Je suis dés-OH MY GOD, WHAT IS THAT?!

Bat­tling hunger and ghosts in Deso­late’s post-apoc­a­lyp­tic world

Games Master - - Upfront -

here are scary sur­vival hor­ror games and then there is Deso­late, a Stalker-in­spired co-op adventure about try­ing not to die on a con­tam­i­nated Rus­sian is­land pop­u­lated with mu­tant an­i­mals, fren­zied scav­engers, and creepy child ghosts. It’s tough, scary, and def­i­nitely not for the faint­hearted. God knows why we’re send­ing Leon in to check it out then…

T0 min­utes

If Deso­late’s tu­to­rial is any­thing to go by this is a game about find­ing peo­ple who look like a slightly wor­ried Gary Old­man and beat­ing them to death with a crow­bar. Well, that seems to be the gist of things so far. Within min­utes I’m two Gary Old­men down and I’ve learned the finer points of hit­ting peo­ple with metal sticks, crawl­ing through gaps, and pick­ing stuff up. It’s also clear that who­ever made the trail­ers did an amaz­ing job of mak­ing this look way bet­ter than it ac­tu­ally does. It’s not ter­ri­ble, just a bit ‘made with Unity’ in real life, rather than the ‘Metro Ex­o­dus at nu­clear PC’ ap­pear­ance of the of­fi­cial game­play – and I’m ap­par­ently play­ing on an ‘epic’ set­ting. The voice act­ing is also a lit­tle ‘Greg from the can­teen says he’ll have a go’ as well. It’s at­mo­spheric, though, and is fun so far, so all those Garies haven’t died in vain.

15 min­utes

With the tu­to­rial over I’m re­leased into the game’s full world, and starts it’s clear the peo­ple from the mo­ment it be­hind it love Stalker, Metro, There’s the Sys­tem Shock, and Bioshock. op­u­lent, Rap­ture- es­que apart­ment you start life in, lit­tle faces that when you talk to peo­ple on a pop up ra­dio, and a toxic post-apoc­a­lyp­tic bug-eyed dog mon­sters waste­land full of to explore, plus sur­vivors who san­ity and posted long ago wrapped up their it home. There are also some spooky things go­ing on with noises, or ghosts fill­ing in back­sto­ries strange about vend­ing ma­chine pil­lag­ing can­ni­bal­ism. There’s even a and creepy man­nequin which, of when you turn course, is al­ways fac­ing you around to check. It’s go­ing to get so much worse though. I know it yet. This is just fu­ture just don’t me giv­ing present me a warn­ing. Wait, what?

30 min­utes

The main thing at the mo­ment is col­lect­ing things. I don’t know what’s valu­able yet so my pock­ets are full of bro­ken scis­sors, metal, ra­dios, and just about any­thing that will fit in them. I’ve a loose ob­jec­tive of get­ting an old work­bench work­ing so I’m dart­ing be­tween build­ings, avoid­ing scary noises in the trees, while look­ing for a trans­former and a toaster. As I do I hear a child cry­ing and then a tiny voice say­ing ‘Play with me’. There aren’t enough nopes in the world right now. I’m in the dark and it’s just hor­ri­ble noises ev­ery­where – snuf­fling, growls, and howls in ev­ery shadow. The next ten min­utes are me just run­ning away from sounds I don’t want to know any more about. At one point, while I’m hid­ing in a ware­house from a glow­ing-eyed mad­man, a child’s voice whis­pers in my ear: “One, two, found you”. NooooOOOOPE.

45 min­utes

Things don’t get much bet­ter in the day­light be­cause now I can see what’s out there. Like the Dorg, which isn’t a typo. It’s what you’d get if you made a dog but added an ex­tra jaw and de­cided the face was bet­ter with­out any skin. I’m sup­posed to be get­ting a ra­dio tower work­ing, and I’ve been joined by a ran­dom on­line player as I thought open­ing up the co-op op­tions might help. It kind of does, be­cause the other player has a gun and doesn’t mind at­tack­ing things, but he also takes all the sup­plies, says noth­ing, and never re­vives me when I die. But con­sid­er­ing all I’ve got is a pocket full of junk and a stick, beg­gars can’t be choosers. Be­tween us we fix the ra­dio tower and dis­cover there’s a base we can use if we can find a to­ken to gain en­try.

