I really wanted to like this game. New isometric RPGs don't come along every day, but I just can't bring myself to continue playing this. It's just bad in every respect. Maybe it gets better later, but I'll never know. When I pay money for a game, I don't expect it to be bad from the word go. Mediocre I can deal with, bad is right out.
Lets start from the beginning. We open on a little in-engine "cutscene" where three mooks discuss the running of.... someplace. We've so far not had any backstory about where or when we are. Is this Earth? If so, is it the future, or perhaps an alternative past? It this a different place and time entirely? Who knows. We've just hit the classic RPG problem. The player is ignorant of the setting, you need to ensure their avatar is at least as ignorant if not more so. Hence the incredible prevalence of amnesia attacks amongst potential heroes. You can probably come up with something a little smoother that cliche, though.
Anyway, we learn precisely two concrete facts from the opening scene:
1) I'm apparently the man (or woman) with no name just wandered in to town. That's apparently all anyone knows about me. Maybe it's explained who I am later, but I kind of doubt it.
2) There's been an earthquake. Clean up efforts are in progress.
That's the sum total. I can only think you consider this to be the most important things to convey to the player, since you completely break the game's convention that I am my avatar to tell me it. I couldn't possibly have witnessed this conversation. I just can't figure out why. What is this scene supposed to achieve? I'd love to know the rationale in the design document.
This single scene not seen from the avatar's perspective would be a good chance to show us something about the personalities of these three (I can only assume) important NPCs. Unfortunately, the writing isn't up to the job. Please, as a spiritual exercise at least, refer back to your design documents and see what they say about these characters' personalities (if a) You don't have a design document, or b) it doesn't say anything about their personalities, then you've discovered the problem right there.) Now compare what it says to the script and see if you can intuit some of those traits from how the characters interact. If you can't, rewrite the script.
Now I'm in the game and controlling my avatar. I'm looking around my room and find, amongst other things, my computer terminal. I have an email summoning me to the boss man's office. There's a little bit of gating in that I need to find my key before I can let myself out of my room, but I can happily leave other more-or-less critical items behind. Is it game critical that I have to see every container in the room? I missed the credits first time I played, and almost missed the armour. You've taught me how to loot containers by making me take the key. Why do I have to do this again for the other gear?
I head up to Tanner's office. Right away I notice the edge scrolling doesn't accelerate. Worse, the text log that takes up 25% of the left edge of the screen prevents you edge scrolling there. That's annoying. That's the kind of thing you'd expect would be caught before alpha. Doesn't that annoy just about everyone who plays? Oh well. Moving works OK for the most part, so there's that.
The game having taught me to rifle through containers, I promptly take a look through Tanner's shelves. Oh, a bolt recipe! I'm playing a sneaky crossbow character, I could use that! Wait, oops. Looks like Tanner is pissed at me. I guess that red cursor meant that would count as stealing. You die and learn. Lets reload, ho-hum. You've trained me by failure, but you could have trained me much better by making it much more obvious that RED HAND MEANS THEFT and having Tanner tell me to put his stuff back, giving me a grace period to do it. With decent game mechanics, that should be a standard part of the NPC's AI. Most people don't automatically go berserk and try to kill you if you breach commonly accepted social etiquette. They have solutions short of violence.
Now I know not to blatantly steal peoples' stuff, lets see what Tanner wanted. Woah, wait. Is that the size of font we're going with? It's tiny. Lets go to the options and see if we can jack that up. I have an astonishing two choices. Small and large. It's set to auto, which considering the screen resolution (1080p in this case) I would have thought would go with large, but apparently not. It's not rocket science to choose a font size that uses an appropriate number of vertical pixels to the screen resolution.
The conversation I have with Tanner is, how should I put this? Yes, that's it. Bland. Right away I spot a typo ("queue the chores"), not a good sign. Tanner hopes the earthquake THAT COLLAPSED SEVERAL TUNNELS didn't disturb my sleep. Is he been facetious? No, he seems like he's serious. Help, I'm trapped in the city of the morons. I'm given an opportunity to exercise my adopted persona a little, but I don't get any feedback that the game cares what I say. Perhaps it really doesn't. I get my marching orders and leave.
