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Dark strategy game Anoxia Station is Dwarf Fortress for oil drillers with a squirming helping of body horror

Still Wakes The Creep

An underground isometric mining base with a huge maggot sticking out of the centre in Anoxia Station
Image credit: Abylight Studios

I gaze with alarm and approval upon the recent phenomenon of "dark strategy" or "horror strategy" games, a devilish parade of top-down drag-clickers, from The Fabulous Fear Machine to The Tribe Must Survive, that strive to find the fear in a genre that typically places you at a managerial remove. The best-known is probably Frostpunk, with its perpetual raging against the dying of the light, its ceaseless scrape for coal and wood as the temperature falls. Anoxia Station, announced this month, is similarly driven by the gathering of fossil fuels, and similarly shaped by questions of worker death and morale, but it takes you deep underground - into a sumptuous, brutal world of quartz crystals, salt caves, magma lakes, moonmilk rivers, swirling gases and, judging from the below trailer, enormous maggots and centipedes. Larva lakes, amirite.

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Anoxia Station is set in 1988, but not the 1988 you may remember. The Earth's surface has been devastated by a supervolcano and, in a shocking display of wildcard speculative world-building, humanity is now dependent on petroleum for survival. You take charge of a group of Terranauts, sent into the guts of a festering world in search of a fabled ocean of oil. You'll excavate a path to this mega-deposit, sector by sector. Along the way, you'll need to extract smaller pockets of oil for the benefit of the world above, expand your mining facilities and keep your (irreplaceable) crew alive, sane and at peace with each other.

This is easier said than done, because this is 1988, the height of the Cold War, and your miners hail from different sides of various Iron Curtains - there are people from the Soviet Union, the United States, the German Democratic Republic and Japan, among others. Some are enemies within who have hidden agendas, others just hate each other instinctively. You'll have to look after all of them, regardless. "Crewmen might become despicable, but if they fall, entire production lines might be extinguished, spelling hardship, if not death for the whole mission," explains the Steam page. Sounds challenging! And that's before we start talking about those massive insectile lifeforms, which look like they've wriggled out of the catacombs of Scorn. The Steam page trails off ominously here.

Anoxia Station has "a uniquely isometric style grounded in real physical processes", with audio design that consists of "a mix of the deafening roars of shifting rock, the harsh sounds of mining and welding, the distant clicking of something clearly inhuman, and a familiar scream". It's the work of Yakov Butuzoff, whose other works include visual novel Loretta, with Abylight Studios publishing. There's no release date yet.

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