Necro-Nauty But Nice: Deadnaut

Whenever I’ve been away from my computer for a couple of days, I browse through new releases on Steam and elsewhere, hoping that something interesting will have slithered outta nowhere like an RKO. Usually I’m at least vaguely aware of a games existence long before it’s actually available to buy, which means I rarely enjoy an experience like the one that went along with my discovery of Deadnaut this morning. It’s from the creators of the personality-packed and almost-great Zafehouse: Diaries, has a demo, and it sounds like Dungeon of the Endless meets Space Hulk by way of Betrayal at House on the Hill. It shall be mine.

What do we think of the name? Deadnaut? It’s a bit silly isn’t it?

Deadnauts, so named because they’re unlikely to return, must explore, investigate and fight their way through the derelict ships of dead civilisations.

With that little description it becomes a great name. Imagine being the person who signs up to become a Deadnaut? The person hiring doesn’t even wait until the job description to tell you that you’re going to spend a short career surrounded by dead things while you wait to die – they put it right there in the job title. They didn’t even jazz it up by going with Necronaut and in a world where the local council probably refers to the bin-bloke as a refuse relocation facilitator, that shows a distinct lack of respect for the feelings of Deadnauts everywhere.

“I want to grow up to be an astronaut! I’ll sail the stars!” “I want to grow up to be a Deadnaut. I’ll sail the DEAD.”

I like games that have user interface built into the fiction. Uplink is probably my favourite example of that particular device and I won’t know how well Deadnaut’s implementation works until I play the blasted thing, which I’ll be doing as soon as I have a couple of hours spare. Hopefully later today.

Here’s the feature list:

Squad-based tactics: Control five complex characters as they explore, investigate and fight their way through each mission

Character generation: Create back stories for your team, mould their relationships and equip them well

Every game is unique: Dynamically-generated missions and campaigns ensure no two mysteries are the same

Flexible and complex: Adapt to your situation with an arsenal of weapons and shields, or use stealth, hacking and sensors to move unnoticed

Out of control: Deadnauts have their own fears, motivations and dispositions. Stay in charge, keep in contact, don’t let them out of your sight

I’ve seen complaints about the lack of a tutorial but I’ve also seen lots of excitement about the mystery and the horror of it all. Quite how the creatures on board each ship are generated, I don’t know, but it seems like there are plenty of unpleasant surprises. What you don’t know can and will kill you. You’re a Deadnaut after all.

Try the demo immediately.

21 Comments

  1. JB says:

    Ooh, and there’s a demo. Excellent.

  2. Wowbagger says:

    I was interested until I saw how the player interaction with the deadnaughts works – kind of lost interest at that point as it looks very low fi, the beasties were just red blobs.

    • statistx says:

      Well to be fair, their previous game Zafehouse Diaries was a book with still Images.
      But I know what you mean. I am mainly choosing games for their gameplay and not graphics, but if it is that low fi, as you call it, I am hesitating too.

  3. Synesthesia says:

    This looks great! Thank god there is a demo.

  4. Napalm Sushi says:

    The trope of interpreting a world through limited sensory instruments and a minimal display reminds me of the excellent Capsule. (link to store.steampowered.com)

    • Hex says:

      I am…such an idiot. I remember scouring the internets looking for a place where I could purchase this game — and I could have sworn it was more recently than Feb 2012, when Steam is saying it was added to their store — but all I could find was the dev’s site, and I don’t like throwing my billing info around willy-nilly on every other website out there.

      And here it is on Steam.

      Thank you for your random linkage. :)

  5. ExitDose says:

    This sounded great. Then I played it. I want someone to steal these ideas and make something great with them. This had so many great things going for it, but this combination just didn’t work for me. The aspect that works against it the most is that the difficulty is so high, from the start, that you never get the opportunity to tinker with its systems enough for it to get its hooks into you. I’ve played three games of this and none of them made it beyond a few minutes.

    • Hex says:

      I dunno, I’ve played a lot of games that start out this way. Don’t Starve, Dungeons of Dredmore, Risk of Rain, Atom Zombie Smasher, Hack, Slash, Loot, Doorkickers, FTL, Bionic Dues, Super Meat Boy, Teleglitch, Stealth Bastard, Spelunky, Steam Marines.