1 hour

It’s not long be­fore I dis­cover just how scary this game can get. This world is full of hang­ing bod­ies, shad­ows that run across door­ways, and dis­tant roar­ing noises. But noth­ing pre­pares me for the… let’s call her ‘The Girl’. She just ap­pears, float­ing in front of you with a deaf­en­ing stab of bro­ken vi­o­lins, then dis­ap­pears be­fore you’ve had a chance to reg­is­ter what’s hap­pen­ing. I dread to think what the other player thinks of me as I scream my favourite bad words at deaf­en­ing vol­ume. It’s the low­est of all the scares – just a sud­den, loud noise – but it works. And it keeps hap­pen­ing. My nerves are shred­ded and I’m ac­tu­ally look­ing for­ward to Dorgs. They’re adorable by com­par­i­son.

1 hour 30 min­utes

A lot’s hap­pened in the last 30 min­utes. I’ve lost my buddy but I’ve found the base, stocked up, and crafted loads. I’ve got a gun, medi packs, and a mis­sion to kill a Wanogah. I have no idea what that is. I’m hop­ing for some kind of ham­ster. This game is tough. To get to this point I’ve run away from any noise and hoarded ev­ery­thing. Which means I have six bul­lets and three heal­ing things. Com­pared to how I started I’m liv­ing like a king. A king who’s spent 30 min­utes crawl­ing through the for­est with his torch turned off be­cause he’s so scared of meet­ing any­thing. At one point The Girl ap­pears in a build­ing and I jump so hard I fire one of my bul­lets into the ceil­ing.

1 hour 45 min­utes

It’s taken me ages but I’ve fi­nally found the Wanogah. It is not a ham­ster, it’s some sort of mu­tated naked lady thing spit­ting poi­son. It took a while, partly be­cause I was so cau­tious and partly be­cause I de­cided to wait until day­break until I started look­ing in the build­ings it was meant to be in. Ob­vi­ously it was in the locked one so I wan­der off to find a key card (in an aban­doned radar base full of mur­der­ers), find it, kill the thing, and gather what­ever body part it is that gets me the re­ward. I’m sup­posed to drop it in a de­liv­ery tube but the map is so big, and my route so wind­ing that there aren’t any nearby, so I de­cide to head back to the base. Just as soon as I can get out, past all the bad peo­ple with axes I didn’t kill on the way in.

2 hours

The jour­ney back is even more treach­er­ous be­cause I’ve run out of all my sup­plies. I’m starv­ing, but also out of heal­ing stuff so any at­tempts to scav­enge are ex­tra risky. I also re­ally, re­ally need the toi­let in the real world. The only prob­lem is that be­cause it’s on­line, there’s no pause and my blad­der is so full I’m wor­ried an­other ap­pear­ance of The Girl will cause more prob­lems than ac­ci­den­tally fir­ing my gun. My only op­tion is to find some­where quiet to hide and then run to the loo as fast as pos­si­ble hop­ing noth­ing at­tacks me. They don’t and I make it back to the base with my ac­tual as empty as my videogame blad­der stom­ach – my health chip­ping Wanogah bits and claim away as I drop off the my re­ward. That’s enough stress for tonight…

Night ter­rors

It’s clunky in places but Deso­late has plenty to of­fer if you fancy a sur­vival chal­lenge with scares along the way. True, some of them – such as The Girl – are cheap shots but still very ef­fec­tive. Aside from her, the feel­ing is of gnaw­ing fear. Sup­plies are sparse, enemies are dan­ger­ous, and death can cost you ev­ery­thing if you can’t re­cover your gear fast enough. This is not to be played ca­su­ally, es­pe­cially given the lack of pause from the on­line side of things. Cur­rently it’s rough in a few places but re­ward­ing, if slightly wob­bly, com­bat and ob­jec­tive mark­ers won’t put you off. If it they do how­ever, then watch for fu­ture up­dates be­cause this def­i­nitely one to have on your list.

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