t pass up on this :)

    Any opinions on Xenus 2? It arrived to Gamersgate the same day this one did and is from the same publisher, seems to be a mix of shooter and rpg, and now i’m curious about it as well :p

    • Javier-de-Ass says:

      xenus2 is really good aswell. but it’s not as optimised as precursors is, it’s an earlier version of the engine/tech. and it’s overall a bit worse of a game, a bit less focused. but there is a ton of weird missions and content to discover. I think both games are definitely worth playing for anyone that enjoyed boilingpoint or the stalker games. xenus2 on gamersgate did release with a securom problem though, from what I’ve seen it’s affected everyone who bought the game. it basically means you have to download the russian nodvd crack to be able to start the game, it crashes immediatly otherwise. hopefully gfi will be able to fix this problem soon.

  21. MrEvilGuy says:

    I do want more games to have a scale like this, but only if they’re good as well – and I’d pay twice the price for a game that takes twice as long to develop!

  22. RegisteredUser says:

    Why oh why couldn’t this game get a second go with a perhaps enhanced edition or something that actually makes it mostly playable?

    Such tremendous potential, only to lie dormant and be half-cocked released with boils and half of it’s arms torn off..

    This sounds like it could easily reach spheres of FalloutBorderlandsMassEffectFarCryness in terms of possibilities and roaming, and with a bit of attention make a decent shooter while at it, too.

    Oh for shame. Are the original developers already disbanded or the IP locked down so the source project will never be accessible for improving?

    • Sergey Galyonkin says:

      Are the original developers already disbanded or the IP locked down so the source project will never be accessible for improving?

      Company is still there, they’re still working, they still own their IP. They just stopped doing big games (at least for now) and now working on casual games.

  23. Navagon says:

    Wow, this Wot I Think is a pleasant surprise. I’ve been doing my bit to promote awareness of the game. Yes, it’s not perfect, but the sheer scope of the game compensates for that.

    It already has the Vampire the Masquerade Bloodlines unofficial patch guy, Wesp5, pouring a lot of work into the translation. So that should give you some idea of the potential of the game. Hopefully more modders will take an interest and help the game meet its goals.

  24. President Weasel says:

    I will have to buy this, in accordance with my policy of targeted buying. Paying for games like this, goes the theory, increases the chance of more developers making games like this, rather than Shooty Soldier Mans in a Beige Environment 6.
    Also it sounds like it might be fun to play, which is a bonus.

    (to be fair though, I did cave and buy the most recent Soldier Mans: Soldiery Ops. It was all right, until the patch made it all stuttery and unplayable on multiplayer, and I got maybe an hour out of the single player before I got too bored to continue)

    I’ve travelled through time from the 1970s to get here, and I remember a time when most games were glitchy. Glitches hold little fear for me.

  25. Namos says:

    Do I have to play it without a mouse?

    • Navagon says:

      It’s a standard FPS mouse and keys setup for the most part. You do get a mouse pointer in conversations and in game menus to select options. But other than that the controls are what you’d expect.

  26. Twerty says:

    This game was good for me up until it literally started crashing a few minutes from whichever save I loaded no matter what I did. Save the game, it crashes during save. Play the game, it crashes a couple minutes later. Do nothing, it crashes a couple minutes later.

    Doing some research via Russian google translate, get this:
    QUICKSAVING enough will eventually make your save game PERMANENTLY unstable. So. Yeah. Use normal saves folks.

  27. Mungrul says:

    Jim, I’d be intrigued to read a retrospective by you on BREED, a similarly unfinished, fundamentally broken game, that I feel had some incredibly ambitious ideas that went some way to redeeming it.

    You’ve also tempted me into buying this, but I should really lay off of the new purchases until I finish off the glut of titles I bought in the Steam sales.

  28. phlebas says:

    Not sure I’ll be forking over cash for this just now but – is it just me or do some of those screenshots have something of a Morrowind vibe to them, especially the top one?

  29. MadTinkerer says:

    “Everyone else should continue.”

    Indeed, I was already almost salivating at that point in the article. Between this and Minecraft-if-they-implement-NPCs-oh-please-I-hope-they-do, things look good for the “First Person Fuck Linearity” genre.

    “You can’t talk to the monsters, but you can negotiate with bandits, aliens, and drug dealers, and a bunch of people who might otherwise get shot.”

    By the way, I do hope there are some RPS writers/readers besides me who are aware of the Persona series. Yes, it’s a bunch of dirty console games, and part of the Weird-And-We-Do-Mean-Weird Japanese RPG genre, but Talking With Monsters is an important mechanic and very well implemented throughout the series. Just saying.

