Talking Robobody: The Signal From Tolva released

The Signal From Tölva [official site], the new sci-fi open-world FPS from the makers of Sir You Are Being Hunted, launched today. Tove Lo explores an alien world where factions of robots skirmish endlessly as they follow their own plans and goals, taking over robots to roam around, join in their scraps, and poke at the secrets of the eponymous strange signal. It’s a lot like West Side Story, only in space, full of emergent AI battles, with loads of sci-fi weapons and equipment beyond switchblades but no love story and no singing unless you sing to yourself while playing. Basically that. See:

Our John recently chatted with Big Robot co-founder Jim Rossignol, who also co-founded Rock, Paper, Shotgun in an earlier life. Between breaking out the Jägermeister and stoking a three-engine bantferno, they talked about things like the (optional) impossible spaces of Tölva.

“They were a bit of a whim at first, but they ended up being rather good at underlining the theme of spooky weirdness that runs through the game. The initial world design was ‘alien highlands’, which I think we achieved fairly well across the various regions of the game, but as we got further in we realised that contrasting that with some interior spaces would be fun and interesting. Initially James prototyped some obstacle-course things, so that the interior spaces would be a break from hiking and shooting, but that didn’t quite sit right with us. Eventually he began to use clever seamless portaling stuff to create impossible mazes, where you would drop down and down and appear at the top of a tower, for example. I found that thematically pleasing (not to mention consistent) because the story of Tölva is about a world that isn’t quite right, and where things are glitchy and inexplicable, in a way that disturbs even AI intelligence. And so the interiors underline that. They are strange and difficult mazes. Not puzzles as such – as we were discussing just this morning – but challenging and impossible spaces that you can explore if you want to. None of them are crucial to the game or the plot, and I like that many people won’t even see the secret in one of them.”

The Signal From Tove Lo is £14.99/19,99€/$19.99 on Steam and a few Britbucks more on Itch, GOG, and the Humble Store. We’ll have a Wot I Think coming… not today? Soon. Not written by any of us.

[Disclosure: As mentioned, Big Robot co-founder Jim Rossignol also co-founded this very website. I’ve not seen him in yeaaars. For all I know, these days he’s little more than a shell piloted by a robot on an alien world.]


  1. Blackcompany says:

    If I read this right, it’s a sort of Zelda/Stalker-lite. Heavy on Exploration and light on forced/scripted “story missions” that plague so many open world games.

    Very interested in this. See myself grabbing it very soon.

    • jonfitt says:

      There’s no mistaking the Stalker influence. I think Jim has been clear on that game seeping into everything.

      Not sure about the Zelda nature, I haven’t played much of them. But you are free to capture points in whatever order you desire and the only gating are the contaminated/irradiated zones that require you to have a certain module upgrade. So that’s probably what you mean.

      The only structure is when you get to upgrade that module and access a new area. So it moves on at whatever pace you decide.

  2. Pulstar says:

    But it’s grind-y

    • krikitarmy says:

      I saw “grinding” mentioned on the Eurogamer review as well. I’ve played the early release code and can’t see how people are calling this game grindy.

      At it’s most frustrating, there were moments I could describe as slow and repetitive when I got killed, respawned, trekked back to where I died only to be killed again, repeat a few times. But I never felt like I needed to grind.

      I suppose if you wanted to collect EVERY SINGLE gun available then you would have to grind to get the money, but that’s every open world game. The solution is to understand that you aren’t meant to own everything in a single play-through and work around that limitation.

      • frightlever says:

        Why would you play it twice? To be fair I gave up on it quite quickly, but didn’t see much to encourage a second playthrough, though given I didn’t even finish one I may just be blind to its charms. Had a fine few hours with it but found it a bit boring.

        Does anyone know if the release build did anything for the gunplay?

        • jonfitt says:

          I just didn’t feel the need to own every weapon. I got a feel for the types I liked and then just focussed on them. It felt more like I was choosing character upgrades.

          Not sure what you didn’t like about the “gunplay”. The only negative I found was that the reloads were always an all-or-nothing proposition and can take several seconds, you have to spend as much time recharging after one shot as with an empty battery. Then if you switched weapons mid reload, you have to start again.
          With the reload time being a large factor hat plays into the moment-to-moment gameplay I felt that it needed a bonus for part reloading, or an active reload type system.

        • c741535 says:

          I’ve played through it about five times. Since the AI factions battle each other as well as against you the scale of encounters varies a great deal. I had one play-through where I took over a bunker, moved on, then the AI retook it and a 3 faction fire fight broke out when I returned to reclaim it. There were maybe 30 bots all zinging at each other all around me, it was very intense. This is not the norm, most encounters are challenging but far less intense.

          The AI and presumably some randomness creates these variations and you can’t predict how any encounter will play out. Once u get through the ‘tutorial’ component at the start do not expect the rest of the game to play out exactly the way it did on your first play through, it wont, there appears to be very little scripting.

          btw, there are two different endings.

      • dr.craft says:

        Just curious, how does this compare to Sir You Are Being Hunted? I quite enjoyed the outsmart-the robots gameplay (and didn’t see it as much of a grind) but thought it could be harder. Same thing here?

        • krikitarmy says:

          It’s a very different game. The only real similarity is emergent AI with enemies wandering around, occasionally getting into fights with one another.

