Inner Chains, a first-person shooter with a good dose of horror, was announced back in August last year, successfully funded on Kickstarter some time ago, and it recently hit the Steam Greenlight.The game will take us into the distant future, to a world in which, after humanity decided to step down, the evolution led to a symbiosis between the nature and the technologies left by our civilization. Hundreds of years have blurred the boundaries between them so much that currently it is nigh impossible to tell where a machine ends and a living organism begins. With time, people once again began to settle in our, now rather inhospitable, planet. Numerous castes, exhibiting medieval levels of civilization, arose; one of them, more successful in employing the nature-altered relics of the old world, dominated the others and rules the world with an iron fist. As players we will assume the role of one of the members of that particular sect; initially an ardent believer, he begins to understand that not everything is as he had been taught when he gets to learn more about the strange universe he lives in, discover its secrets, and fight its numerous threats.
The debut work from Telepaths' Tree tempts the eyes with its visual setting that, while overflowing with gloomy, biomechanical buildings and creatures, utilizes the potential of Unreal Engine 4 to its fullest. "The visuals play a big role in our game; this world has long lived in our heads and we were keen to recreate it as closely to our vision as possible" – says Tomasz Strzalkowski, both creative and art director, and the co-founder of Telepaths' Tree, when asked whether the graphics are intended to be the main element to draw the gamers’ attention. But then he follows: – "Of course, the rhythm of the game, the music, and its other components are just as important to us. They work together to create a unique atmosphere and bind the game as a whole. "
The game is to mix gameplay elements characteristic of shooters and various solutions typical of horror games. The journey through the universe created by the artists will be an important aspect to the game. "Through exploration we want the player to familiarize himself with this surreal world. Give him the opportunity to learn and use his environments. Show the interactions that will help the player understand where he is and what is the purpose behind his presence here; what dangers await him, and what laws govern this world" – describes Strzalkowski. Straying from the main path will yield us additional information about the history of the place and granting us a better understanding of the bigger picture. Inner Chains will not offer a fully open-world environment; we won’t be allowed to return to all previously visited locations or engage in numerous side quests at any time – the narrative takes priority over unlimited freedom.
The said narrative should last for about three to four hours – unless we want to check every corner and attraction prepared by the developers. During this time, we will be using three types of weapons and facing five types of opponents. The numbers may not seem very impressive, but: – "Let’s not forget that this is also a horror" – as our interlocutor adressed this issue – “(...) We don’t want it to be reduced to cookie cutter scares and mindless shooting. That’s why the combat will be something more than just shooting enemies available in five flavors. I can assure you that there will be many surprises and secrets, but we would like the player to discover them by himself."
The owners of VR goggles will certainly appreciate the information that the game will be compatible with this technology, allowing us to completely immerse ourselves in the biomechanical world. Even the console owners will have something to wait for - although currently Inner Chains is being developed with personal computers in mind, the authors admit that in case of a successful debut they would certainly like to see their work ported to other platforms as well.
Although the game features only three offensive measures, the different ways in which we can use them seem to be very interesting. Various armaments, including a stun gun, a flame thrower, and a toy resembling a classic shotgun, are to be something akin to parasites and an integral part of the biomechanical setting. The game will provide us with locations where we can recharge our weapons, but, if we overuse them, the parasites may begin to feed not on the environment but on the character we control. The surroundings serve not only as a source of ammunition – we will also have to somehow use it to regain our health, because the game features neither classic med-kits nor auto-regenerating health. The nature in this world, however, knows better than to be reduced to the role of a passive energy supplier – it will retaliate tit for tat and by carelessly stepping where we shouldn't have, we can, for example, fall victim to one of the world’s numerous deadly plants.
The available press materials make a striking impression with a very suggestive atmosphere and stunning (for an indie) visuals on one hand, but on the other the animations seem rather unpolished and the fights are lacking the dynamic. The former will almost certainly improve, as is one of the main reasons why the developers asked for community support through Kickstarter. When it comes to combat, currently the most doubtful element of the game, we can expect the opponent AI to be more aggressive, when compared to what we see in the latest trailer. We shouldn't be expecting our character to dance through hostile armies like in Doom or Painkiller – the fights are to require not only skill, but also planning. Let us hope, however, that the weapon designs will be revised, as even short fragments of gameplay footage we have at our disposal are sufficient for us to notice that right now the guns look more like harmless toys than the deadly tools of destruction they are supposed to be.
While Inner Chains is the Telepaths' Tree’s debut production, this doesn’t mean that the developer team lacks experience in their field. Tomasz Strzalkowski, creative and art director, participated in the development of Painkiller, the PC version of Gears of War, and Bulletstorm. Piotr Chuchulski, before he began creating 3D models for Inner Chains, was employed at Flying Wild Hog and Platige Image, among others. The studio's roster features also former employees of CD Projekt RED, CreativeForge Games, and Techland.
The development of Inner Chains began more than a year ago and the game is currently in its final stages. Hence the surprisingly low funding threshold on Kickstarter – Telepaths' Tree only ask for 10,000 dollars, a fraction of the amount usually required to create such a production. As Strzalkowski explains – "The threshold is low, because it is based on facts and reflects the actual needs of the team. The game is almost complete, we just need some additional funds to polish some new elements that were implemented at later stages to have them represent a level that will satisfy both us and the players at the time of release”. Given this statement, I believe that the game’s release in June is a very real possibility. Assuming the team will refine the animations, make the combat more interesting than it can be seen in currently available promo materials, and keep their other promises, we can count on a really good independent work.