As you may know, I have Steam. These days a lot of the games I own I've either purchased through Steam, or redeemed through Steam (e.g. buying an indie bundle and adding it on Steam) - sometimes I forget how I even got games, which happens sometimes with the indie bundles or Steam package sales. One such game that I've had sitting around for a while is a game called The Scourge Project - developed by Tragnarion Studios and published by Bit Box S.L.
Now and then I play co-op games with a friend of mine, and recently we'd been looking for some to play since we thought we had completed our last set of games. Rather than try to find new games, however, I decided it was time to trawl through the Steam games I already had and categorize them - with one specific category being one I'd mention to my friend to look into and decide if he was interested in; One of the games was The Scourge Project. It hasn't had good reviews, so I'm not entirely certain why he picked that one in particular, but then we've enjoyed some games that didn't get good reviews so we're well aware that reviews are not end-all be-all articles.
Sadly, in this case, they turned out to be an accurate warning - while there's a fair amount of detail to the game, it is incomplete in a number of ways:
The most galling is it has some severe and easily reproducible bugs:
- Hosting and joining seems to be partly broken. For one, we couldn't switch from LAN games to Internet games - the option was there but it didn't seem to take effect. When trying to join a LAN game, the game insists that "The character filter does not apply to LAN games" and is locked to the first character, Stonewall. However, this is false: Whenever I created a game and picked any other character, my friend could not see my game. Thus, I resigned to creating the game by picking stonewall, then .. switching to another character. I don't understand why it is necessary to pick a character first when players can freely switch in the game lobby! I played as Mass, and he could play as Stonewall - not a game breaking bug if you figure it out, but otherwise odd and a sign of bad design.
- At least in multiplayer, when a partner is revived there's a chance they are revived in a "half dead" state: They're alive in the sense they can revive downed party members, can activate switches and the like, and are fired at by enemies... but they're still dead in the sense that they cannot attack (shooting or mélée) and cannot use any abilities - they're basically walking decoys. If such a half-dead party member uses a mounted gun, they might as well stay with it - the moment they let go, they collapse as though downed, but cannot be revived. They can resume use of the gun, however. Go figure. This bug patches itself when a cutscene occurs (and some other event I didn't bother tracing - maybe on pause?), so it isn't entirely game breaking - but enough to be quite frustrating.
- One particular mission - I don't remember a name or anything, other than having to extract DNA from an already dead scientist - has a game breaking bug that broke the camel's back for us - the door doesn't open. Well, it opens visually, but physically it still bars access.. which had not only us confused, but the bots as well: They would attempt to walk through for a moment, realize it wasn't working for some reason and back off, wait a moment, then try again. Clearly, something broke there.
- Repetition. Most of the game is a plethora of "shoot these guys, hack this console, open this door - oh wait you need to pretend to be some other guy, kill said guy and extract DNA, open door, rinse, repeat". There's a few bits that were a bit different and were kind of refreshing, but even then they were a bit lacking - the bomber, for example, always seemed to hit the exact same area the exact same way at each pass. While I understand it would have made the game frustrating if it were to hit the player trying to use the mounted gun, you could at least make the rest of the party squirm in fear while they pressure said player to figure out how to destroy the bomber. ;)
- Another issue demonstrated some bad game design: In an earlier mission, one of the objectives was to activate some emergency exit of some sort. If you listened carefully to the computer voice (which is hard to hear, particularly when you are being shot at), I believe it states something to the effect of having to remain near the console while the emergency exit is being opened. However, if you don't notice or understand this, you'll (understandably) charge towards where you saw said exit and try to leave... only to find the objective is marked as failed for some reason, and you have to retry the procedure. There is no other hint that you are required to remain in the central area where the panel to activate the exit is.
So why do I think it could have been good? Well, for one, we didn't find it too unenjoyable despite the flaws above; Overall it worked decently and had features - like cover-based firing - that didn't get in the way and were relatively well executed. Another reason is that I've noticed a number of neat features that other games don't seem to have, which would have given it an upper hand if only the game had been properly completed:
- You can pause. No, seriously - you're playing a LAN game, the pizza (let's say) arrives, bam - you hit pause, the game freezes for everyone and you don't have to worry about silly things like the master server booting you off for inactivity in a LAN game (I'm looking at you, Valve). It seems there's no sort of indication that the game is paused, but as long as the game host makes it fairly clear they're about to pause the game, it's not exactly a big issue. I don't see it being quite as useful in over-the-'net games, but it's still a decent and rare feature.
- Resume from any checkpoint, any time - if your character got there. Simple enough: Host creates a game, picks not only the mission but the checkpoint as well. Resume your game almost right where you left off, no save necessary. The only downside was that, well, since there's no save (which seems to be a recent craze) you may not have the weapon load-out you had before.. The fact that your characters are tracked is kind of neat, and while I understand it may be irritating to some people (and in some cases), it makes you have to play rather than just skip through and see the ending... I guess.
- While it was unrefined and the bots weren't exactly obedient, there was a nice ability to give the bots orders - without fiddling with some vague voice command menu. Point, hit the key, bot goes off on its way - context sensitive (i.e., you aren't necessarily saying "move here" - point at a console, and you're saying "go use this", for example). One bug I noticed was that the selection, being either sequential or random, included players - whom of course didn't have to obey and usually didn't have to be ordered this way. It would work better if either I still had to pick someone, or players weren't included since there are better ways to give orders.
So, it could have been good... but as it is, it kind of deserves to be at the lowered price point it is at now - if not lower. Oh, and I forgot to mention - playing it now means we've played it after the company had released a few patches and no more updates were coming out... I don't want to think of how much worse it could have been beforehand.