Have You Played… Sir, You Are Being Hunted?

Have You Played? is an endless stream of game recommendations. One a day, every day of the year, perhaps for all time.

DISCLAIMER: FELLOW RPS FOUNDER JIM ROSSIGNOL AND SOME OTHER CHUMS MADE THIS GAME. DO NOT TRUST A WORD I SAY ABOUT IT.

It’s a shame that you can’t trust a word I say about Sir, You Are Being Hunted [official site] (Madam options are also available in-game, FYI), because I really do believe that there are reasons you should play it, and it’s not just a case of ‘my mate made this’.

In a year where we’ve all being going gaga after Metal Gear Solid’s open world, gadgety stealth, it’s worth remembering that a smaller game experimented with similar ideas and a far odder, more sinister theme a couple of years ago, and with an entire procedurally-generated countryside to boot. Sir is without doubt an odd one, in terms of the degree to which you’re on the back foot and how much it becomes about pure avoidance and/or running away.

In fairness, the clue’s in the name – you are being hunted, not you are hunting. But all that fear and the limited capacity to do much about it for quite some time makes it an acquired taste.

When I play it – which I do surprisingly often – it’s for the unsettling, familiar pleasure of hanging around in Sir’s robot-haunted moors rather than with any intention of ‘beating’ the game. (I’ve never beaten it, in fact, which is primarily because I treat it as a sort of lethal walking simulator. Sorry Jim, James and Tom!) Those moors and woodlands remind me of things I knew so well as a young lad – Hammer horror movies and being dragged on wet, windy walks with my parents every weekend.

I hated those walks then, because I wanted to read Warhammer 40,000 novels and play XCOM instead of communing with nature, but now I relish the sight of them, able to approach them at my own pace, with my own agenda. Sir is, I think, as good as it gets for recreating the essence of a very British wilderness (although the recent, more exploration and conversation-focused PS4 exclusive Everybody’s Gone The Rapture makes for an apt companion piece).

DISCLAIMER: FELLOW RPS FOUNDER JIM ROSSIGNOL AND SOME OTHER CHUMS MADE THIS GAME. DO NOT TRUST A WORD I SAY ABOUT IT.

57 Comments

  1. rustybroomhandle says:

    Yes. A robot dog bit me in the ass.

  2. Earl-Grey says:

    NEPOTISM!

  3. Arexis says:

    Picked it up in a recent Humble Bundle. One more damn piece, and I’ll have finished it. Getting back to the base with the last one is proving difficult.

  4. chase4926 says:

    For a really good video review see: link to youtube.com

    • rgbarton says:

      Real brutal review wonder what Jim Rossangal would think of it if he watched it

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    DuncUK says:

    For me, the atmosphere of this game is spot on. It replicates the musty dampness of the English countryside wonderfully, creating an atmosphere that is both familiar and yet hauntingly alien.

    It’s such a shame that one of the earliest design decisions was that buildings would not be enterable.

    When I backed this, I hoped that there would be creaky floorboards, dank cellars, dust and cobwebs to accompany the gorgeous landscapes. I had visions of and making a home of a tumbledown cottage or abandoned manor as my base of operations, nervously peaking out between the curtains before setting out for a days scavenging in the mist.

    Sadly, as implemented the buildings are little more than giant crates with procedurally generated tat in them, (half of which you quickly learn to ignore as it has no function). I understand that this limitation was a necessary concession to engine complexity, but it’s such a great shame.

    • welverin says:

      Sequel?

    • Jim Rossignol says:

      Yes, the strongest feedback we’ve had was all for buildings. I wish we could have gone there, but it wasn’t to be. I wrote about it: link to big-robot.com

      If nothing else the inability to address that feedback was a hard lesson in the limitations of making something with just a few people.

