Fans of Resident Evil and Silent Hill may be delighted to learn that CONSCRIPT, a new World War 1 themed survival horror game inspired by both of those series, was recently successfully backed on Kickstarter.
With the successful Kickstarter campaign, Catchweight Studio, a one man army operating out of Melbourne, Australia, is aiming for a Steam release of the game sometime in Q2 of 2021. Previously titled PROJECT ABEL according to the now-obsolete Itch.io page, the game has been in development for at least two years and has seen many changes over the course of the project. On the Kickstarter page, the developer expressed interest in releasing the game on other platforms as well.
The developer, a college student majoring in history, decided to fuse his passion for history and his dream to develop games in this first commercial project of his. On the homepage of the game’s website, the developer provides us this snippet on the theme and story of the game: “During the First World War, a lone French soldier must navigate twisted trenches, scavenge for limited supplies and solve complex puzzles – all whilst fighting for survival in the midst of mankind’s most brutal and horrifying conflict.” The battle in particular is the Battle of Verdun.
Featured: the one man army developer of CONSCRIPT.
I had the pleasure of playing the demo for CONSCRIPT during the Steam Game Festival last month. Now, I have been playing Resident Evil and Silent Hill since the 90s, so I tend to be very critical of these kinds of games. However, from what I played, I can safely say that CONSCRIPT is worth keeping an eye on.
Part of what makes the game enjoyable is how efficiently it imitates the classics. In CONSCRIPT, you will find all of the usual mechanics in the genre: a limited save feature, a limited inventory to manage, limited ammunition and healing items, puzzle and key items, jump scares, notes to read, and so on. More nuanced mechanics, like combining materials to create ammunition from Resident Evil 3, or mapping weapons to hotkeys / a directional pad from Resident Evil 5, also make an appearance. While these will be familiar designs to long-standing survival horror fans, they feel authentic in their execution, and are woven tightly together in a well-paced experience.
A screenshot of the inventory.
A map of the first area, the dreaded, contaminated trenches.
The soft, calming blue light indicates that you are in a safe area where you can save your game.
The other part that makes this game enjoyable is the theme. Tying these familiar mechanics into a historical war setting makes them feel fresh enough to want to experience anew. Granted, the game uses low resolution two-dimensional graphics, but the setting still feels aptly done and the environmental design still feels creepy in the right ways. My interest spiked particularly when you get to the room with the caged carrier pigeon, your only means left of making contact with the outside world in the midst of the terribly dark situation you find yourself in, because that element, along with others you will find throughout the game, required a degree of research on the period in order to convincingly integrate it into the setting and into the context of a survival horror game.
While CONSCRIPT is first and foremost a survival horror game, it takes some cues from classic adventure games as well, perhaps due to the developer working on his own. Cutscenes have a classic adventure game look to them. Interacting with puzzle-related objects in the environment brings up a more detailed depiction of them in first-person view, with an interface and a cursor you can use to inspect things. The puzzles in the demo seemed like standard fare for survival horror, but they were adapted to fit the context of the setting.
There is only one carrier pigeon alive, but the cage is locked. The hunt for the key begins.
Inspecting the environment for clues and ways to progress further.
The main protagonist of CONSCRIPT.
Like the other features, the combat feels reminiscent of classic survival horror games. There are a variety of weapons, with more weapons being featured in the demo than I was expecting, and a variety of enemies, with two main enemy types being shown in the demo. Combat comes in two forms, melee and ranged. A few players expressed disapproval of how the melee combat worked on the game’s official Steam community board, but personally, I wasn’t perturbed over the melee combat myself. While it did seem very difficult, if impossible, to prevent yourself from taking any damage during melee combat, the demo provided ample ammunition and a variety of ranged weapons to use, so melee felt more like a “last resort” option, one that would, unsurprisingly, have drawbacks. Perhaps in later areas of the game, players may find themselves in situations where they have run out of ammunition and are stuck due to the melee combat always leading to damage taken, in which case, I can see this being a potential concern.
On the developer’s website, I also noticed that there is a whiteboard in the photo on the home page, which shows some of the planned areas of the game. Below, I attempted to illustrate the ones I could read (which were not many). Note that this could have completely changed since this whiteboard was made and my readings could also be mistaken! Nevertheless, it does seem to indicate that there will be alternate routes in the game, and multiple areas, which is great.
All in all, CONSCRIPT is shaping up to be an impressive solo project. It hits all of the right checks for a survival horror game, with every feature being meticulously pulled together under a professionally written and genuinely inspired theme. All of my expectations while playing the demo were exceeded. The atmosphere, which has always been my primary interest in these games, is made rich with the attention to detail in the setting. As one of the backers of the Kickstarter, I look forward to playing the full game at release next year.