Meet VisionArts’ Middle Of Nowhere, An Indie Survival Horror That Leaves You All Alone In A Strange World
We recently got in touch with indie developer VisionArts, a growing company that was launched in the UK and founded by Aaron Wilde early this year, about their upcoming game, Middle Of Nowhere. A Kickstarter campaign for the game has just been launched, and VisionArts is determined to deliver a unique and memorable survival horror experience that will stay with players for a long time to come.
After a brief chat with Aaron Wilde, I set off to download the freely available pre-alpha demo, which you can grab on the game’s Kickstarter page. It is simply there to introduce you to the concept of this game, see what kind of world you’ll inhabit and get used to some of the gameplay mechanics. I did a Let’s Play of the demo, which you can see above. I ended up failing pretty badly in the end, but I always enjoy heading into recordings with zero idea of what I’m getting into, as that provides a clean slate.
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Tabula rasa and all that.
With my playthrough having been completed, I got down to analysing the game in more detail and reading up about it, and soon felt the need to share it with the rest of you fine people. In this article I’ll introduce you to the game, and provide some demo impressions.
To begin, Middle of Nowhere is a Unity-developed first person survival horror game that is inspired by classic games in the genre, particularly Silent Hill and Resident Evil. It is set to blend action, RPG elements, survival and scare factor in order to create a unique and memorable experience. While the demo is simply one level and only has basic features, the full game will boast a strong focus on story, some really freaky monsters and vast exploration.
The game is set in the year 2020, and is based in a troubled North American town. It’s easy to see why this is no ordinary town. I mean, for starters it’s filled with monstrosities and death traps, so there’s that.
The demo gives you a neat introduction to some of the setting, but is light on story and context. So, here is an official summary of the story:
Dr. Aleister Newman receives a letter seeking his aid. A young girl has fallen ill in a small town in North America. Scared for a her safety and curious about her condition, he offers his expert assistance…
Aleister never returns, and soon after, is declared missing. His brother, Isaac Newman decides to travel to the town in search of answers, but what he encounters is a place filled with horrors that far exceed the confines of reality. His sanity is tested as he ventures further into the middle of nowhere and unravels the mystery of his brothers’ disappearance.
Now that you have some idea of what the game is about, let’s me get into my demo impressions so you can get a feeling of the actual playing experience. The demo starts out with you in a wasteland, faced with ruins, death traps and a couple of spider creatures who want a piece of you. While in the full game you’ll start out with nothing and will need to explore to gather resources, the demo provides you with a knife, some claymores and relatively easy-to-find locations for a sniper rifle and crossbow. Although, you are only able to carry one of those at a time, which was good to see as choice, limitations, trade-offs and resource management are core elements of classic survival horror.
The demo mainly tests you on exploration and avoiding death, with you being tasked to find four components in order to build a bridge and get to something important, which I won’t spoil here. It’s not as easy as that though, because while the spiders are a simple matter to take care of, the place is littered with claymore mines, and the simplest of mistakes can lead to you blowing up and having to restart. I learned that the hard way, as is evident in my playthrough.
Core survival features and mechanics such as resource management and building fires and shelters aren’t pushed in the demo, as it’s more about the concept and introduction to gameplay. However, you are able to collect skulls that reward you with skill points, which are used to improve either health, protection or running speed. It is unclear whether there will be more skills in the full game, but the system is nice and simple as is. In the full game though, these will be vitally important to your survival, and it is said that “combat will be just as important as running away”, considering that your resources are limited and valuable. Weapons will either be very expensive (you gain money by killing enemies) or difficult to find, which is always good to hear in a survival horror title.
As for faults, it’s a pre-alpha demo so of course there will be small issues here and there, but on the whole I was very pleased by the performance of the game. Apart from some minor bugs, such as a text hint not disappearing and getting overlapped by another, and occasional frame rate drops (I was recording though, so take that with a pinch of salt), everything worked as smoothly as you could want in such an early demo. The one little thing that annoyed me though was the game not informing me of how many bridge parts I needed to collect, and it’s only when I read the Kickstarter page did I find out that little detail. Again, it’s an early demo, but it is something for the developers to think about going forward with quest design. I’m all for not holding players’ hands, as I love a challenge, but you also need a bit of focus and that comes with understanding, or at least being aware of, the objective.
The demo only provided a brief look, but I was definitely encouraged by the experience. I’m quite impressed by the fantastic graphics and art direction of the game for one, and I am very intrigued by the blend of gameplay elements. It could make for a very diverse experience if the game gets the execution right with regards to character building, horror, combat, survival and story. The developers are saying all the right things so far and Middle of Nowhere certainly boasts the ingredients to make it a big winner, but of course now it’s up to delivering on that.
It’s an awesome time to be an indie developer, especially with horror having seen a near full revival with plenty of innovation and quality products being on offer. I’m hoping Middle of Nowhere adds to that, as I really like the concept here and VisionArts themselves look like a really great bunch of people that have their hearts and minds in the right place when it comes to game development and gamers.
We’ll know soon enough though. The game has a month to get funded on Kickstarter, and is aiming for digital release in May 2014, but that isn’t final.
Be sure to check it out when you have the chance.