Impressions: Afterfall: InSanity

By Adam Smith on November 4th, 2011 at 11:59 am.

Is that the most awesomely right angled kick in history or do my eyes deceive me?

Afterfall: InSanity is an independently developed, Unreal powered third person action-horror game. It’s available to preorder for a mere $1 at the moment, but unless 9,980,000 more copies are sold before release on November 25th you’ll rather dubiously end up paying the full amount of $33.90. I’m not making that massive figure up by the way, though I am rounding it to the nearest 10,000. The $1 will go to charity at least. So, fancy donating some money? Good on you. There’s loads of charities out there. But I’m here to tell you about the game.

AfterFall: InSanity has an interesting background. Originally, the Polish team behind it were working on a Fallout-esque RPG set in the AfterFALL world they have created, which involves an imagined future based upon an alternate past.

Every alternate history has that point at which that story’s timeline and our own diverges. Let us imagine that the Second World War had ended differently than the way we’d been taught in school. In the final moments of the war, Hitler managed to create his Wunderwaffe – a team of Nazi physicists finished the German a-bomb project.

Thanks to the Wunderwaffe, every nation in the world is plunged into a global cold war until 2011 when German scientists unleash a new kind of bomb. Automated systems respond until the whole world is burning and the last remnants of humanity hide in underground Vaults. Or Shelters.

INSanity begins in one such Shelter, placing the player in the footwear of Albert Tokaj, a psychiatrist and pharmacologist whose main duties involve dealing with outbreaks of Confinement Syndrome. People trapped underground, with no hope of seeing sun or sky again, tend to go a bit mad, y’see. Albert’s a true professional and within fifteen minutes of the game starting he has fallen to sleep during a session and referred to a patient in need as a ‘nutjob’. Fair enough really, as it’s strongly implied that psychiatrist or not, Albert is going stark raving bonkers himself. This is a horror game after all.

#occupyafterfall

Except it’s not. Not really. There are monsters and madmen, darkness and delirium, but there’s nothing particularly frightening. The game’s closest counterpart is Dead Space, which it appears to be emulating in so many ways, but it only serves to remind how well Dead Space used its bag of tricks. Strong sound design is one of the greatest weapons in the horrifier’s arsenal and Dead Space was superb in that respect, with every clank and snarl creating a sense of place. A sense of a place absolutely dripping with dread. InSanity isn’t successful in this regard. Not only are the shouts of assailants too repetitive and verging on the comical, they simply don’t sound believable.

It’s a problem throughout what I’ve played of the game, covering the first four hours or so. It’s quite good fun exploring the Shelter during the opening minutes, visiting the bar and watching cute little robots cleaning the floors. People go about their lives, which mostly involves dancing around tables and punching vending machines. The sense of calm before the storm is effective and I was looking forward to seeing everything go horribly wrong. Except it doesn’t. At least not as far as I’ve played.

Remember the hyperactive trailer that made Alec grumpy? The game is fourteen times less hyperactive than that trailer and considerably less gory. It’s actually fairly plodding, which made me rather grumpy for entirely different reasons.

monstrous disregard for human form

As soon as Confinement Syndrome becomes something more sinister and underground madness (distinct from space madness) really kicks in, the action shifts to the lower levels of the Shelter. Unfortunately, the lower levels are a series of corridors and maintenance rooms, most of which are almost identical to one another. Not only does this mean I didn’t experience the enjoyment of seeing the sorry remnants of civilisation torn apart, I also found myself separated from the more interesting environments above and stuck in valve-turning, reactor-fixing drudgery. It was a common complaint of Dead Space that Isaac often felt like little more than the handyman he was, being directed from one end of the ship to another to fix malfunctioning boilers. InSaniTY follows that template so it’s vital that what happens in between is enthralling.

Sadly, it isn’t. The combat is simple, with the flailing of melee weapons and the shooting of guns both in place but with neither causing much of a thrill. There are plenty of weapons to pick up, from wrenches and stun batons to broken pieces of machinery, but within moments of combat rearing its head for the first time I had grabbed a fire axe. I haven’t found a better weapon yet and it doesn’t seem to break, no matter how many brain-boxes I hack to bits with it, so the variety seems superfluous. I have used guns as well but an assault rifle is as nothing compared to my axe.

When shooting first becomes an option, there’s an introduction to the FearLock feature, which is a direct simulation of the terror that Albert is feeling. Enemies, horrific sights and injuries cause him to become more afraid, which makes his hands shake, reducing accuracy at range, but also fills him with adrenalin and makes him better at lopping things to bits with an axe. It’s a decent idea, except that it’s hard to tell how much impact it actually has and it ended up encouraging me to ignore guns almost completely since when I was really scared I could decapitate a mutant with two good swings. Fear is strength.

