Ivar Hill and Slipgate’s Core Decay is a Deus Ex and System Shock-flavoured immersive sim that’s all about the ABCs. A, of course, stands for Attacking by means of things like energy rifles, electro-batons and shotguns. B is for Back-stabbing, referring to the stealthy player who may stack objects so as to clamber into vents, and whack guards deftly in the noggin to escape detection.
And C is for Conversing, referring to the act of wooing civilians – who thus far seem miraculously unbothered by your menacing hooded appearance and sepulchral accent – so as to procure door codes and the location of keycards. You can see all these approaches in the game’s new trailer, below.
A bit of backstory, to wash that down. It’s 2089, the Earth is jiggered, natural resources are kaput, living conditions are in the toilet, cats and dogs are living together, etcetera. You play a recently vat-spawned cybernetic dude who must somehow save society in the course of a single player campaign spanning seven locations around the world. Being a roboman, you can upgrade individual limbs and senses so as to turn invisible and jump higher, amongst other things. There’s also hacking, needless to say, and what look like some rather elaborate boss battles further in. Mind the laser beams, Roboman!
It certainly walks the walk in footage. The environment art seems a bit monotonous, perhaps, but there are some lush effects to break up the boxy, Metal Gear squalor of it all, like pouring rain or the glow of furnaces. Core Decay does feel genre-bound to a fault, though. I’m getting tired of immersive sims in which the broad options are essentially Talk To The Monsters, Stealth Down the Flank or Go in All Guns Blazing (with the secret fourth option usually being Glitch The Physics). I want to hear about the rest of the alphabet.
Going by Rick Lane’s interview feature from a few weeks ago, the immersive sim genre is hovering on the edge of an indie renaissance. Among the games Rick singles out for scrutiny is ETOS, which according to its creator Mab, is a critique of how imsims “tout pacifism as the morally correct way to play the game, yet pursuing it is often tied to ghost stealth, an overreliance on save scumming, and the smallest slice of the game’s sandbox.” Intriguing stuff. I’m also keen to hear more about Militsioner, in which you rove and tinker cautiously under the eye of an enormous, doting policeman.
With any luck, Core Decay will muster a few radical flourishes of its own and join the crowd of indies pulling down the well-worn statues of Deus Ex and co, rather than being a polished rehearsal of their achievements. After all, the whole point of an imsim is to experiment.