Early Access. Now there’s a concept I’ll never understand as it relates to video games. Okay, I get the logic: you buy the game before it’s finished so the indie developers can afford to make it in the first place – but personally, I only want to buy finished products.
I’ve heard that the other benefit is that it gives you a say in the game’s development – although from what I’ve seen, that translates into some developers collecting all your suggestions, bug reports and complaints and then diligently ignoring them. Still, I decided to dip a toe into these murky waters as a personal experiment a while back. The title in question: an interesting looking survival game called Sir, You Are Being Hunted.
Publisher: Big Robot
Its intriguing name alone got my attention. So I watched the trailer and read the premise, and it actually seemed original enough that I might want to give it a try. So I did. I bought it ages ago, when it first showed up on Steam’s Early Access list. I played a fair bit of it when I first got it, and never really gave it much of a look again until I saw that it had recently exited Early Access and been properly launched. So I loaded it up to see what had changed.
Apart from a few items and enemy types that apparently weren’t in the version I’d played, not much, it seems. Oh, there is the option to pick your starting class, which determines your starting equipment, which definitely wasn’t there when I played it before. The premise goes like this: you play the role of a faceless, voiceless man – or woman, in which case the title of the game changes to Madam, You Are Being Hunted – who ends up stranded in a strange world inhabited by oddly British robots. The voice of someone I assume to be your butler chimes in over the radio, informing you that your experiment went horribly wrong, and you’re stuck where you are until you can find all the missing pieces of your exploded teleportation device so you can get home.
It’s a simple concept, and the only goal of the game. Where it becomes less simple is that those British robots I mentioned… well, they don’t like you. In fact, they’ll gun you down on sight, or send their robot dogs after you, or set bear traps for you and then shoot you in the face with a blunderbuss while you try to wriggle free. Yes, unfortunately every robot (of which there are several varieties with different weapons and tactics) wants to kill you. There are only two things you can do about this. The most obvious option is to stay hidden and find the teleporter pieces stealthily, without drawing attention to yourself. The other option is to fight, which is a calculated risk on your part. You’re vastly outnumbered, you die quickly, and you have to hope you can find some decent weapons beforehand anyway.
Sir, You Are Being Hunted borrows ideas from the roguelike genre. Thankfully (because I’m not a fan of the glut of roguelikes currently hitting the indie scene), S,YABH only borrows a few roguelike traits. For instance, every time you start a new game the five islands you have to explore are randomly generated, along with the item and enemy placements within them. So, you could start a new game and sprint for the nearest shed to find a treasure trove of weapons, or you could be three-quarters of the way through the game before you even find a hatchet – it all depends on how the proverbial dice came down. I can live with that. Thankfully, death is not permanent; instead you’ll be transported back to your last save with everything you had at that point.
Does the fact that death is not permanent take the bite out of the game? Maybe for some people. But if you blunder into a bad situation after collecting three teleporter pieces and it’s been 45 minutes since your last save, I can see things being tense enough as you sprint blindly through the trees while bullets ricochet around you and you fumble for a bandage to stem your rapidly draining health.
In addition to the weapons, you can find dozens of other item types to help you out in your quest. Food and bandages are two main ones. The health system works like this: if your health reaches zero, you die. [Weird that. – Ed.] You lose health when you are attacked. If you’re badly injured, you bleed and lose health steadily until you bandage yourself. You can regain lost health over time, but you regain it faster if your vitality is high. You keep your vitality high by eating food. It’s quite simple.
There are support items too, like the alarm clock and clockwork train that can be used to distract enemies. Other items include things like musical instruments, and patriotic crockery, which I’ve still never found a use for, and rotten food and dead vermin, which are useless – so why are they even in the game?
It’s a solid concept and it works, for the most part. My only real complaint is that the hide-and-lure strategy is so effective that it beats pretty much everything the game can throw at you. Set some kind of lure, draw the enemies away, swoop in, steal the teleporter piece, run away. Repeat until you have all the pieces. No real problem. The only reason to get into combat is if you want to look for trouble.
Still, indie games often do significantly worse, and Sir, You Are Being Hunted is definitely worth a look if you’re in the market for something different.