Ispiration is paramount in games and little can hurt the feel of a title like a lack of heart. Afterfall: Reconquest is a game that has ideas, a vision, and a lot of heart. What it lacks however, is in polish and execution. In many cases the shortcomings of Afterfall: Reconquest muddle the inspiration and leave an overall bad taste in the players mouth. The episodic nature that developer IntoXicate is promising for the “Reconquest” series, which will offer 9 episodes, could lead to some small tweaks that could make this world worth a visit. But for now, I couldn’t suggest a trip down the dusty roads it offers.
Set in a by-the-books World War III fueled wasteland, we are introduced to our nameless hero, The Reaper. A man with a personality that roughly resembles a pile of rocks, and motivations that shine about as brightly as an extinguished match. You are given a brief, but well animated hand drawn cut scene, a couple of lines of vague and moody dialogue, and promptly set free to embark on your less-than-epic quest to…hunt mutants. Worst of all these mutants, and the main antagonist in Afterfall: Reconquest, is the one known only as Red Eye. The Reaper and Red Eye have a seemingly tumultuous past, but the game never finds it important enough to explain just what shady business befell the two in the years prior. The cast is rounded out by a handful of generally uninteresting characters, and while some are more important than others to the progression of the story; each falls flat due to some uninspired writing and numerous spelling errors. The overarching story doesn’t develop much beyond whats given to you during the intro cinematic, and the game ends in possibly the most abrupt, unexciting fashion I’ve seen since Id’s 2011 post-apocalyptic shooter RAGE
At its core Afterfall: Reconquest is a 3rd person shooter, and somewhere deep down is a confused, lost, infant of an RPG. A quest log is provided, but the grand total of 10 missions in the game renders it next to inconsequential. The character progression is about as bare bones as it comes, offering little to no real improvement. Upgrades are handled in such a linear fashion that it takes away any weight your decisions might have when you do acquire a point to spend. As far as questing goes, the mission design is not far removed from an eternal fetch quest. I consistently found myself running back and forth through loading screens to simply relay messages from character to character. These errand boy missions were often met with little to no resistance in between, but when I did happen upon a wandering troupe of mutants; the encounter usually lasted for about 3-5 seconds. Leaving me to ponder life’s bigger questions, like if Kanye West and I would be friends or not?
In the beginning of the game you are equipped with a pistol and an offhand accessory known as “The Ripper.” This little gadget might be the star of the show. It serves three main functions; a deployable shield, a shotgun, and a way to siphon life from nearby dead enemies to refill your HP. These functions are switched on the fly with the use of the D-pad on a controller, or the “3” and “4” keys on a keyboard. The Ripper is the only place where the aforementioned upgrades come into play, giving you the option to strengthen either of the 3 abilities. Along the way you will pick up various assault rifles and pistols, but it’s quiet plausible to make it through the entirety of the game with just your starter gear. In many cases I found myself clearing entire combat scenarios with the ripper only, the flechette tend to bounce off walls and take out multiple enemies at once, which is honestly pretty satisfying. In the off-chance though that my ripper was out of juice, I would be forced to face the horrors of Afterfall: Reconquest’s truly horrific gunplay.
Combat and shooting are the biggest blunder the game has to offer. A standard left trigger/right trigger affair, there’s not much to be offered in terms of compelling engagements. Enemies show little to no sign of bullet impact, rushing forward after several shots to what appears to be the head. This lends to a frustrating and unrewarding action experience. Many times I was wondering if any of my bullets were hitting at all. Mutants and bandits would eventually lazily fall over after you fired enough rounds in their general direction. The aiming reticule does nothing to remedy this either, spreading to a huge radius at the slightest movement, essentially forcing you to stand in one spot during combat. Couple these facts with a complete lack of a cover system and you get a combat experience that feels cheap and based on luck.
Pacing and difficulty is another issue that befalls most of Afterfall: Reconquest’s 2-3 hour main story. This comes from the delta between the melee enemies and the ranged combatants. The former will pose about as little a threat as possible, while the latter will, in all likeliness, destroy you on a subatomic level. Your character will go down in 3-4 shots in most cases. With a lack of cover this is an extreme hurdle. Forcing you to approach combat with the cheesiest tactics possible, rather than cunning and skill. You have a pretty useless combat roll and crouch that do little but disorient, often leaving you facing completely different directions than you were before.
Perhaps the best thing about Afterfall: Reconquest is its artistic direction. The visuals are rendered out in black and white, with splashes of color throughout to highlight certain points of interest. It’s reminiscent of the graphic novel and film series Sin City and it’s a cool look when it’s done right. There are some flaws however with the visuals. In many cases I found the geometry of the world hard to navigate due to some contrast issues in light and dark. While not world ending, it was an annoyance and somewhat straining on the eyes. In addition to the map being hard to parse, enemies had an incredible tendency to blend in with the setting when they were motionless, and in many cases this led to a cheap death. this could have been remedied by simply splashing some color onto the enemy combatants to distinguish them from their backdrop.
Art design is another aspect that shines in Reconquest. A lot is pulled from its contemporaries such as Fallout and S.T.A.L.K.E.R. and it’s not entirely original at times. But the settings succeed in setting a mood that feels authentic to the story. Inoffensive but boring would be a good description for the OST. It’s a standard practice in minor key acoustic guitar riffs and swelling tribal drums when action pops off. A few standout tracks are featured, specifically one piano piece that plays only when you stand in a very specific spot, but nothing else really of note. It does its job, but with such a focus on the style and art behind this game, I wish there was a bit more bombast put into the music that accompanies me on the lonely journey.
When it’s all said and done Afterfall: Reconquest is a frustrating game for me. Hints of quality constantly teased me throughout my 3 hours with the game. Perhaps IntoXicate will look at what they have and improve on the formula for the following installments. Until then it’s a game I can’t really recommend. Here’s to hoping…