Pre-vision: Secrets of Raetikon

Raetikon 1

Science Horizons Survival was a primitive ZX Spectrum game released in 1984. By assuming the role of a Fly, Mouse, Butterfly, Robin, Hawk or Lion, the principles of ecology could be sampled through the interdependence of their environment.

Diagrammatic images however failed to convey the hopelessness of scrambling in the lower echelons of the food chain. Chess-like square occupation was the only interaction; a blip signifying that your animal made a successful hunt or had in fact been hunted. This was in conflict with the instruction booklet that detailed greater ambitions. The software of course could not compute these nuances and like so many games of its time; your imagination had to generate the content missing from the context.

survival final  survival 3  survival 2

Natures scramble for existence has been explored by contemporary developers of course; Might & Delight with Shelter, Krillbite’s; The Plan and Tokyo Jungle developed by Sony’s Japan studio.

But here, the Vienna based Broken Rules delivers the principles of ecology through an astonishing triangular aesthetic; powered by their in-house Ginkgo engine. The Secrets of Raetikon captures the insurmountable struggle of a bird that is not only bullied by predators but oppressed by its environment. In many ways it is about finding resolve in the bird’s fragility.

Raetikon 4

Flight is the main allure and its playfulness accentuates the tranquillity of the Alpine setting. The amusement of darting through tree foliage and riding the wind radiates innocence through the forest. Danger however is prevalent; without warning you realise the birds place in the food chain is insubstantial; the fowl can be clawed out of the sky by marauding falcons, buzzards and crows. These can smash you into a nearby rock face or drag you into razor like thistles, attempting to break free is futile as you flap helplessly in the beak of a more formidable vertebrate. There are multiple ways of overcoming antagonists, many of which are faster, stronger and more resilient; malicious predators cannot be overpowered but can be distracted by luring another animal into its territory. Other ways are to instigate a chase, coercing them into thorn bushes or prompting landslides by tugging rocks away from ledges. A sense of empowerment comes from wielding nature itself; plant alga can be fished from waters. This barbed vine is lashed around like a medieval instrument and seeking refuge suddenly turns to incursion; visceral confrontations flow intuitively as you change tactics on the fly.

Raetikon 2

The sprawling Alps exclude a map, whether it is added later on or not will have ramifications that change the experience. The layout of the world at present is extensive but map-less exploration feels fresh and captures the purity of adventuring. Looking for an undiscovered area on a diagram forgoes the revelations of curiosity but obviously the benefit is not getting lost.

Raetikon’s ecology is rich enough to endure as a study of an organic nature cycle but Broken Rules mixes a fountain of imagination with their triangular palatte. Ancient mechanisms lay dormant waiting to be revived, solid rock contains flickering glitches; suggesting the impenetrable are facades for hidden caches. Many of the Secrets in Raetikon should be discovered without illumination but highlights include the anxiety inducing Lynx which prowls with an imposingly brutal demeanour and the stoic forest; which becomes magically animated and adds another dynamic to the journey. Raetikon delivers ecology with equal ferocity and sedateness which can (and must) be used against itself and with experimentation you realize what can help or hinder.

This is an Alpha build so polish and fine tuning will not doubt enhance everything to a greater level of immersion as well as introducing more inventive ways of utilizing nature. Until then this is an exceptional piece of unique work that should be watched very carefully.

Raetikon 3

Advertisements

E3: Superlative opportunities?

This year’s E3 delivered predictable franchise sequels and not much in the way of originality. Is the developer reproach misplaced however, highlighting insentient consumer support for more of the same?

New IP: Watch Dogs (Ubisoft) and The last of us (Naughty Dog) helped to refresh the lacklustre event. They inadvertently emphasised however that we still traverse the same obstacle courses, littered with the same generic thugs with the same missions. There is no doubt both games will be entertaining, but there is a feeling that we have witnessed the inauguration for myriad sequels at future shows.

The games that offered us superlative opportunities were predominantly for Sony Platforms and inventive content at the IndieCade booth. The unveiling of Nintendo’s new Wii U software failed to capture imaginations with only Platinum games offering something refreshing (arguably usurping Pikmin 3’s announcement).

In an ocean of generic content, these were the games that offered us something inventive:

UNFINISHED SWAN (PS3)

Giant Sparrow’s experimental adventure of throwing paint, turning negative space into tangible assets.

SOUND SHAPES (PS3/PS Vita)

A phonic tool that amalgamates sound and 2D objects in unison, developed by Queasy games.

LANGUISH (PC)

Designed by Erik Loyer, Languish is a journey through the mind by interacting with collective ideas.

A MOTHER’S INFERNO (PC)

Students at DADIU created this vociferous First person horror that aesthetically reminiscent of Suda 51’s Killer 7.

BEYOND: TWO SOULS (PS3)

David cage and Quantic dream tease their next project after the successful Heavy Rain.

CHASING AURORA (Multi)

Developer Broken Rules origami enthused dream of flight.

PROJECT P-100 (Wii U)

Platinum games, creators of  Bayonetta and the upcoming Metal Gear Rising bring this exclusively to Wii U.