    • Reddin says:

      Talking to monsters is more a staple of the Shin Megami Tensei series than Persona, given that that the last two Persona games (3 and 4) offered no talking to monsters.

      Regarding this game:
      My entertainment funds are not high enough to take €30 gambles like this. Once the price drops I might see what it’s about with my own eyes.

  30. Bullwinkle says:

    Does this game have that same awful head bob (which couldn’t be switched off) as Boiling Point? Because that’s a dealbreaker.

    • Javier-de-Ass says:

      no, but all three of these games (xenus/boilingpoint, xenus2/whitegold and precursors) have really extensive open .ini files for you to edit until you go mad, tailoring the game to your own liking.

    • Bullwinkle says:

      My understanding was that the head bob wasn’t moddable via .ini files. I’ll look again; I wouldn’t mind giving BP a go if it can be removed. Either way, thanks for the response.

  31. Casimir's Blake says:

    I have wanted a game like this in my life since… oh sod it, since forever. It is the closest thing to Star Control 2 but with FPS and first-person-space-flight. I found out about it years ago, but without a release my hopes were dashed. I found out a month ago that, not only had it been released, but there was a translation. An English translation!! A dream come true, ffs!

    And now Jim’s just gone and done a piece on Precursors on RPS?? Good show, sir! :) I suspect 2011 will be a great year for indie PC games!

    Those looking for Wesp5′s patches can find them at Patches Scrolls. He appears to have made some for White Gold also, but I hear less positive things about it…

    • Navagon says:

      The Precursors translation patch is far better. But White Gold’s was good enough for me to be able to complete it and really enjoy myself while doing so.

    • Casimir's Blake says:

      Oops, thanks Navagon, I probably should have edited again to clarify that I heard less flattering reports about White Gold itself, not Wesp5′s patches.

    • Navagon says:

      Ah, i see. Well the game is generally pretty bloody good in a ‘if you can overlook the flaws’ kind of way.

      White Gold is a game with complex inter-faction warfare where you might find yourself being sent to take out thirty shotgun wielding guerillas on behalf of the military who have kindly loaned you a shotgun-imperious tank to do the job. You don’t have enough shells. But who needs those when you can just run the bastards over?

      White Gold is a game where you can buy your own island then have a mansion, helipad and dock built on it before drafting in your own security detail.

      White Gold is a game of jet skis, seaplanes and Apache Longbow gunships. It’s a game where you can sort out people’s marital difficulties before taking to the skies and wiping out military encampments.

      I’d say it’s pretty good.

  32. negativedge says:

    oh hey look, it’s the kind of stuff I actually come to RPS for.+1, game noted, etc, etc.

  33. zergrush says:

    “Yes, I do want games to be more ambitious, to over-reach spectacularly, to be more open and vibrant and mad. Additionally, the people who make games like this deserve to keep making them, because they’re what makes gaming worth exploring.”

    Want to buy it just because it would be nice if more games like this existed, but I know that like the Frictional games I’ll never get around to play it ( for different reasons, of course ).

    If it goes on sale for half the price I’ll probably get it, but £20 is too expensive for something I’ll probably drop after an hour or so.

  34. President Weasel says:

    Speaking of slightly mad Russian games whose reach exceeds their grasp, but you don@t mind because they are reaching for the stars: obligatory plug for Space Rangers 2, the (I’m fairly sure) only top down elite-a-like game that’s also an RPG with side missions that sometimes turn out to be text based and can involve things like running a ski resort on a planet for a bit. Oh, and there’s an all-right-ily implemented RTS sub game that you can pretty much not bother with if you don’t enjoy it.

  35. WJonathan says:

    Deep Shadows sure does love them some light bloom. Man, that’s a humid desert…

    Anyway count me another who enjoyed Boiling Point, at least until the world was revealed to be a series of repeating wilderness grids with the same enemies, cars, gas stations, etc every few miles. It was fun to explore but I didn’t care to finish it. There actually was a patch released fixing the major bugs.

    I thought White Gold had been cancelled, considering the developer stopped updating their site. Hmmm. Anyway, I may try Precursors if it shows up here in the US of A.

    • Javier-de-Ass says:

      deep shadows definitely ran into huge problems at some point between the russian release of xenus2 and precursors. they used to have staff that talked to people on the forum, one day that person was gone and no one from deep shadows has been on there since. they’re still alive but definitely running on pretty much no people.

