I'm Dylan. Artist by heart, game dev in practice, and writer on the side. Pleased to make your acquaintance.
Maybe I'm cynical. Maybe I'm being too harsh. Maybe I don't know what I'm talking about. Maybe I was just in the wrong mood.
Whatever the case, I didn't really enjoy my time with The Fugitive - Episode Three, and I think that counts for something.
This is going to be a long review, as I have much to talk about. Brevity may be the soul of wit, but I'm not here to be witty.
The Fugitive's shortcomings are largely matters of design, and game design is a complicated subject, so I hope you can bear with me.
First, a bit of background:
Before playing Episode Three, I decided to play Episode Two, so that I could get a sense for how much progress was made between the two parts.
I skipped Episode One, though. I don't think anyone can blame me for that.
I stopped playing Episode Two between 30-45 minutes in, finding that it's level design was largely uninspired, and it's various puzzles and obstacles were rather trite. I didn't care if it got better after that, because it's introduction failed to inspire anything but apathy in me.
So, in a slightly soured mood, I booted up Episode Three, hoping for something a little more invigorating to get me going. I had followed it while it was in development, and I was excited for something truly special.
It was here that I opened the notepad on my phone and started taking notes about my experience, so that I could more accurately represent my feelings in this review. I ended up writing so many notes that I ran out of space and had to start a second file.
The following are a handful of those notes, as I wrote them while playing:
- "Aside from some bright splashes of color, the levels I've encountered within my first half hour of playing The Fugitive Three have proven rather generic and, at times, even scatter-brained. Worse, two are very blatant copies of levels from The Dark Descent. namely the Old Archives and Storage."
(Note: While the layouts of the levels weren't 1:1 duplicates of the originals, they were too similar for me not to be suspicious of less than savory practices. I would go on to find areas that were similar to the Back Hall, Prison, Sewer, Choir, and Machine Room, as well as a level from The Great Work.)
- "Tasks to go about within the levels are also nauseatingly dull, involving mostly running around and finding objects to be used in a manner that requires no thought. This is the exact opposite of how tasks should be handled in an exploration-driven game."
(Note: To clarify this note, I'm saying that finding objects should be an intuitive and logical process that drives exploration, not a tedious scavenger hunt. Figuring out what to do with the things you've found should be trickier, but would presumably make sense. Penumbra: Overture understood this very well.)
- "Tasks are shaping up to be glorified key quests. Not the worst thing in the world, but it comes off as padding."
(Note: Padding is a term we'll come back to later.)
- "I want to slam my head against a wall until I stop feeling anything."
(Note: I'm exaggerating of course, but this note came after a very frustrating encounter with a Kaernk that had a very poorly communicated solution. Poor communication is another term we'll come back to later.)
- "Found a small cabin in the woods. This area is very serene. Love the atmosphere here."
(Note: One of the few places I actually wanted to explore, and I was never allowed to return.)
- "I've stopped playing at the Nest of Hunger. I'm tired of being told nothing about what I'm meant to do. As far as I care, this ended when I escaped Marius Castle."
Hopefully you've gained a sense for how I felt while playing, as well as what my more common complaints were, better than I could hope to explain to you.
With regards to poor communication:
One of the biggest pitfalls of game design is not letting the player know what is expected of them. It is nothing short of sheer ignorance to assume that the player will see a tinderbox and assume it points
I have to say, this was a pleasant surprise. Somehow, you've managed to make a custom story that I had more fun playing than The Dark Descent itself. Your level design is superb, and the ambiance, lighting, and effects all blend together to create this amazing, all-encompassing atmosphere that had me both fascinated and terrified. The scares were spaced just well enough to keep me on the edge of my seat, without them getting repetitive or predictable. The camera movement in some of the scenes (especially the one at the end) was extremely well done, and your use of sound effects during events, no matter how trivial, was fantastic. The story didn't seem like it would be much in the beginning, but ended up being very memorable and satisfying. Along with that, the puzzles were neither too easy, nor too difficult (which is saying something, because I get stumped very easily). The only quirks I have would be the voice acting, which wasn't bad but also wasn't particularly good, and the fact that it wasn't always clear what I was supposed to do (example, I didn't know to stay out of the darkness in the Graveyard until AFTER I died from standing in the darkness). But all-in-all, I find this to be an exceptionally good custom story with great level design, atmosphere, scares, and story. I would seriously recommend this to anyone interested.
