Save your girlfriend! No, wait… stop an evil warlord! No, wait… escape to the surface! No, wait… stop an evil plague! Jesus, I don’t know. How on earth am I supposed to come up with a good lead when the game is so discombobulated? It’s like the developers tried to fit all these things in at once by just dumping them in a pile rather than melding them together! I mean, honestly, if you have an ambitious vision for a game, that’s great, but you have to find a way to let us experience the rest of this without having to make guesses or be endlessly confused. Sigh.
PC Release: November 25, 2011
By Ian Coppock
I can respect an ambitious story. Such things are one of the biggest occupants of my free time and of this website. Perhaps the biggest tragedy of creativity is when someone has a brilliant idea but not quite the faculty for translating it into something we can all appreciate. These Idea-Good, Execution-Bad situations are especially toxic in video game form, because it’s easy to see when someone has tried hard in all the wrong ways. This is the case with Afterfall. Not the worst game I’ve ever played, but then again, the worst game I’ve ever played didn’t make it to the start screen.
Afterfall: InSanity and its dubiously mis-capitalized subtitle come to us from Poland and the ironically named Intoxicate Studios, who published a work of fiction that rips off Dead Space and Fallout 3 damn near symmetrically. The fictional World War III ushered in a nuclear apocalypse, and now a survivor’s colony beneath Warsaw, Poland, is the last bastion of humanity on the planet.
Albert Tokaj (pronounced Tokai), your character, is an overworked psychologist tasked with keeping an underground city sane.
Albert faces stress from all quarters. His huge job, overbearing boss and relationship problems with the fair Carolina have given him insomnia.
Colonel EvilStache, the colony’s indifferent dictator, sends Albert off with a squad of soldiers into the derelict tunnels beneath Vault 101-I mean-the colony. Their mission? To shine bright lights onto insane maintenance workers while Albert surmises their craziness.
The people working the graveyard shifts down here are infected by a… virus? Or something? It’s not really made clear, but they’re crazy, and to Intoxicate Studios, that’s all that really matters. Before long, the soldiers escorting Albert have been steam gauged to death and now the bumbling, sleepy psychologist is somehow doing dive-rolls and using wrenches as nun-chucks.
Consistency is nice.
Having metamorphosed into a badass, Albert must now… actually, I’m not quite sure.
Afterfall‘s story is bad. Really bad. Girlfriend-living-in-your-car bad. The writing is some of the worst I’ve seen of any video game. I’m willing to spare Intoxicate some heat since this was probably translated from Polish, but that doesn’t excuse the second of this game’s shitty-story punches: stilted voice acting. In a manner similar to kindergarten play rehearsals, these characters deliver flat, completely unbelievable dialogue that made me laugh when it didn’t make me cringe. Albert sounds like an English dub of a Japanese anime, while his girlfriend Carolina sounds like Princess Peach. Colonel EvilStache, I’m pretty sure, was voiced by the guy who does Dr. Robotnik for the Sonic the Hedgehog series. The other characters’ voice actors fared little better.
But, it wouldn’t be completely shitty voice acting without nonsensical dialogue. Only the most basic tenets of stage-setting made any sense to me, like Albert announcing that he was descending a flight of stairs. He becomes convinced that the colonel is responsible for the plague or virus or whatever, but I literally could not understand what the two were talking about. The things they yell at each other are vague and melodramatic. They could have touched on the story for all the sense it was making to me, but that’s the problem; it makes no sense.
As things in the colony go to hell, Albert’s tale becomes more and more disjointed. Major characters are introduced for no reason and you’re expected to immediately know why, for how little the game tells you. Basically, from what I can tell, Albert’s story is that of escaping the colony and going to the surface. Everything else stuffed in and around that single clause of words is just noise. Bad writing, bad voice acting, horrific plot, inexplicable conflicts and dialogue… it’s a complete mess.
If nothing else will illustrate just how bad this game’s writing is:
The gameplay in Afterfall isn’t as strikingly bad as its story, but it’s just not very fun. This is where the game really rips off of Dead Space; you play as Albert from an over-the-shoulder view, walking at the same pace. Weapons and your flashlight are arranged in a pattern similar to Dead Space, and the game’s placing of both environments and monsters is an obvious “inspiration” borrowed from the journey of Isaac Clarke.
The combat is super-clunky. Albert has magical sudden knowledge of weapons, but the game utilizes a ridiculous combat rhythm system that makes attacking and blocking arduous. In other words, the monsters can rip into your sorry ass all day and you’ll be stumbling backwards so much that you’ll never get to fight back before dying. The only way to succeed in this game is to attack first. That, and dive-rolling out of the way. Dive-rolling is guaranteed to make you dodge any attack and essentially breaks this game’s difficulty. To Afterfall‘s credit, weapons and ammo are rather hard to find, which made this game challenging at times.
The worst part of this game’s gameplay is the ludicrous amount of quick-time events. The lazy man’s choice for minimum interaction with maximum visuals, quick-time events proliferate in Afterfall. You’re expected to hit random buttons at random times all while watching action unfold on the screen. Most puzzles are solved with quick time events and in doing so stop being puzzles.
Aftefall does have some major redeeming qualities, though. The environmental design is quite good, a stark contrast from just about everything else about it. The visuals are nice and arranged in a manner conducive to atmosphere. You’ll find conflict-torn areas with chilling clues as to what went down and how far away the monsters are. One area required me to find the missing body parts of a dismembered doctor for a secondhand retinal scan. If effort was employed in Afterfall, it was here. For all the confusion afforded by the story, the Glory colony is very pretty, and disturbing, in equal measures.
The visuals aren’t super-impressive, but they are decent, and more than I expected. Combined with the level design, it’s possible to get absorbed into whatever parts of Afterfall lacked story. There was one two-hour bit in which Albert treks alone through the abandoned, hair-raising sublevels of the colony, and this I enjoyed. It was like coming up for air after one shitty dive far down and before another, longer one. Parts of the game are scary but it does feel like a hearty swig of diet Dead Space. Monsters will occasionally hide but most of the time they’re just out in the open waiting for you. I will say that the breathing noises they make from far away are scary, but there’s really not much more to it.
Though the visuals demonstrated effort on behalf of Intoxicate, they weren’t enough to salvage Afterfall for me. Perhaps Albert finds out who started the virus, perhaps he dumps his helium-ingesting girlfriend. I wouldn’t know; I rage-quit Afterfall about four hours in when the game bugged out and deleted my gun… during a quick-time event necessitating a gun. I have no plans to continue. Indeed, I have no way to continue.
For every percentage of good that Afterfall had, there was ten that was bad. Between the god-awful writing, the most juvenile voice-acting I’ve ever heard, the boring gameplay, and a story that makes absolutely no sense, not even good visuals can save this junkheap of a game from apocalypse. Apparently Intoxicate is developing a sequel called Afterfall: ReConquest, and I’d suggest coming up with something more coherent than a non-ironic version of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. Do it for the four hours of my life that I’ll never get back, if nothing else.
You can buy Afterfall: InSanity here.
Thank you for reading! My next review will be posted in a few days. You can follow Art as Games on Twitter @IanLayneCoppock, or friend me at username Art as Games on Steam. Feel free to leave a comment or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org with a game that you’d like to see reviewed, though bear in mind that I only review PC games.