  36. Wulf says:

    I’m kind of disappointed that these things are said about Precursors whilst everything in regards to what’s good about it could also be said to be good about New Vegas. Especially being a ‘less resrained’ version of a Bioware game (the illusion of choice versus true choice). And I find it strange that bugs are forgiven here but never for Obsidian, it’s a massive double standard. I can’t help but be very disappointed about that. That’s just going to hang over my mind like a flowing veil of distrust, I’ve disagreed with RPS before, but never this strongly about anything.

    I really think I might just have to stop reading Wot I Think type opinions, because it all feels a bit hollow and shallow, now. I can’t really trust the passion, because I keep pondering on the motivation. And as for this game, I’m going to wait for some opinions before I look into it. Again, if we’re going to completely overlook the bugs in some games, and yet slam others for having literally no more bugs than that, then I’m not sure what averaging standard there is for RPS reviews. Can bad bugs for one game suddenly become good bugs for another? How does that work?

    I fear I’ll be belittled for this post. But to my mind, those are valid concerns. So… yep, I’ll just stick to the news.

    • zergrush says:

      Well, they were done by different writers, maybe Jim is just more open-minded about this kind of thing than Quintin.

      But I still can’t see much sense in him playing and somewhat recommending a game like pathologic, and yet slamming New Vegas so harshly. But he’s just one guy, I can’t discredit the work of the other three writers because he messed up. And in the end it’s just, you know, people, different tastes and subjectivity, bla bla bla.

    • qrter says:

      Wasn’t the New Vegas review wotthink written by Quinns, and this one, well, isn’t?

      [EDIT: Doh, pipped to the post.]

    • Vayl says:

      Feel a bit the same way, both with fallout and alpha protocol,. Ended up by deciding to just basically ignore everything on RPS about Obsidian, is their pet developer hate. Everything else is pretty consistent.

    • Bornemannen says:

      I agree with you Wulf and I feel the same way. I think that the issue is big developers with lots of money versus small indie-developers, I get the feeling that it is expected that a big developer should never release a bug fest whereas an indie dev will always get away with it.
      It is a bit illogical since the games should be reviewed on the merit of the game itself and not who made it (of course this is never the case and it’s the same for music, movies, books etc etc).

    • Javier-de-Ass says:

      you are comparing a game made by hundreds of people with millions behind it (new vegas) to a game mostly made by two people though. one game has tv commercials and ads everywhere you can think of the other has like a back alley out of the trunk of a car release. of course one deserves to be highlighted more than the other, and of course awful crushing bugs in the bigger release is more disappointing than in the smaller release.

    • Basilicus says:

      Different writers, true, but I’ve also experienced a different reaction to bugs between Russian and American games. In American games, I find myself most often getting frustrated with the bugs, whereas in Russian games, I tend to forgive the bugs much more readily, sometimes even finding them charming. I’m sure there’s a reason for this dichotomy; I just don’t know what it is.

      In STALKER: SoC, for instance, there were a hundred little things that I never could be sure were bugs or simply strange designer choices. In Elven Legacy, the tutorial voiceovers barely ever get a sentence finished in English, because the videos are already edited for a faster and more succinct Russian voiceover. It just makes me smile, because I can’t help but think of the Men of War voice actingk.

      I don’t think I’m a hypocrite, and I don’t think I’m simply saying, “Aw, look at those cute Russians try so hard.” I think it comes down to the Russian games taking more chances, or coming closer to doing the ideas I’m secretly wishing they tried. If an American game is sticking to the tried and true path and still not getting it right, I’d rather have a Russian game that screwed up just as badly but can take me a little bit further into the strange, unexplored wilderness of gaming.

      In other words, if I’m setting up an expedition into the Himalayas, I’m expecting some things might go wrong. If I’m conducting an expedition into my own back yard and people start falling to their deaths, that’s a lot less forgiveable.

    • john_silence says:

      Amen, Basilicus. Amen.

    • President Weasel says:

      I wish to endorse the views expressed above by Basilicus, and also commend the Himalayan trek allegory. Wait, was that an allegory? I can never tell those apart from crocodiles; I think it might be something to do with whether you can see their upper teeth when their mouths are closed…

    • Lilliput King says:

      @zergrush

      Maybe because Pathologic was somewhat innovative while New Vegas wasn’t in any way? They’re not even in the same ballpark.

    • Kieron Gillen says:

      The “I” in “Wot I Think” continues to be invisible at least to some RPS readers.

      KG

    • Jambe says:

      Well, it’s not even that, Kieron. It’s easy for me to forgive people floating around in paradigmatic bubbles. The problem with Wulf’s comment is that he’s baldly in the wrong, as Basilicus pointed out. New Vegas to Precursors is not apples to apples as Wulf suggests it is, and that’s the foundation of his argument.

