Steer Clear Of Armikrog For A Bit

I’m in the process of reviewing the long-awaited and repeatedly delayed spiritual successor to The Neverhood, Armikrog [official site]. And when I say “in the process of”, what I of course mean is, “starting the whole thing again because it’s so damned broken that it won’t trigger a vital cutscene meaning I can’t carry on.” And that’s just one of very many glitches and issues I’ve hit, and they’re just a small fraction of what’s being reported in angry Steam fora.

You might want to hold of buying this until some hefty patches have arrived.

And it’s a real shame, because the animation is just stunning. Some exquisite stop-motion work, in gorgeous sets, makes it a real visual treat. But right now, that’s where the fun ends. It really is a colossal mess, and that’s despite a release day-announced delay at the start of last month.

From the god-awful menus (broken in some languages, requiring you to change the language settings of Windows to fix!), and the optionless options which insanely contain Save/Load, to the default Windows cursor, it feels deeply unfinished. There’s no object highlighting to an extraordinary level, where objects that will soon be useful don’t react if clicked on before they’re ready. There’s certainly no “look at” option, but Armikrog goes even further with stripping down the adventure to almost nothing, by not even having an accessible inventory either. It’s done for you when you arbitrarily click. And arbitrary it really is, as the character magically produces objects before I’ve found them, opening the game up in all the wrong order.

Sound is a disaster, with voices often sounding like they’ve been gagged and sealed in a barrel, the music occasionally just vanishing. And for one character in one location, the voice has disappeared meaning they pantomime in silence. And now I’ve reached a point where, perhaps because I’ve inadvertently solved puzzles I shouldn’t have the parts for yet (although it’s anyone’s guess), it won’t trigger the introduction of one of the game’s key characters – the baby. The only reason I know this is because after clicking around randomly at every pixel on every screen, I gave up and wondered if anyone had made a YouTube walkthrough yet – thanks random Russian guy who has, because I got to see what should have happened when I went into the baby’s room, and now know I need to start the whole shitty thing over again.

So yes – don’t put yourself through this. Yet, at least. Although that doesn’t bode well, as one of the developers when asked about the barrage of bug reports rather extraordinarily replied on the Steam forums saying,

“There are a few minor issues, but the game is done and we’re quite happy and proud of it.”

I’m going to do my best to finish the game so I can enjoy the amazing animation, and will have a review if I’m able.

25 Comments

  1. Wowbagger says:

    Woooaaaaahhhnelly!

  2. Fomorian1988 says:

    “There are a few minor issues, but the game is done and we’re quite happy and proud of it.”

    Wow. Even WB pulled Batman: Arkham Knight off the shelves because of how buggy it is, and I don’t think it was broken to the level that John describes. Unless Armikrog gets seriously patched, I doubt I’ll purchase it at all, considering the attitude shown in this statement.

    • LionsPhil says:

      Haven’t there been enough games killed by the early, opinion-forming reviews being “too buggy to play, avoid”, regardless of any future bugfixing effort, for people to have learnt this yet?

      • MadMinstrel says:

        No, there have not. Learn from other people’s mistakes: if it’s buggy, don’t release it.

        • Premium User Badge

          John Walker says:

          In this case, they may have felt they had no choice. They’d already had two eleventh hour delays, and backers were getting pretty riled about it. A third, which they clearly should have done, might have seen internet-riots.

          • MadMinstrel says:

            They had the option of releasing the game to backers only, clearly marked as a beta. There’s no excuse for selling it to a wide audience in its current state.

          • Lars Westergren says:

            That’s one of the big problems I see with crowdfunding (though I love it). If an IT project is getting delayed, you can

            a) Try to add more people. Rarely works, people need time to get productive, more people means more communication overhead, some tasks can’t be parallellized. See “Mythical Man-Month”
            b) Beg/force people to work harder, faster, longer. Usually only works for a very short while (a week or two, max) before diminishing returns kicks in, fatigue leads to more bugs and large decrease in creative thinking and problem solving. You also get employee dissatisfaction. Absurdly in many parts of the game industry this is the norm though…for months or years at a time.
            c) Cut quality. And see where that got Batman: AK.
            d) Delay release. Can work, but if you do it for too long people can get upset, and on some projects it can mean that you miss a market window. Competitors come out with a quick rip-off clone to steal your thunder (if they are scum), or simply had the same idea but delivered a good product earlier than you.
            e) Reduce scope and release early so you can get feedback on what needs improvement the most – the solution I favor. But with Kickstarters you usually have promised a certain set of features, so your hands are more or less tied. One solution here is to admit that you can’t do the full game but deliver it in parts – Broken Age, or Shadowrun where stretch goal Dragonfall campaign became it’s own stand-alone title.