          Tolva is a pretty straight forward shooter. Stealth and cover mechanics are basically non-existent. But your weapons are much more powerful and you have the ability to capture and control sections of the map with your robot allies. There’s no scavenging. Instead you are rewarded credits for killing enemy robots and finishing missions and you can spend the money on new weapons. Guns have unlimited reloads and you replenish health at captured bases.

          I enjoyed both. But I loved Sir and merely like Tolva so far.

  3. Barberetti says:

    Grabbed this earlier on GoG but haven’t had a chance to play it yet. Got to do some bug reporting on their forums first, as it’s not letting me rebind any keys.

    • Barberetti says:

      For anyone who has the same problem, it lets you rebind keys after you start a game.

      Really enjoying the atmosphere. Nice vibe.

  4. aircool says:

    Looking forward to the WIT.

  5. jonfitt says:

    I got in on the beta and have played through once.

    It was a very enjoyable time. The sound is amazing, they manage to take what are all rail/laser guns and make them sound meaty. Not just pew zap!

    The robots are fun to fight, they have some thoughts going on in their heads beyond “head directly to player”. The fiction is also very interesting and if you stop to collect all the text logs there’s some good sci-fi there.

    But even if you just explore the space you’ll find a fantastic world to explore, the aforementioned creepy non-linear spaces, and some cool wreckage from previous expeditions.

    There’s a day/night cycle so an area you’ve trekked through in the dark can look quite different at sunrise/sunset.

    If you want a sci-fi open world shooter that’s actually sci-fi and not space opera, then this is what you’re looking for.

    • Neutrino says:

      Space opera is still sci-fi whether you like it or not.

      • jonfitt says:

        All space opera is sci-fi, but not all sci-fi is space opera. Perhaps I could have more clearly said:

        “If you want a sci-fi open world shooter that’s just sci-fi and not space opera, then this is what you’re looking for.”

        Some of my favourite fiction is space opera. But in video games it is hard to find sci-fi that is not space opera.

  6. merbert says:

    Here’s a Wot I Think….

    It looks shit.

    • syllopsium says:

      Yeah.. I’m really not that fussed by graphics, especially since I’ve played practically nothing under five years old recently, but that doesn’t really look either impressive or interesting. Looks like a tarted up arena shooter. Yawn.

      If it’s about story, it doesn’t show enough story. If it’s a shooter, then it does not impress.

  7. AceJohnny says:

    I love games that have a world that ticks along to its own rules while the player roams inside it. Sid Meier’s Pirates comes to mind, and Shadow of Mordor’s Nemesis system is distantly related to the idea. (there are others, but I can’t seem to recall right now. Anyone?)

    And, contrary to other commenters, I’m rather taken in by the style, especially after reading about the effort they put into reproducing the original concept art’s style.

    Definitely giving this a go.

  8. Solrax says:

    I’m with AceJohnny, I quite like the art design. I’ve only just started playing but I like what I’ve seen so far.

    (and thanks for that link about the art, looking forward to reading that!)

  9. thranx says:

    No ultrawide support. Resolution list is restricted. *frown*

    • jonfitt says:

      Use the command line switch “-allowunsupportedaspect” to enable any resolution. The ones available in game are just the ones they’ve tested.

  10. Collieuk says:

    I was an early adopter. It’s a solid 7 out of 10 title candidate let down by a lack of polish and limitations caused by such a small team. There’s some great touches and the game improves once you enter the radiated zones but it’s one of the rare occasions I believe a game would benefit from the early access scenario. Ie, release as is, then spend next 18 months continually adding extra content/mod capability. Then launch v1.0 and get more press coverage. I fear this game will end up continually discounted & in bundle after bundle. I must have Sir You are Being Hunted 3 times at least.
    I understand launching game how it is and being free to move onto the next project but there’s a lot of competition out there and not a massive amount of room for a small game like this. I like the quirky nature of Big Robots games so wish them success and hope they hit a gold vein next time around.

    • Morcane says:

      Yea, I feel the same way. This is one example of a game that would’ve been great like this as an early access release, allowing the devs some more time to spruce up things.

      The laser combat however feels really well done and sounds fantastic, punchy yet sci-fi.

    • Muzman says:

      Yes, I got the impression with Sir that they wanted to finish up and move on. Like they want to be a game company, not perfectionist indie developers, is my guess.
      But I hope they come back for a sequel to some of these ideas one day. There’s still plenty to be got out of them.

    • jonfitt says:

      There’s something to be said for just having a vision, defining its scope, and then just implementing that. You’re not selling people on 5 year roadmap of features that may never get done.

      Maybe they’ll have a game which lights a fire under them and the players and they’ll want to stick around and build on the premise.

      But there’s nothing wrong with releasing a finished product that is what it is; you can play it, enjoy it, and move on.

    • krikitarmy says:

      So far, each of Big Robot’s games feels like they are building toward something larger. Like they wanted to perfect their stealth techniques so they built a game around that for practice. Then they wanted to practice gun play and faction AI so they built a game around that. I’ve enjoyed both games for what they are, but my hope is that they eventually put all the elements together and make the STALKER-like they clearly want to make.

  11. haldolium says:

    Except for the art direction and a few other design elements, the game feels very boring at its first impression.

    If there is more to it, then it definitively fails to create a proper motivation, good tension and immersion to go further.

  12. Tartrazine says:

    Really. really wanted to like this. With so little time to game you’ve got 3 or 4 hours absolute tops to lure me in, else when I next get a chance for a session I’ll move on to something else.

    I’ve moved on to something else.