Psychiatry will not save this man

The main problem with combat is the enemies, which range in size and grotesqueness but all behave in an almost identical fashion. They run at you, then jump back slightly anticipating a swing of the axe, which is wise as I am rarely not swinging my axe. Then they attack. I dodge and then chop them into messes. Job done. Which is to say the combat lacks variety, although there is a certain visceral pleasure to it at times.

The overall feeling I’m left with is that this is an independent developer who have reached too high. It’s an attractive game at times but it’s lacking polish, and (so far) variety in environment and action. Polish isn’t the most important thing in the world but it does matter when the creation of a certain mood is clearly high on the agenda. It has to be said, the mood is mostly lacking. It’s an action-horror game with passable action and no real horror.

Maybe as things open up there will be a deeper exploration of Albert’s own collapsing sanity, which would be welcome, but the opening chapters are a slog. If I tell you that there is a quick time event to enter a code, with not even an animation to show fingers desperately dancing across keys as sweat drips from a pharmacological brow, would you think that was fun? That’s not fun.

BOSH

For a dollar though? A dollar that goes to Amnesty? It might be worthwhile if that were to happen. Maybe it’ll even be loads of fun once you reach the surface (I’ve seen it in screenshots and trailers!). Aiming for ten million preorders before taking any of the money was perhaps slightly ambitious and it’s one of the stranger sales schemes I’ve ever seen. Shame this one is attempting to be deceptive as well and seems little more than a marketing ploy. That’s a shame in a world where most games are not only becoming free but are actually the heads of major charities. Frozen Synapse was last seen working for Medecins Sans Frontieres in the Congo. True story.

It’s an ambitious game, certainly, but I’d much rather have explored this world in an isometric RPG as first planned. Do you know what that RPG was going to be called? Bourgeoisie: Pearl of the Wastelands. That’d be worth a dollar for its name alone and it is the literal opposite of the name AFTERfall: insaNITY, which could be either a black metal band/album or a blood-soaked computer game. Bourgeoisie: Pearl of the Wastelands would either be a fascinating and possibly flawed computer game, or the greatest train in the history of steam.

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52 Comments »

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  1. Squishpoke says:

    I’d buy that for a dollar!

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      Thermal Ions says:

      I suspect it’ll be more a case of having to buy it for $33.90 (given their unlikelihood of getting anywhere near 10 million pre-orders).

    • Therlun says:

      Indeed.
      If they don’t reach ten million copies the price will go up to $34 for everyone, including those who preordered for $1!

      Since they will never reach that number this is at best a poor marketing stunt, at worst a scam.

    • Salt says:

      Yeah, I’d like to point out that this deal is not at all what it first appears to be.

      You pay $1 now and IF AND ONLY IF ten million other people pre-order, you get the game.

      No game has ever got near 10,000,000 pre-orders (even for a dollar), so it’s fairly safe to assume that will not be the case here. Therefore the deal works out as:

      “Pay $1.11, most of that is given to charity (some to Paypal, some to the Afterfall people for handling), and when the game is released you get $1 off the normal retail price.”

      It really is more effective to just donate $1 to a charity of your choice.

    • wccrawford says:

      Yeah, this is a scam. I’m surprised PayPal hasn’t locked their account yet. That’s what they usually do for normal pre-orders, let alone scammy ones.

      There’s no way I’m pledging a dollar that will just be given to a charity of their choosing. When I give to charity -I- choose which charity to give to. If they want me to preorder their game, they’d best provide something.

      And from the review, it doesn’t sound like I’ll get much for a dollar, let alone $35.

    • Adam Smith says:

      Just had to doublecheck small print to verify that and have made it clear now. Disingenuity ahoy!

    • Squishpoke says:

      I blame you, Smith.

      /shakes fist

    • Adam Smith says:

      I’m an guileless rube in a big bad world. Last time I visited a carnival I got scammed so hard I precipitated the current financial crisis.

    • Knufinke says:

      Great trailer btw:
      “Give us your money! Change the world!
      IT WILL ONLY COST A DOLLAR IF A BAZILLION OTHER LOONEYS BUY OUR CRAP!”

      (edit:thatsnicer)
      Either way you feel bad for not having spend the money to charity OR getting the game for a dollar. Bad business practice, bad marketing and really bad idea.

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      Oozo says:

      Looks like somebody learned all the wrong lessons from the success of the Humble Indie Bundle. Can’t help hoping that it backfires.

  2. Dawngreeter says:

    I have no idea what this is but I’ll go buy it. And then maybe read about what exactly I bought.

