A clone soldier, the last remaining human ground unit has to infiltrate a research complex occupied by alien forces. The spectral node, a closely guarded device vital for the cycle of death and rebirth that humanity relies on has been infected by extraterrestrial spores and needs to be purified. Without the nodes back in operation, the human cloneing programs will be rendered ineffective, bringing humanity to the brink of extinction.
Atropos Mandate is a sci-fi shooter created in FPS Creator, a once popular no-code-required game engine that is now as forgotten and disused as the Siberian research facility this game uses as its setting. The game is both a brilliant example of what FPSC is still capable of in 2021, and what a promising developer SerygalaCaffeine is.
Users of FPSC will be aware of the grid structure you use to assemble your levels; this naturally lends itself to indoor spaces with lots of 90° angles. From the opening level, set outside the facility, the jagged rock faces and naturalistic asymmetry make it clear this is not going to be a typical FPSC game. SerygalaCaffeine is a master of using architectural form to “break the box”, resulting in spaces that look detailed and interesting and not at all boring and cubic. Pipes and electrical cables criss-cross the nine levels whilst huge signage and industrial machinery lend an authenticity to the levels. This is all rendered masterfully with excellent use of FPSC's somewhat limited lighting capabilities. FPSC is an engine that harkens from a time long before ray-tracing and PBR, yet the graphics have a wonderful early-2000s tangibility to them, with barely a overbaked normal map in sight.
The gameplay is much improved over SerygalaCaffeine's previous FPSC Game, Amytric Pulse: Operation Euridike (another baffling, unmarketable name). In that game, the shortcomings of the AI were hidden by them being super difficult, and you could really only beat the game by using the lean keys to peak out from behind cover. This reduced the game to a slow methodical shooting gallery where, provided you stayed hidden, no enemy posed a threat provided you had enough ammo. In this game, the enemies are weaker, but there's less cover and you often meet them in more enclosed spaces, forcing direct confrontation. You're not punished too harshly for going in all guns blazing, which is satisfying. There's variety in the enemies types too, which keeps things interesting. One of the enemies shoots exploding rounds from a distance. It can be difficult to see where these enemies are until the ground starts exploding around you, and visually they aren't as distinct as they could be to mark them as more dangerous. The final boss battle was interesting conceptually, but was easy in comparison to the rest of the game, kind of a bummer really.
The majority of the story is delivered through extensive notes found throughout the levels. These can take the form of lengthy email exchanges between co-workers (often rendered in slightly too small a font), or prosaic descriptions of the history of the gameworld and its technology. In short, there's A LOT of lore here, and wading through it all often slows the game down. SerygalaCaffeine games are always packed with reams of well-thought-out lore, but here it starts to eclipse the game itself and it makes me wonder if this story would have been better realised as a short story or novella than a game. Perhaps if some of this backstory had been delivered via audio logs, it might have been less laborious to ingest.
Audio is worth mentioning too; it's pretty well done here! There's some atmospheric music (although I think I preferred the soundtrack to Amytric Pulse) and there's more voice acting than previous SerygalaCaffeine games. The guns have satisfying fire and handling noises which are lightyears better than stock FPSC ones, and even the footstep sound effects sound better. Occasionally though, some of the ambience can be a little too loud, like in the opening level where the wind noise makes it difficult to hear every line of the opening exchange between the player character and their commander. Also some of the dialogue is a little quiet at times.
The presentation is very well done: Atropos Mandate features custom menu and loading screens, custom HUDs, and plenty of the aforementioned notes. One tiny nit-pick is the inconsistency in font sizes for these notes; sometimes the text is perfectly readable, sometimes it's just a little too small. The contrast could be better too, to aid readability. Also, on one of the later levels, I lost my ammo counter altogether, though it returned for the final level. The game is also running a subtle ReShade fullscreen shader, which adds to the presentation.
In conclusion then, and despite it's baffling title, Atropos Mandate is both a great shooter and a fantastic FPSC game. I recommend it to anyone interested in sci-fi shooters, and particularly anyone who uses or has used FPS Creator. I can't decide whether I prefer Amytric Pulse or this. Even though Atropos Mandate is a more “complete” game, there was something about Amytric Pulse that stayed with me well after I played it. Rest assured though, Atropos Mandate is an instant FPS Creator Classic, and if SerygalaCaffeine continues this upward trajectory in the quality of his work, his next game will be Unreal! ;)
******* Love it.
I have the pleasure to call this DEV my (online) Friend and I have been playing most of his games over the years. I love the atmosphere and level design of this game and it gives me a special mood I can't describe. It's a mix of nostalgia and a warm cozyness even though the levels are dark and gritty. Guys, just play the game and enjoy it! Much love from Germany.
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