      Also, his demand of consistency strikes me as silly. If he’s suggesting that the above review, or any Wot I Think from the past hasn’t included enough clear opinion to make a purchase decision easier, then he’s not reading the same reviews I am. Whether the reviews are consistent is really irrelevant — they usually describe things accurately enough to work as standalone critiques. Furthermore, Wulf obviously possesses the capacity to track Jim’s taste, so either his problem with this article is a personal difference in taste or an absurd desire to see the hivemind scourged of individuality.

    • invisiblejesus says:

      “Furthermore, Wulf obviously possesses the capacity to track Jim’s taste, so either his problem with this article is a personal difference in taste or an absurd desire to see the hivemind scourged of individuality.”

      I’ll probably regret pointing this out later, but it’s fair to note that Jim did back Quinns up in the comment thread of the New Vegas WIT. It isn’t at all unreasonable to question why he would tolerate bugginess in one game while defending Quinns’ complaints about bugginess in another.

      That said, I’m not sure where people get the idea that RPS hates Obsidian. John’s Alpha Protocol WIT was totally fair, IMO, and did recommend that readers pick the game up. A one for one track record isn’t that bad.

    • Wizlah says:

      Wulf, you need to get over the New Vegas thing. John Walker explicitly stated that Alpha Protocol was bugged, but worth playing, and said he replayed it twice. RPS generally has a high tolerance for bugged stuff so long as its interesting.

      What Quinns was saying was that the bugginess, combined with what he felt was not an engaging world gave him the sense of Obisidian not bothering.

      I don’t think RPS have ever reviewed either KoTOR 2, Neverwinter Nights 2 (although gillen did in Eurogamer) or Mask of the Betrayer (ditto for gillen, I think, but can’t remember). RPS collectively fall over themselves to praise VtM: Bloodlines. Tellingly, Quinns felt New Vegas wasn’t in the same class as Bloodlines because he just didn’t feel it was interesting enough.

      I realise you rate the choice and consequence mechanic in New Vegas. I know that you like that it’s a muddy world of few clear choices. The former is s a mechanic. the latter is writing, and at least one person didn’t find it as engaging as you.

      To constantly harp on this reeks of petulance. the game has many advocates.

  37. Cosmo Dium says:

    I’d been following this game for a while and I’m glad it’s been picked up by the RPS radar. A most-fitting JR game, absolutely. Why can’t more games feature incidental space flight combat???

  38. Zoonp says:

    I really wanted to like this game but the bugs ruined it for me.

    Some missions can’t be completed at all

    Sometimes the sounds stop playing for no reason at all

    The shop system is so buggy that you can buy items for free

    Also, all the missions are just boring killing or fetching quests and the story doesn’t seem to be anything special. This could have been a great game if it had gotten 12 more months of development time.

  39. disperse says:

    I’m glad there’s the option to get the Russian language version. I don’t suppose this would be playable without any English text at all? I want the experience of being on an alien planet without speaking a word of the native language. “Hello there!” Hmm, they’re saying something, they seem agitated, oh wait, they’ve got guns, run!

    Also, any real-world experiences on the performance of the game? My gaming laptop is of the age where it can play Stalker and Bloodlines, barely.

  40. Alistair says:

    Hooray! Not buying CODBlops or MOH, buying this. Enjoyed Boiling Point, after its patches and a hardware upgrade. Have been looking forward to this one but had given up hope :)

  41. crainey92 says:

    I want to try this game simply because I admire the ambition of the developers even if large parts of the game are poor, problem is, my cash reserves are exhausted from the Steam sale.

  42. Paul says:

    I LOVE AMBITIOUS DEVELOPERS.

    This sounds like it could be the best game ever made, if it had 20% of Mass Effect 2′s budget.

  43. Foosnark says:

    “…an absurdly ambitious project undertaken by a team that didn’t really have a hope of pulling it off. Except they kind of did. It’s clunky and quirky and unpolished, and that doesn’t really matter.”

    “…the combat simply isn’t very good. It’s not broken, but it is perfunctory and often dogged by frame-rate horrors. Most enemies take too many hits to go down, which is an endless issue in these kinds of games.”

    Sounds like Hellgate: London. (Unless you’re playing a dual-wielding blademaster, in which case, things die when you glance at them but so do you.)

  44. Alaric says:

    Thanks for the great review! I was interested in this game, but now I am most certainly not buying it!