      • hammerbot says:

        Jim. The way you could have handled this situation is create a story around the problem. Since you do not have resources to make an interior for the houses you can just board all the doors and windows. Everyone has left because of the bad robots. Before leaving they gathered all their stuff into the crates but for some “clever story reason” they never had the chance to take their belongings with them. BAM problem solved. You can not enter the buildings and every building has supply crates lying around with supplies in it. This way you would not have to brake players immersion all the time by treating houses as a crates for stuff.

  6. demicanadian says:

    I wanted to love this game so much. I should love it. It has things I love:
    * Victorian, steam punk gentleman robots are cool, although I don’t like the sounds they make.
    * Arma-like head movement is enough for me to buy this game as a thank you.
    * It does a good job on making you feel hunted. Once again I could compare it to Arma.

    And yet I hate this game. Bad survival part (eat every five minutes, because survival), chest-buildings, and combat that feels “broken, not hard” spoiled S,YABH for me.

    • Geebs says:

      It usually takes a while to figure out the parameters of any new stealth game (guard FOV, distraction time, noise thresholds etc.), and during that period they often seem more punishing than they really are.

      Thing is, in SYABH, the stealth gameplay never settles down to anything actually fun; for example, there’s never any point trying to distract the robots, because the distractors have a tiny range and last about 2 seconds.

      • Shadow says:

        Yes, something like that. The game is centered around stealth, but it doesn’t manage to implement its central concept in a fun or interesting way. Coupled with the repetitiveness and the overall barebones feeling, it just didn’t stick.

    • Juan Carlo says:

      This game just proves that “procedural generation” and “stealth” go together like peanut butter and pickled herring. Stealth takes actual human design to make things interesting, otherwise sneaking around for hours is just tedious. It’s a half shrug of a game that coasted mostly on its kind of unique art style and humor, which are amusing for 5 minutes, but after that just tedious. It only could have ever been a viable product in that odd, brief, era in PC gaming history known as the post-steam indie game bubble.

      • Jim Rossignol says:

        I don’t agree! I think it’s a hard problem, certainly, and we only scraped the surface, but I think we showed that stealth and proc-gen can work together, and I’d be *very* surprised if someone else didn’t attempt the same.

    • Jim Rossignol says:

      James will be glad you liked the head tracking and that you compared it to Arma. (He worked on Arma 2!)

  7. Baranor says:

    Played it, mapped my procedural world, liked it, killed loads of robots with an axe in it, finished it an deinstalled it.

    All in all good fun.

  8. Chaoslord AJ says:

    I have to say I got the game somewhere in the later beta and didn’t like it at all, don’t know if it’s better now.
    I love steampunk and brit stuff and sneaking and open world so I’m the target audience but there’s no variation except fetch a piece and bring it back to base. I did this a few times then realized it’ll be all the same the rest of the game or at least for some hours so I just stopped right there.

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      Phasma Felis says:

      I think the extra bit may lie in deciding on a loadout. It doesn’t take long for you to scavenge a good bit of useful stuff, and not long after that you start having to make decisions about what to carry and what to stash. Playing with, I dunno, an axe, some distractors, and as many mantraps as you can find and focusing on stealth murder is quite different from toting around a rifle, shotgun, blunderbuss, and as much ammo as you can carry.

      The eat-every-five-minutes food mechanic never bothered me because the game gives you enough to get by. By mid-late game, I had so much food that I could afford to only pack along the rare ones that give you 80-100 food at a go; everything else was either eaten when I found it (if I was feeling peckish at the time) or ignored.

  9. spacedyemeerkat says:

    One of the more disappointing Kickstarter projects I backed. Nice atmosphere but a little bit clunky and repetitive for me.

    • Guzzleguts says:

      Impressions of Kickstarter success/failure seem to be especially vulnerable to subjectivity. SYABH is honestly my favourite KS, while my worst is a tie between Dead State and Wasteland 2, which apparently other people like (???).
      Weirdly, the latter were both due to RPS exposure whereas SYABH I first saw somewhere else.
      (Wasteland 2 seems to have won a lifetime’s supply of coverage.)