    • Dawngreeter says:

      Oh. PayPal. I can’t buy it because it won’t play with money from Serbia. Awesome. :-/

    • Dawngreeter says:

      Yeah, just read all that and found out that I saved me a dollar. Who knew not being able to use PayPal could be a good thing.

  3. Jhoosier says:

    “Originally, the Polish team behind it ”

    “It’s an attractive game at times but it’s lacking polish”

    I’m evidently too tired after work. Help?

    • LennyLeonardo says:

      Don’t worry, Polish isn’t the most important thing in the world.

    • arienette says:

      There are plenty of Polish on this game, another blatant lie! I’m never reading RPS again.

    • Ergates_Antius says:

      Just in case this isn’t a joke

      Polish = “from Poland”
      polish = “shinyness (noun)” or “to make shiny (verb)”

    • Jhoosier says:

      Ergates: I may be fried from a week at work, but I know the difference between a capital letter ;)

      Perhaps I should’ve Polished my comment a bit before submitting it.

    • WJonathan says:

      I’m confused too, guess I need to polish up my Polish.

  4. Igor Hardy says:

    I will not support this project, if only because they keep trying to fool people it’s an independently developed game, while it isn’t any more or less independent than, say, Rage or Assassin’s Creed.

    • Dana says:

      Except Rage was funded and published by Bethesda.

    • Shooop says:

      Are you saying the retroactive pricing and disturbingly vague “charity of our choice” instead of a name you can look up and confirm isn’t at all suspicious to you?

    • Igor Hardy says:

      @Dana Yes, this one’s funded and published by Nicholas Games instead of Bethesda – a considerably smaller publisher, but it makes it exactly the same in terms of independence.

      @Shooop It is. But big companies getting more and more audacious about claiming their games are indie somehow irks me more. The 1$ funding method here is connected to the “we’re indie!” marketing anyway.

    • kmh says:

      @Shoop they are so much “indie” that they are on Warsaw Stock Exchange. Some time ago they change name from “Nicolas Games” to “Nicolas Entertainment Group” and all that jazz.

      http://www.negroup.eu/

      pretty funny stuff

  5. Shooop says:

    Holy blatant scams Batman!

    “You bought it for this much, but since sales are lower than expected we’re going to charge you more!”

    And “a charity of our choice” instead of a name you can look up and confirm shouldn’t earn anyone’s vote of confidence.

    • gummibanane says:

      Exactly what I was thinking. I mean if you want to donate for charity, why not give the money to A REAL CHARITY COMPANY in the first place. Better than an indie-developer from Poland with a dubious marketing agenda. Just look at http://www.extra-life.org, charity AND gaming done right.

    • Kinch says:

      @gummibanane: So Amnesty International is an ‘unreal charity’? The game is unreal… unreal-powered. ;)

      Couldn’t care less about the price, just hope the game is good enough.

  6. russ says:

    This whole marketing angle just feels *wrong*. They’re throwing out a disingenuous promise of a $1 game and associating themselves with charity while taking no real hit on their final sales price. Sounds like a killer marketing plan right? The problem is that instead of feeling good about supporting a developer and a charity at the same time, I just feel like I’m getting taken for a ride.

  7. Khemm says:

    I was so excited when this game was announced as an isometric, turn based RPG.
    This I couldn’t care less about, what have they done. :(

    • lgs says:

      They’ve done amateur Dead Space clone. I never asked for this.

  8. Juan Carlo says:

    This looks like it could be a good game (who knows). But the marketing scheme is so God-awful retarded that I won’t be playing the game just to send them a message about what dumb fucks they are.

    10,000,000 copies? Seriously? I’m not even sure if the last Battlefield game sold that much. When I first heard it I assumed it was a joke, but then I read about it some more and realized they were serious.

    And everything I’ve read about this game on the internet has just been people talking about how stupid the “1 dollar” marketing scheme is rather than the game itself. So it seems to have backfired big time on them. They need to identify whoever came up with that idea and fire the shit out of him. They probably just wanted some attention–which they have gotten–but in the process they have also completely tarnished the reputation of the game and their studio before the game was ever even released.

  9. Vexing Vision says:

    The Scam-alarm is ringing loudly on this one. There’s a lovely thread in the forums somewhere where the same people try to tell other people to just give one $. Interestingly, they do this over a lot of forums.

    Yeah, not going to bother about what sounds like an interesting title until it’s actually become a real, finished, physical product.

  10. m3metix says:

    So just to be clear, if they don’t reach 10,000,000 pre-orders then everyone will have to pay full price and NO MONEY will go to Amnesty International? That seems like some serious bullshit. If that’s the case then I hope no one buys their game and everyone involved loses their job. For real.