    Edit:

    By the way, I am not buying into the whole “look at those exotic Russians making esoteric games, that has got to be cool, and cultural, and worldly, and spiritual” bru-ha-ha. Things need to be made well. If someone hands you a chunk of rock and says that if they had the budget, and the manpower, and the know-how than this rock would be a gorgeous sculpture – you’ll laugh. Somehow it has become acceptable in the gaming world to drop hints of potential greatness and feel smug about it.

    If I had to chose between an expertly made and well polished MW2 and Precursors, I would choose the Precursors, but having a choice between a well made game and a “we have great ideas but can’t implement them” type of game, I would always choose the former.

    • Basilicus says:

      Hmmm. Replaces “Russians” with “Obsidian” and I’m right there with you.

    • Javier-de-Ass says:

      haha. there’s more than just hints of greatness in precursors. you’re really underselling a game you say you haven’t played.

    • qrter says:

      If I had to chose between an expertly made and well polished MW2 and Precursors, I would choose the Precursors, but having a choice between a well made game and a “we have great ideas but can’t implement them” type of game, I would always choose the former.

      God.. how dull.

    • Alaric says:

      Yea, I’m a dullard. I have this defective idea that things, which I purchase, need to work. It probably seems like a bunch of conformist crazy-talk to cool people like you, but when I buy a car I expect to be able to drive it for a few years without it starting on fire or ejecting me for some (really exciting) reason.

      Innovation is great and creativity is great, but if the end result is some sort of an amazingly creative and innovative car, that I can only get to leave my garage about 60% of the time, I think I’ll pass. You are most welcome to it though, because the world would probably end if not for hip and daring visionaries such as yourself.

    • malkav11 says:

      Hey, I’m right there with you as far as game-crippling errors like crashing to desktop or not even running half the time, regular corruption of saved games, stuff like that. I can’t vouch for this particular release, but in my experience with the Russian version, Precursors is not notably plagued by such issues. You seem to be unwilling to buy the car because it’s only half painted and the seats are plastic instead of leather.

    • Alaric says:

      Perhaps, but what was the last time you bought a half-painted car? =)

    • Mistabashi says:

      The car analogy is a good one, but I think your looking at it the wrong way. When choosing a car some people just want to get from A to B with the minimum of fuss, so you buy a resonably priced small car, lets say a Ford Focus for example. Some people want a bit more luxury and comfort, so they buy a BMW saloon with all it’s gadgets and precision engineering etc.

      Some people however don’t see cars as a purely functional thing so they buy that classic Alfa Romeo, because even though they know it’s bound to have it’s quirks and occasionally won’t start-up on a cold morning it still gives them immense pleasure to drive it and they’re willing to put up with the odd inconvenience and get under the bonnet every once in a while to get her running smoothly.

  45. Στέλιος says:

    It is S.TA.L.K.E.R… in space!

    Is there on a space station or city the equivalent to 100 Rads? Weary space explorers sobbing over vodka and (space) tourists delight?

  46. Dances to Podcasts says:

    This is great news. Because it’s one step closer to my dream game: Cowboy Bebop*!

    *Yes, I know there already is one, no I doubt it’s any good.

  47. noom says:

    Bought. Does this mean I’ve failed in my new year’s resolution to not buy so many games??

    • Javier-de-Ass says:

      nah, just don’t buy that many ‘other’ games. if you care about purely PC games at all stuff like this should be around the top of your very short list.

  48. newton says:

    Thankfully, this is nowhere near the disaster Boiling Point was. I’m almost glad they didn’t have the resources to polish this thing entirely, ‘cos it would be, y’know, the best game ever. There are very weak moments in Precursors but the rest is glorious. The excitement of going from space to the surface of a new, unexplored planet is sweeeeet.

  49. Big Murray says:

    Am I the only one who thought of Star Control 2 when I saw this title and the words “space-adventure” together?

  50. 2guncohen says:

    How to buy the game?
    when you don’t own a credit card :(

    • Javier-de-Ass says:

      how do you usually buy anything online?

    • 2guncohen says:

      I have a Paypal account without credit card.
      But Gamersgate insist I enter my credit card number …

    • Urael says:

      My Paypal experience has been decidedly spotty on Gamersgate of late. Add this to the fact that so many of their recent releases are suffering due to GG’s own DRM implementation (Starpoint Gemini, to name one notable example, couldn’t even be played until the DRM was removed!) I’m having serious misgivings about spending any more money on their site at all.

      …assuming they ever let me.

    • Javier-de-Ass says:

      gamersgate will actually give you a refund if you can’t get something to run btw, which is something you’re not going to get a lot of other places.

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