Probably the single biggest gameplay change in this new release is the introduction of traps. Players can now use the previously useless ‘traps’ skill to detect, disarm and (at higher skill levels) acquire and redeploy a wide variety of different traps.
(Notice the persistent blood spatter in the image above? Yep, that’s new too.) Traps have procedurally generated elements, and the algorithms can currently generate 60 distinct trap types (though only 14 of these can be encountered in the free Demo version, as the others are considered too dangerous for the early levels). Much of this variety comes from the ability of traps to inflict new and unusual damage types, and as a result traps will also be the main way that players of this update will initially encounter some of the many new status effects (or ‘debuffs’) that have been implemented, ranging from blindness to radioactivity.
So here is what happens when the ‘LSD trap’ releases a gaseous form of LSD that causes debilitating hallucinations in the player:
Improved Lighting and Sound
The biggest change from a purely visual point of view, on the other hand, comes from an overhaul of the room lighting system. Where previously room-based lighting was 2D (sprite-based), all level lighting now uses 3D light sources. In addition this version of the Demo introduces coloured lighting for the first time, which I hope really add to the sci-fi atmosphere.
These changes also have an impact on gameplay. All levels now start out with a certain number of randomly chosen rooms lit by flashing ‘emergency lights’. As in previous versions, by exploring the level, the player will find ‘generators’ that turn on additional lights, though generators can now have the effect of changing the lighting in a room from emergency light to normal light.
These changes to the lighting go along with a system of atmospheric sounds, which adds a third level of sound over and above the game sound effects and scifi background music. This layer of atmospheric sound is procedurally generated by adding random sound sources (like machine hums and whirs, creaking metallic sounds) to specific level locations, and then increasing or decreasing the volume as the player approaches or moves away from those sources. This generates a quite realistic pattern of overlapping background sounds, just the sort of thing you’d expect to hear on an alien-infested space station!
Who doesn’t love a nice set of game stats to look at when finishing a game? Although more stats are likely to be added in future updates, this release offers a first, generous helping of facts and figures including a complete listing of kills for each of the 156 procedurally generated enemy types currently projected.
These stats are available each time you die, and are also permanently stored for each ‘high score’ gained.
This release also contains some quite significant user interface improvements. The most important of these is a much more intuitive ‘fast move’ interface for keyboard controls, whereby holding down a movement key will simply cause that movement to repeat after a short interval (whose length can be customised) - unless of course something occurs that ought to stop you in your tracks, like hearing a facehugger scuttle along a corridor.
Another major UI improvement is that light sources like torches now have an ‘auto’ setting, whereby they turn on and off according a simple calculation of whether it would be useful to have them on at a given location. This helps the player to focus on things that really matter, like vanquishing alien scum, while still providing the option of turning your torch off even in dark locations to save the battery power.
While we’re talking about UI, there are also a new set of icons, colour-coded for ease of use, to indicate damage types and status effects - both by ‘floating’ above the player/alien affected and in a new ‘status bar’ at the top right of the screen.
As usual there are also a host of more minor changes. Levels now feature alien ‘eggs’ that have a small chance of hatching each turn. When you kill a facehugger, the spray of acid blood now has a realistic sound effect, and a chance of causing the ‘acid’ status (temporarily reduced armor value). There’s a new custom cursor. There are some game balance adjustments: you are now much more likely to find a pistol of some kind on level 1 for example, and wurms now reproduce more slowly. There’s a lot more I could mention: a full list of changes is available on the devlog.
Available to try out now