            Programming and game development – tricky stuff.

  3. Majjic_Mjuk says:

    A game walkthrough might not be the most creatively demanding form, but it still took time and effort. Doesn’t this “random Russian guy” deserve a mention for – you know – preparing and uploading a helpful video?
    Or maybe he would’ve gotten a mention if he was an anglophone, eh?
    I sure am nitpicky, but attribution is next to godliness.

    • Premium User Badge

      John Walker says:

      Imagine thinking that was worth writing.

      • Majjic_Mjuk says:

        Ditto.

      • Majjic_Mjuk says:

        Oh, wait – you’re the author, aren’t you? Ha! Great. In that case, “imagine” you missed out on all those nice clicks you’ve got from (for example) links in PCGamer leading to this very article.
        I can understand some random commenter not getting why source attribution is important, but you should really know better, don’t you think?
        After all, that “random Russian” enabled you to do your job.
        This is funny.

      • Premium User Badge

        Aerothorn says:

        I’m not entirely sure where you’re coming from here, John. The anglophone comment is a bit much, but then, so is “random russian”). It seems like a reasonable ask about the RPS writing request that deserves more than a mocking (un-excellent!) response.

        • silentdan says:

          This is just how John is. You can expect better of the rest of the RPS staff and not be disappointed, but John Walker will reliably let you down.

      • Urthman says:

        Remember that the next time John begs you to turn off your adblock.

        • Urthman says:

          Hey, I want to apologize for that stupid snarky comment about adblocking. I think John was right to wave away the silly idea that he didn’t give someone a link because of some anti-Russian bias.

          What I should have said was, Hey, RPS, I heartily agree with the idea that you should put in a link any time you mention something cool or useful and amateur has done on the web.

      • Stimpack says:

        I honestly can’t say I’m very interested in this game, but I can say that I’m interested in these comments. He’s not wrong, John, but at least you were a jerk to him about it.

  4. AyeBraine says:

    Yes, sadly had to refund it yesterday. I’ve instantly backed it without rewards for more than its price, and even talked with the devs about making a Russian localization for it (it turned out later that the person that “hired” me was a more extravagant member of the team who left it for “medical reasons”). I’ve turned down jobs and large projects for half a year because of that.

    Two years later I bought Armikrog and broke the game completely in 30 minutes.

    I think I can feel how chaotic the atmosphere was in-house (they’ve documented how they’re using unpaid enthusiastic animators a lot, but never said anything at all about programming side), so I’m not sure it will be fixed anytime soon. I will buy it later, I’m not bitter, but this is not a very cheerful story overall. I don’t feel that I will be cheering for Tommynaut and Beak-Beak the way that cooing and doting fans do right now in Russian fan groups (and TenNapel has a LOT of fans in Russia – pirate distribution made Neverhood a “platinum” hit here).

  5. hungrycookpot says:

    It’s a bit of a mixed message when you’re advertising it on your front page.

  6. Sam says:

    Seems a fairly straightforward message to me: “We’re being indirectly paid to show adverts for this game, but maintain our independent opinion that it’s currently a bit poop.”

    Infinitely preferable to a site that wouldn’t publish this article because they’re running ads for the game.

  7. Bfox says:

    I tend to not buy games made by known homophobes anyway;

    • TheTingler says:

      He didn’t make Armikrog, he designed the lead character. That’s the extent of his involvement.

    • peresabcod says:

      Why does it matter? he’s not using the money to find a cure for homosexuality

  8. waltC says:

    “There are a few minor issues, but the game is done and we’re quite happy and proud of it.”

    Translation: “We’re very proud of the new cars & homes we’re buying with the $800,000 we had left over after we decided to call it a wrap! Thanks, bunches, folks! But we’ll be back ’cause we luv kickstarter–new nameplate, new disguises, new company, new pitch, yea, man! Ain’t life grand?”

    • TheTingler says:

      It’s probably quite the opposite. $800,000 was far too low an amount for this type of ambitious game and they probably spent it all months ago.