    • Unaco says:

      Nearly, but not quite… I think. If they don’t reach the 10,000,000 pre-orders, then everyone will have to pay full price and ALL OF THE $1s will go to Amnesty International. I think. That’s how I’m reading it.

    • Kinch says:

      And you get the facts from your own head, right? m3metix?

      http://www.afterfall-universe.com/en/rules

      2.3. If by Release Date Seller will collect 10,000,000 (ten million) of orders, the final retail price for the Key for the Game will be offered $1 for Buyers. In this case, Manufacturer (according to his declaration) will transfer to charity an amount of 10% of the total amount of orders made ​​in the sale of the PRE-ORDER.

      2.4. If the condition is not described in the previous section, the final selling price in the ordinary (normal) basis will be $ 33.90 and the total amount received by the Manufacturer of pre-orders (less the costs incurred by him) will be transferred by the Manufacturer to charity (in accordance with the Manufacturer’s declaration) .

  11. noom says:

    The term “action-horror” doesn’t quite sit right with me, it must be said.

  12. Strange_guy says:

    I just quickly looked at the current humble bundle sales (and looked back on rps articles on the previous bundles) to get an idea of how much cheap games with some sort of charity focus sell. Doesn’t look there was even 1,000,000 sales between all 5 bundles so far. 10,000,000 is a ridiculous figure, and really just makes the developer look bad.

    In fact looking on wikipedias list of best selling video games only Valve, Blizzard and the Sims games have more than, or that amount of sales on the PC. (Doesn’t include sales for digital distribution, but the points remains).

    • Shuck says:

      Yeah, plus when you consider that those sales numbers for the best-selling PC games tend to be the ones that had continuously solid sales, sometimes for up to a decade, usually with games that were sequels in popular series, this is especially silly. I’m guessing that they looked at the pre-order numbers for the game with the most pre-orders of all time (which would have been across multiple platforms), a number they couldn’t possibly reach, and multiplied it by some number, making it extra-impossible to actually reach that figure.
      It would have been interesting if they had figured out price-points and sales numbers and set a reachable number at an affordable price, but oh well…

  13. ZIGS says:

    Good thing there’s gonna be a demo for this. Also, even though this scheme is absolutely ridiculous, the developers ARE getting a lot of attention, which may have been their point all along. Although they could’ve set the goal to like 1 million (still never happening), still get all the attention and didn’t come off as retards/scammers

    • Shuck says:

      Well considering that they set their pre-order goal by taking an impossible-to-reach number and then multiplying it, they clearly knew that the only thing they could get out of this was attention. (Specifically, they were obviously trying to get naive would-be buyers to spread the word to try to reach the impossible goal. Free “viral” advertising.) When all the disgruntled “buyers” realize they haven’t actually bought anything with that dollar, they may wish they had come up with another promotional scheme, however.
      The problem with selling 1 million copies at $1 (minus 10% to charity, minus transaction and download fees) is that they would be lucky to only be broke once they paid off development costs. Plus, those million buyers would represent most, if not all, of their market, so they’d be unlikely to sell many more copies beyond that at full price.

  14. Jimbo says:

    I think the first paragraph of this article still needs work. You basically open by announcing that you can preorder this game for $1 and then conclude that you actually can’t do that at all.

    • ZIGS says:

      It’s available to preorder for a mere $1 at the moment, but unless 9,980,000 more copies are sold before release on November 25th you’ll rather dubiously end up paying the full amount of $33.90

      I think it’s fairly clear

    • Jimbo says:

      Yes, because it’s been changed ;)

  15. catmorbid says:

    Wow, these guys really are insaNE!.

  16. Phasma Felis says:

    There’s an idea some folks in the tabletop RPG industry are trying on called the “ransom model”. Basically a popular designer says “I’ve written a game, here’s why it’s awesome, I will release it for free download as soon as there’s a total of $X in my PayPal donation account.” It sidesteps piracy rather neatly, but it is heavily dependent on the designer’s ability to sell it.

    These guys almost did that, but not quite there.

    (Anyway I sadly suspect it wouldn’t work as well in video games, given the sort of fits that some gamers have when they paid for something that someone else subsequently gets for free.)

  17. MadMinstrel says:

    I was wondering where I heard the name, and then I remembered! This was supposed to be a spiritual successor to Fallout way back before Fallout 3 saw the light of day. It was really interesting at that point! … And then they proceeded to take away the isometric perspective. And then the atmosphere. And then the RPG elements. And now with this scam thing they’ve entirely dissipated any goodwill towards the project I had left.

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