      The list goes on and on (and on).

      • ExitDose says:

        I’ve played and enjoyed most of those, and I don’t really see the connection. Most of those games still ramp up their difficulty. Occasionally you can be unlucky and have a run that falls flat on its face right off the bat, but that’s still a rarity.

        • Hex says:

          Ha, I guess I’m just slow, then.

          Many of those games aren’t particularly difficult once you figure out what you’re doing, but I’m pretty sure in just about every one of them, I just got demolished in my first two or three attempts.

          Some of them, like Steam Marines, Teleglitch, and Don’t Starve, I’m still much more likely to die within a very short time than to make any headway. And I have 77 hours logged in Don’t Starve. :(

          • Napalm Sushi says:

            Christ, Steam Marines. I’ve still not played a lot of it, but I’ve yet to successfully lead a squad out of the starting room.

          • Hex says:

            Right?!

  6. Hex says:

    The fuck?

    This looks awesome!

  7. eggy toast says:

    This whole article is about “I found this thing on Steam let me tell you about it” and there is no link to the Steam page for the game.

    A+

    • Hex says:

      Wow, these poor people just can’t win.

      There’s a link to the official site.

      If he’d linked to the Steam page, somebody would have complained about that.

    • Cronstintein says:

      Good point!
      Typing Deadnaut into the steam search was really hard, luckily I’m a computer expert.

  8. Lord Custard Smingleigh says:

    I just finished a couple of (swiftly and terminally ended) games. I haven’t yet cleared a ship, so bear that in mind.

    I suddenly “got” this game when one of my Deadnauts got trapped in a six foot passageway by a door closing behind her. The ship’s simpleminded “Watcher” caretaker AI, normally a harmless annoyance, had decided that the open door was untidy. My Deadnaut was claustrophobic, so she panicked and stopped taking orders and just stood there panicking, her vital signs spiking as her brainwave pattern went wild. I tried to order the nearest Deadnaut to help, but a burst of audio interference prevented him from getting the order, so I had to scoot over to the mission control panel to boost the audio signal before I could order him to let her out. He frantically tried to open the door, but the Watcher kept locking it faster than he could unlock it. The trapped Deadnaut’s vital signs were starting to fluctuate. The rest of the team sent the Watcher off on a wild goose chase by opening doors nearby, then when the AI went to close them again my Tech dived into the local network and set up a firewall to keep it at bay a little longer while my other Deadnaut forced the door. The recently-trapped Deadnaut stumbled out into the room and started to calm down.

    It’s a sci-fi horror simulator. You’re Lambert, shrieking down the communicator, able to do nothing but watch as the motion tracker shows an anomalous signal change direction and start closing with Dallas at a terrifying speed. You’re Lieutenant Gorman in Aliens, shouting directions his soldiers can’t hear over the roar of battle as the list of vital signs cut off one by one.

    • jonahcutter says:

      I played around in the demo a bit, and so far this is a good description of it. There’s a surprising amount of systems to play around with it seems. It’s not only combat. It really does try to simulate putting you in command in the actual environment, staring at a screen on your own craft while trying to get your troops to hear you, to listen to you and to deal with all manner of crises.

      The graphics are clean and effective. I thought I was going to be turned off by their seeming simplicity, but I was pretty quickly sucked into the experience and stopped caring about the lack of animated avatars.

      It has a 70/80’s feel to the equipment represented in the game, similar to Alien (movie) and Alien: Isolation. Which adds a great deal to the atmosphere and immersion. There’s a reason your troops (and enemies) are represented as little blips on a round screen: That’s the limits of your technology.

      It all seems pretty cool. Except for the troop portraits. They look like blandly pretty models in their early 20’s, from some bargain photo catalog. They’re silly and out-of-place with the game’s grim and grimy atmosphere.

  9. Flavour Beans says:

    “I like games that have user interface built into the fiction.” This. As soon as I saw the screengrab and realized that that was the game itself, I got a bit giddy. A little bit of immersion can go a long way if the game can make you feel like you’re at the controls of something.