Away to the armoury. Hello, Lucas! Can I have my gun back. Oh, apparently we've met. Funny, I have no memory of that. Probably hit my head in the earthquake. I guess we're skipping the introductions then. Thank you, gun vending machine dressed as a person. Lets go talk to Gorsky. I've seen him before in the opening cinematic. I had the impression he was the taciturn type, he certainly wasn't over fond of using prepositions. Now he can't even bring himself to use contractions. He's an enigma! Or poorly written. Yes, that one. He punches me in the face, I guess I shouldn't have called him poorly written. Is that how things work here? Can I go around punching people with no consequences? Lets go try it out. Nope, apparently starting a barfight in this town is a sin punishable by summary execution. Well that's a bit of a mixed message. How exactly does the law work around here? Next council meeting I'll bring that up as something to add to the orientation. Or maybe it is in the orientation. I seem to have gaps in my memory. I can't even punch Gorsky back, which would be a nice easter egg possibility to win his admiration, the initiate dialogue icon prevents me from actually hurting him. Never mind, he's forgotten the slight in about 3 seconds. I guess we're cool again. Still getting the message my actions don't matter worth a damn.
Back to the task at hand. Lets see how good a marksman I am. As it turns out, not very. At ten yards, I have a less than 40% chance to hit a stationary target. I take 23 shots to make my ten hits. I now have 20 rounds in my magazine and another 33 ready. Oh, it's fine. It's not like the game would give me motive and opportunity to fire ammunition I need for my real missions.... right? They'll load me up before I head out of course. Of course.
Let us away to see the good doctor. He starts jabbering about my psionic potential. More obvious typos ("this trait came to be.") Again, this stuff it bland, bland, bland. Compare and contrast something like Planescape: Torment that hooks you from the first line of dialogue. Put some personality in to the script. Why do all these people speak like they're attending elementary elocution lessons? Aren't there any tics any of them have? Doesn't this future argot have any interesting and different turns of phrase? Their manner of life is so different from ours, but they speak exactly like us. Can't I be a scruffy Nerf Herder? A cutter? The ayatollah of rock and rolla? Give me something to work with here, please.
I choose to take the red pill. I don't really intend to use psi powers, but I'm told its a decision without consequences, so why not? Why give me the choice at all? It'd be a nice decision point if being a psionic lowered my physical abilities somewhat, but as it is this is a non-choice ripe for the cutting room floor. What's the intention behind this little scene?
When I come to, I ask doc Feelgood to tend to my injuries. He misses a nice opportunity to make a disparaging remark about me having tangled with Gorsky and lost. Little touches add personality to the world. They keep me interested. Sprinkle them in to your script at every conceivable opportunity. Personality is just one IF statement away.
Reporting back to Tanner, I'm told I'm being assigned to take back some power stations in the cave tunnels to the north. I'm told the tunnels are "below the station." Now I have two problems. Which way is north? I guess the top edge is supposed to be north, but we're looking at the world in an isometric perspective, so the geometry as been rotated 45 degrees. Which direction? I think the answer is supposed to be clockwise, but really any direction could be north. If you're going to give me compass directions, I need a compass to interpret them.
Now where are these tunnels? Below is a bit vague, considering we're not given a hint which direction is up. I try the station platform. I get slaughtered by a pack of rathounds. That's a bit discouraging. Maybe it isn't that way? Lets try the other extreme. Hrm. The only way to go down here is towards the docks. The ferryman demands money (remember I didn't find my wallet earlier... yeah.) Guess it isn't that way. It must be at the station platform. 15 minutes of getting slaughtered, and fruitless trips to various npcs to try and get better directions, I give up and go and look on the internet. OH! I have to ask the bloke behind the locked door to let me out. Well someone could have bloody told me. Lets do that.