      • demicanadian says:

        Wasteland 2 was the worst. If Divinity was example of “wow, this game does not look like it was kickstarted”, then Wasteland was the very reason why people have doubts about kickstarter games in the first place.
        Everything was so… inconsistent. As if every location was made by other modder, with no one to oversee the project.
        And difference between Railtown (traintown? this one from beta) and every other part of the game was baffling.

  10. Zunt says:

    Clearly we can’t trust what you say because you don’t mention that they’ve just added (or are about to add) multiplayer!

    I like this game and have even managed to beat it once. The robots range from wonderfully creepy (“What. Is. That…”) to the utterly terrifying (the Landowner). Coupled with the various biomes, it does its atmosphere very nicely.

  11. gbrading says:

    I appreciate Sir, You Are Being Hunted for what it is, its great style and atmosphere, but as a game I found it way too difficult because of the encumbrance value of the fragments you pick up. They take up so much room in the inventory that you have to do lots of backtracking. On top of that, the fragments are usually guarded by robots which means that you have to engage with them, and having any means of combating the robots is very difficult to begin with.

    • Carcer says:

      I never found it particularly difficult to tool up for combat even as the default aristocrat. It’s fairly easy to get your hands on an axe early on when the towns are not well-guarded and you can loot a bit more freely, and revolvers aren’t that rare either; the standard hunters with the shotguns are quite easy to engage in melee with the axe as their accuracy is absolutely awful as long as you keep zigzagging towards them. They’re more likely to hit at range due to the spread, so getting up close and weaving about is the best way to deal with them once they’re alert to you. So getting your hands on a shotgun isn’t too difficult either, and then you’re able to handle somewhat tougher foes. I agree that the size of some of the fragments does make for frustrating tradeoffs, but then again that’s kind of the point.

      It’s worth noting that the game’s difficulty is readily adjustable – I don’t know what it was like when you played but as of the moment you can choose from a selection of “professions” as presets which determine what equipment you start with and you can define what kind of robots (and how many of them, and when) will appear over the course of a playthrough. I think it would be an improvement if you could adjust your inventory size as another difficulty setting.

  12. Urthman says:

    I enjoyed Sir, You Are Being Hunted, particularly for the setting, but it mostly made me really, really want Big Robot to get on with making Project Lodestone.

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    Ben King says:

    I enjoyed the stealth and the entertaining decoy items- prowling through the rolling plains and woods was wonderfully tense, but I share the complaints about “chest buildings” and eating/ survival. I found myself using saves as a crutch simply because my combat encounters were so darn deadly that even if a breath-takingly narrow escape after detection saved my life in the short term more often than not I’d find myself hopelessly lost, starving to death, bleeding to death, or all three and would still wind up having to reload and try again. Tense stealth standoffs were genuinely exciting IF I was lucky enough to have a store of food and bandages, otherwise there was a lot of cowering in the briars getting hungry and hoping for an abandoned shed with food. A lot of that.

  14. sebagul says:

    The what? I thought that it still was in beta. I was expecting for it to be released this year.

    Nice. I’m going to get it. Did it made enough money to fund a sequel?

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      Phasma Felis says:

      The blog post bluerps linked below says “Sir, You Are Being Hunted has been a considerable success for us. No one is buying a yacht, of course (we’d all just drown in a horrible accident), but success has meant we’ll be able to knuckle down and work on a new game for a couple of years without major worries.”

      I don’t think it really cries out for a sequel as such, but it looks like we will be getting another game from the guys.

    • Jim Rossignol says:

      We have some beautiful ideas for a sequel… we’ll announce what we’re up to next year.

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    broshingo says:

    For those of you in the U.S., the game is currently on sale on Steam at a 90% discount!

  16. Jakkar says:

    I was doubly disappointed, in that the failure was Jim’s…

    This game cited STALKER as an influence, among other things, yet presented no living world, no ecosystem, no intelligent AI or moral greyness – no sense of simulation, no depth… A meaningless game about ‘being hunted’ that in truth involved HUNTING inferior AI by means of sitting in a bush for ten minutes waiting for a very slow-moving NPC to walk past, or fail to trigger a trap, or be swung at, and missed, with a poorly programmed axe.

