I’m in a weird place right now. I want to play games, but I also want to work on my motion graphics stuff. I want to stream, but I don’t want to put in the effort. When I want to play a game, I don’t know what I want to play. So I have been casting about for new games, as I do when I get wedged into this corner, in the hopes that I’ll uncover some kind of wunderkind that I might not have looked at otherwise. It doesn’t always work — Revenant: From the Ashes comes to immediate mind — but sometimes it really does.

The first game I came across is called Duskers. I had seen it before and it had been on my wishlist for a spell, but I never really paid it close attention. In Duskers, you play the silent role of a starship pilot who is trying to find out why you seem to be the only human being alive anywhere. You do this through the help of drones that you remotely pilot through derelict ships that you explore in the hope of finding clues as to where everyone went.

You can rename them!

The aesthetic is about 75% Alien, 25% Silent Running (I know you’ve seen the first movie, but if you haven’t seen the second, do so). Drones are moved either actively using the arrow keys, or through commands issued via a command-line. Each drone can be equipped with special abilities such as a motion detector, the ability to scoop up scrap, to tow items back to your ship, engage a cloaking device, and more. You can build your drones to suit your needs using parts you salvage, and you usually have to deploy several drones each time you board in order to handle things like getting the power running or activating command terminals. Along the way, you’ll run into log entries that explain what happened, but also enemies. The best way to deal with opposing forces is to trick them into another room, locking the door behind them, and sometimes you can deploy your own countermeasures or use derelict defenses against them. The way the UI is rendered evokes that late 1970’s feel, with crappy CRT visuals prone to glitches and rolling images, and it the text interludes prior to boarding even use that Alien “muddy bloop” typing noise when rendering the text. The game can get really claustrophobic, as you can only see what your drone’s headlamp illuminates (unless you’re in command-map mode), and apparently, the shit can really hit the fan when you’re trying to issue commands to your hapless explorers while running from the bad guys, so if that appeals to you, check out Duskers.

Yesterday I was recommended another game called BaroTrauma. Barotrauma is a wide-swath term for injuries sustained while deep below water, which pretty much explains the gist of this game.

You play as a crew member of a submarine exploring the depths of the oceans of Europa, one of the moons of Jupiter. BaroTrauma is primarily a multiplayer game, so you choose a character class such as mechanic, electrician, medic, security, or captain. Each class has skills that allow them to make items, use equipment, or more importantly repair parts of the sub.

At first glance, this game looks like Fallout Shelter, with all of the blocky interconnected rooms squished into a vague outline of a submarine, but with other players — and your sub encountering the alien fauna both inside and outside of the craft — you’ll be rushing about fixing leaks and pumps to clear out sections of the sub, loading the coilguns to fire on creatures outside that are as big if not bigger than your craft, tending to the wounded who were attacked or suffered from an industrial accident, or even trying to beat alien monsters into submission before they can kill the crew.

I only went through the extensive single-player tutorials last night, but each class plays differently enough that anyone should find satisfaction in his or her role, whether assumed or assigned. My favorite role was as captain because the piloting of the sub uses sonar to navigate, which is something I always find fascinating. You can pick up supplies from lockers and cupboards about the sub, and occasionally you’ll dock with stations and can refill your stores. Each character has an inventory of whatever you pick up (limited to something like 10 usable items and 6 utility items, or something like that). Items include wrenches and screwdrivers, wires for electrical work, welding torches, flashlights, and stun batons and spearguns. Occasionally you’ll get real heavy items like fire extinguishers or coilgun ammo that prevent you from using other items while carrying them. You also have pressure suits and breathing masks for underwater work, clothing and armor, an ID badge, and a communicator. Some of these items (pressure suit, breathing mask, communicator, speargun, flashlight, etc) take pluggables like O2 tanks, batteries, or ammo, doubling down on the pressure (that’s an underwater joke, folks) you’ll face when everything is going to hell.

I’m not entirely sure what the purpose of the game is, except maybe to keep going until you die, but the game does feature Steam Workshop, and you can create your very own submarine using the built-in editor. Some of the examples on the Workshop already are pretty amazing, and range in size from small 2-3 person operatable craft to ones that will require a full crew (which I think is capped at 6 people). I would imagine that this could be a cool game for friends to play, although my friend Enforzer said he was having a good time with PUGs until he didn’t, so it’s pretty par for the course.


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