Forget Me Not: Lethe Is Physics Plus Horror

Lethe is Psi Ops meets Amnesia, as I have already established. A new dollop of alpha footage confirms my previous thinking, showing a first-person horror game in which the protagonist mostly runs away from monsters, but occasionally gestures toward them in the hope that they’ll fall down. He emit gusts, you see, which is apparently some type of superpower if your hands are involved, but is simply considered ‘bad form’ if orifices are the origin of the blast.

Along with the gusting, there’s a bit of hiding, a bit of barrel-bashing and a bit of running away.

I’m not sure that dark, splashy tunnels are the most exciting part of a game to show off, but I suppose the entirety of Lethe might take place in dark, splashy tunnels. Hopefully there’ll be some variety so that lead character Robert Dawn doesn’t nod off in a puddle. Perhaps some environments like the one in the screenshot at the top of this post would keep him engaged.

He’s having a bad enough day with all of the grumbling monster-meanies so it seems unfair to make him spend all of his time in what may or may not be a sewer level. Lead developer and superbly named individual John Koukourakis has taken to the official website to explain Bob Dawn’s reduced powers:

…originally, besides telekinesis, in Lethe you could master a bunch of different “magic powers” like fireballs, bolts etc. Later though we realized that we had given the player too much power. Most testers were approaching the game as a classic shooter. Getting rid of everything but telekinesis made things way more interesting. Testers would no longer stand and shoot whatever was moving, instead for the first time they were using stealth and the environment to survive. The downside of those changes was that we had to throw away 4 game levels. But you know how it is, “if you’re going to do something do it right or don’t do it at all”.

I appreciate the desire to make a game that’s almost entirely about physics but the video doesn’t quite convince. Everything that Mr Dawn does seems like something he could have done with his hands if he’d taken another couple of steps toward the object in question. I’m not suggesting he should be threading a needle six miles away, but I’d like to see him being a bit more adventurous. At the minute he seems like the kind of chap who might use his telekinetic powers to change channels on the telly instead of getting up to find the remote, or to turn the kettle on before he gets out of bed in the morning.

13 Comments

  1. A Gentleman and a Taffer says:

    Gusting!? No no no, you really need to consider changing that.

  2. Jackablade says:

    This is looking like it sheol be a rather more enjoyable experience than Amnesia.

  3. MacBeth says:

    he seems like the kind of chap who might use his telekinetic powers to change channels on the telly instead of getting up to find the remote, or to turn the kettle on before he gets out of bed in the morning.

    That is basically what I would do with telekinetic powers, so I don’t have a problem with it…

  4. Frosty Grin says:

    “Everything that Mr Dawn does seems like something he could have done with his hands if he’d taken another couple of steps toward the object in question.”

    And the thing is, it might seem easier for the protagonist, but is actually more difficult for the player – because aiming is more difficult when the object is farther. I guess it’s one of the reasons why the video doesn’t quite convince.

    • Baines says:

      It already looks silly when an FPS has ‘held’ objects floating in mid-air in front of an invisible player, and it is a bit silly thinking about how you can vacuum up objects that may be out of reach for a person standing stock still.

      It actually feels sillier watching this game’s video, with its slightly further range. It doesn’t look far enough to be usefully different from an average no-special-powers first person game, but it looks like a bit too far for a no-special-powers game. It also felt silly watching the floating burning cardboard box, which almost seemed like an inventory item in a point-and-click adventure.

      I don’t know. Maybe it will be a decent game, but there just doesn’t seem to be anything shown so far that makes me think it will be interesting.

  5. Tjee says:

    The whole concept about Amnesia being scary is because you are so ‘powerless’.

    • Kaffka says:

      Exactly my thought too. Given the player “power” / Making him feel powerfull will only reduce the horror.
      (Nice engine though)

      • Razumen says:

        Depends on the power though, if it doesn’t an edge over monsters and mostly give a false sense of security at first, I’m all for it. As for games that give the player no power, for example I found Outlast to be rather boring quickly since every encounter was run and hide, over and over and over over…whereas some of my most scared moments where in games that I had some ability to fight back, like in Fatal Frame.

        • rcguitarist says:

          And Betrayer. You had weapons like a bow and arrow and a musket, but like in real life they are weak and cumbersome to use which made you question whether you should even try to attack at all. And when you were spotted by an enemy, genuine fear kicked in because you never really knew if you were going to survive, but you knew that a fight against even two enemies was going to be a struggle.

    • Distec says:

      And YMMV on that. I think games that completely strip away your power often become less scary, because it removes ambiguity from any given encounter. Press forward->See monster->Flee->Repeat seems to be the primary (and only) loop those games have. Don’t get me wrong, they can still provide frights. But the game’s rules become very explicit, and I personally find it harder to be scared when those mechanics are laid so bare.

      I think Frictional Games has expressed a lot of good thinking in their dev blogs and Gamasutra articles on what makes a good horror experience, and they’ve made salient points about where most horror games break down and basically convert into action experiences. But I don’t think they should be held up as some pinnacle of the genre or that more scary games should be using Amnesia as a baseline to take cues from. It feels like there’s a new “Run From Monster” game announced every month as it is.

  6. disconnect says:

    Adam, you don’t sound too pumped for this.

  7. AXAXAXAS MLO II: MLO HARDER says:

    Until Robert Noun hid when the baddies arrived, it looked like Bioshock’s Telekinesis Plasmid: The Game. Which isn’t bad at all. Let me throw barrels at the baddies plz thx.

  8. Rindan says:

    Crate smashing got boring roughly 20 years ago. I don’t understand why games feel the need to make me smash all the boxes on the off chance there is a +10 health or whatever. It is boring. No one likes it. Stop making it a thing in FPSs.

    While we are at it, we could also stop making RPGs it makes sense to loot every single fucking container every three steps. Looting is fun when you murder something or find the secret whatever. It isn’t fun when it is a compulsive activity you do every 10 seconds.