    Everything that could be annoying, clunky, boring and unrewarding about it, everything that could have gone wrong with a stealth game, did.

    There was just so little thought in the designs from a ‘fun game’ perspective, so many boring gameplay loops and thankless, rewardless risk-taking in the ‘roguelike’ fashion, yet with sitting ten minutes in a bush before being permitted to take the risk. Style, but no substance, and that style was so dry, yet dark, yet frivolous it was like drinking tea by sucking on a teabag.

    I miss the game I hoped this would be. The game, I feel, that was hinted at, even offered, but never delivered.

    • Xantonze says:

      I got the same sensation. Tried to love the game for 2-3 hours, didn’t work, never came back. It was so “by the book”, like it was trying to implement the basic “stealth game 101 manual”, and dropping the english atmosphere on top of it to get some special vibe, but failed on every aspect: the game felt so dead it depressed me.
      I paid full price and somehow don’t regret it as it felt like a way to thank Mr. Rossignol from all his great work at RPS (when the site did’nt have any way to contribute), but as far as games go, it felt like a complete, utter failure to me.

    • Jim Rossignol says:

      I’m sorry you felt that way about it, Jakkar. And I am sure the rest of the team will be eager to share the blame for that “failure” ;)

      But yes: I know we didn’t meet everyone’s tastes or standards, and the response was nothing if not divided. And I do hold a candle for Stalker, but that was a game with 7 years and 30 people, so we could only ever hope to be a shadow of its excellence. Perhaps what we do next will be more to your tastes.

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    zigguratvertigo says:

    Memorable, atmospheric, distinctive. It never stopped being exciting. On a related note, why was Jim’s departure from RPS not covered in any way? One of the most inspiring writers on games that I have yet encountered leaves the wonderful site he created but you the reader of said site wouldn’t know it unless you look at the list of names at the bottom of the screen, as though it’s just another thing that happens, not worth bothering about really… Some kind of goodbye was called for, surely?

    • Premium User Badge

      Bluerps says:

      I was confused by that too. He was just gone from the list, one day. He wrote a bit about it (well, a single paragraph) on his blog: link to jimrossignol.com

    • Flit says:

      Huh, I guess he simply drifted into his next calling in life, much like Kieron but with less fanfare.

      Well, better late than never: Goodbye Jim! It’s been fun.

    • Jim Rossignol says:

      I didn’t feel like it was appropriate to make a big huzzah about it, to be honest. I sort of drifted away over the period of Sir’s development, rather than there being a single moment when I was gone. So there wasn’t a departure to really announce as such.

      Thanks, anyway! I hope I will do stuff you’ll like in the future.

  18. alms says:

    I hated those walks then, because I wanted to read Warhammer 40,000 novels and play XCOM instead of communing with nature

    No chance we would trust one word you said in this post, anyway.

  19. Innocent Dave says:

    Somehow it never quite clicked with me, but I still go back every now and then for a few hours of robot-stalking. The world generation is a wonder to behold, and I often wish I could spend more time wandering around and admiring it, rather than peering through hedges at distant red lights and crapping myself.

    Considering I choose to spend most of my free time playing an intricate game of cat and mouse through the actual British countryside against actual toffs with guns, it amazes me that this wasn’t the perfect game for me, and I’m very much looking forwards to whatever Big Robot do next.

    • Carcer says:

      Just FYI, you can create a world in which no robots will be spawned using the Edit Robots button at world generation, so if you do want to just have a gander at some procedurally generated scenery you can do that now.

    • Jim Rossignol says:

      Yep, as mentioned there’s loads of control over this stuff in the back end. We probably didn’t do enough to communicate that, and it’s really only obvious if you explore the back end a bit. But it is there!