This is pretty good, especially for a first custom story. The level design, while a bit too open-ended, (I feel I missed several areas entirely) looks absolutely beautiful. The lighting is a bit bland, and doesn't compliment the rest of the design very well. The story is interesting, at least to the point where I didn't feel the need to skip any of the notes. I wasn't really scared at any point, and I was more frustrated by the way enemies kept popping up than anything. I didn't mind the lack of puzzles, though I can't speak for everybody. To put it in a nutshell, this is a decent custom story, and I enjoyed it.
I was pleasantly surprised by this. The level design is good, the scares are where they should be, and the story is decent. Granted, the atmosphere could use some work and a few of the rooms bore a striking resemblance to the main story, but other than that this is a good custom story that I thoroughly enjoyed. Keep up the good work!
This custom story is bad. I don't even feel like sugar-coating it because it's 2:30 in the morning and I'm tired. The level design is terrible and the atmosphere, scares, and music are all nonexistent. The story is barely even there, and it doesn't (technically) end, as there are no credits to be spoken of. And don't even get me started on the lighting. All I can say to you is, practice. Play some popular custom stories, think about how the levels were built and what made them fun. I want to see what you're truly capable of. And take your time on your next custom story, and really put a lot of detail into each level. I'm looking forward to it.
Maybe I'm being harsh giving this a six, being that this is your first custom story and all, but that really doesn't change the fact that I didn't have much fun playing this. I admit, I didn't play this all the way through (not because I didn't want to, but because I got stuck in the storage area) so I can only talk about what I saw up to that point, but I get the feeling it doesn't change much past that. None of the scares are worth noting, and while there aren't any teleporting/flying/dry-humping naked guys, they're all little more than cheap jump-scares. They scared the complete and utter s*** out of me, but they were cheap nonetheless. The level design... isn't terrible, but it's definitely lacking a certain level of creativity. I didn't feel like I was desperately searching for a way out of a castle while being hunted down, I felt like I was walking around inside a cluster-f*** of walls and locked doors, drifting from one scripted event to another. I'd pick up an item not because I needed it but because it was there, and then happened to be useful later. Take note: You should always present the problem before offering the solution. And where detailing is concerned, you're on the right track. There's a lot of missed potential here, and quite a few obvious mistakes. For one, most (if not ALL) planes are tiled far too much. This is a common mistake, and one that I used to struggle with. I can't really describe it, but you have to really look at the textures and decide the correct amount (0.3-0.5 is usually just enough). And I can't even fathom the amount of doors that were place on the edge of their frame rather than in the center. Of course, this custom story does have it's redeeming qualities. The story is decent, and I didn't feel compelled not to read the notes and diaries. Some details were surprisingly well thought out, like the reason the key to your room is in your friend's room is because you left it in the door. In short, there are worse custom stories.
The story is good, but the level design is... odd and some of the scares don't quite work the way they should (that or I'm really good at hiding from poofers). The levels feel a lot like the original game, perhaps even too much so. Several times I found myself saying "Oh, I remember this place." or "Well, that's oddly familiar." For example, I walked into the first cellar level and was greeted with a memento cheerily informing me of how dark it was (sound familiar?). On the other hand, this custom story also matches the Dark Descent in map quality. While it is a bit confusing at times, it definitely looks and feels well-built. It's also oddly good at keeping me on edge, despite the fact that not a whole lot happens (well, more happens than in the original game, but not near as much as some other custom stories). All-in-all, this is a great CS with good level design and a solid story.
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