On the right track at last! Oh crap, more bloody rathounds. What's this happy horseshit? These bastards can kill me in two turns. I'm glorified pest control and the pests are as tough a I am! Oh, oops, I guess I forgot to put on my armour. This leather armour reduces their otherwise lethal bites to merely annoying stings. Well it's a good thing I gave my room another once over before I left, otherwise I could have completely missed that vital detail. Certainly nobody mentioned on the way out that I should probably put some armour on before I go hunting, and I can find some in my room in case I missed it. I dispatch the initial room of vermin without bother and loot their corpses. Standard RPG faire thus far. Lets head in the direction presumably known as north. Look, the first power station! Oh my, but it's guarded by three rathounds. That's a bit more challenging. I shut them behind a chain link fence and blaze away. They run off. Nice touch to the AI there, I think. Ha.
I open the fence to pursue them. They come back to me, rabid as ever. Oh. I close the fence again, they run off. Oh look, I've seen the matrix. They're not smart, they're dumber than rocks and at the same time psychic. They know there's an alternate route, and they're just following the shortest path A* spits at them. I can exploit them like a tower defence game, repeatedly altering the shortest path so they run back and forth while I shoot at them unopposed. What year is this? 1992? Back in the day, when processors were clocked at less than 100Mhz, I could forgive this idiocy. It wasn't easy to find spare cycles to do AI with. But this is 2013. You have upwards of four threads of execution each more than 20x as fast to play with. Even the most naive pathfinding takes less than a millisecond and doesn't block your graphics or sounds threads besides.
Are these critters idiots? Then they should throw themselves at the chainlink fence trying to reach you. You can make that appropriately dramatic by making the fence destructible. Can you kill the slavering beasts before they rip down the fence and tear you to shreds. Are they smart? They seem to be pack hunters after all. They could leave one of their number guarding the front entrance, while the rest of them sneak round the back. That'd give you a nice "clever girl" Jurassic Park before they tear you to shreds. Neither of these is beyond the beginning programmer, and you can probably think of many more interesting things that might happen.
As it is, the fight seems to expect you to exploit the AI, because you can't take these things in a straight up slugging match. They're faster and powerful than you en masse and it takes two turns to kill one. My exploit works fine until I balls it up. Instead of clicking the 10 pixel wide target that is the door, I accidentally click the floor and move through the entryway. Now I don't have enough action points to move back. I'm torn to pieces for my mistake. Apparently it's 1988 and all our mice have only one button. Now that I think about it, the entire interface is designed that way. I haven't had to right click at all.
Take two. I dispatch my furry foes and move on to activate the power station. This seems to be the trigger for five of the slavering brutes to come and attack me. I hide behind a fence and shoot the blighters, who conveniently stand perfectly still and take the bullets. How do these things ever survive to breed? Well, that was an anticlimax. Now I'm out of ammo. I trek back to base to trade in my ill-gotten loot for a handful of bullets. Good thing I took a few points in barter or this'd be impossible. As it is, I hope the guy restocks because the 100 odd 5mm rounds he has isn't going to be near enough at this rate. Next station!
I head further possibly north, yet more rathounds. But they're clustered around an explosive barrel. I think I have a plan! I engage stealth and sneak as close as I dare to the barrels to get a better shot. Lets see what my chances are like. 20%? I have a 20% chance to hit a large, stationary barrel at 5 feet? Do I have cerebral palsy or something? Am I blind? Seriously now. Of course, it's not like I could expect such sophisticated factors as size or speed to be taken in to account when assessing my chance to hit. Oh well, lets risk it. I've got three bullets before I get mobbed by furry vengeance.
Miss! Miss! Hit! What, no boom? Oh crap. It takes two bullets to kill a barrel. I put on a desperate last stand, but apparently in this place my chance to hit even at point blank range has been reduced to 20%. Is it a bug? Oh I don't care any more. I'm through taking this crap. It took less than an hour for this game to break me. That's 7 quid I'll never see again.
Maybe I'll have another go when it goes gold, but I'm bitterly disappointed with my purchase thus far. Hopefully you can take this advice to heart and make some serious improvements. I'm not interested in a game where I'm rentakil man to bland subhumanoids.
(PS, your board can't seem to handle accented characters and just truncates and post after them. Sigh.)