  20. epeternally says:

    I felt very vindicated to see Super Bunnyhop both tear into this and name it his worst game of 2014. To say I didn’t enjoy SYABH is an understatement, I’d characterize it as being mechanically flawed to the point of becoming basically unplayable. Though damn if the art style isn’t lovely. To each their own, I guess, but whatever other people see in this one, I certainly don’t. Bad stealth, bad mechanics, bad execution of concept, repetition, and monotony is this game in a nutshell. I feel like it gets heaps of praise just for being an early access title that didn’t get abandoned.

  21. Muzman says:

    I backed it so I played it a lot. It’s interesting to see it change over time and the various desires to augment it.
    Some of the crits are incredibly harsh around here, but I understand the essence of many of them.

    The crits also tell a story about different expectations of a game. It’s hard to tell if they are true feelings or just a malaise people felt that then went in search of an explanation.
    For example, the junk you find in every house/box. That there are useless things all over the place really apparently drives some people insane. I don’t know what game makes everything useful (except the likes of minecraft and terraria and it plainly isn’t one of those games.) But here, for whatever reason you see people all the time complain about the useless junk on one hand, which would suggest you need more useful items to appear, and then complain there’s too much food and other stuff on the other (and you see superbunnyhop do pretty much exactly this).

    I don’t know how a designer is supposed to react to that. There is no win there at all in adjusting either of those things. But I think it suggests something else missing, without ever quite saying what. Frustrating for all concerned.
    I found the junk funny right from the start. It fits right in with the dark humoured Englishness of quirky despair too and I think a lot of people don’t get that. Making you have to stop and think and decide or make mistakes is a meaningful mechanic in a game like this.

    Other criticisms go into the stealth like the only game anyone wants to play is the first Splinter Cell. There the gameplay is so brainless, predictable and regimented it barely qualifies as stealth let alone survival. If your criticisms run this direction, I don’t think you actually like stealth games and you should stop playing them. Let alone anything with a survival component.

    In the harsher crits you often see a lot is the landscape generator basically get a one line bit of praise or dismissal. That tells me a lot. If you don’t care about that aspect then perhaps you will have trouble with it. So much of the game was looking for the perfect landscape. Sometimes you might feel the regularity of it beneath the surface a little too much. But it will still surprise and amaze you.
    I think if you say “I didn’t buy an open landscape stealth combat game for the scenery!” well then you probably did buy the wrong game and should go back to something more mechanically concrete where you can increase numbers more securely.

    All the same, I’m not going to say it’s entirely successful. Bots mainly only do two things; try to kill you or tell others where you are. And as the game progresses the only things that really happens is an increase of numbers. Latter stages with all the different sorts or bots wandering around feel more like you are playing some sort of twist on the bullet hell shooter- dodging between just parades of differently mobile things trying to not get hit. Even with all your goodies at that point it can feel completely impossible.
    The goal and the worldbuilding are eliptical to the point of non-existence. Which is a real pity as the place is truly evocative.
    I would have loved to have seen a greater variety of bots and greater behaviors of bots. I’d love to see them evolve the challenge as time went on, rather than increase numbers. More content and variety across the board, not just greater numbers of the existing content.
    But what I took from watching development so closely is it became apparent what the team could realistically achieve and any really promising suggestions you see, your heart sinks a little bit as you realise they’re just not going to able to do it, even if they wanted to. I do think they could have let it cook a little longer and got more out of the current content with brains and programming skill alone. But there I suspect they didn’t want to be another crowdfunded project that slipped.

    After all that I say that anyone for whom the idea of wandering a hostile landscape has some appeal in itself, for aesthetic reasons as much as anything else, they should give it a go. Fans of slower paced more atmospheric, immersive gameplay experiences. If you found some of the “dead time” between the ‘game’ in Stalker, or Thief or ARMA actually the most memorable aspects of those games, then you might like this.
    I think anyone could get something out of it. Just discard all expectations you have osmosed about the buzzwords “Procedural” or “Stealth” or “Survival”, or even “FPS”. It’s really not like anything else that used those words and if you meet it on its own terms, rather than some game you thought you might be playing, you’ll have a much better time.