Penumbra: Overture Episode 1 Preview

There’s something about creepy thriller games that always gives me the willies. I still remember the scene in F.E.A.R. when you approach a ladder and once you get on it, the creepy girl is right there in your face! I won’t even get started on Clive Barker’s Undying or the hotel level in Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines. While those games have had their moments, they tended to include over-the-top weaponry, rehashed horror plots and campy thriller tales. Penumbra: Overture will be going back to the basics of the horror genre. Planned as a trilogy, the first episode will head to UK stores at the end of this month, with online distribution launching the same time. Publisher Got Game Entertainment will be bringing the retail boxes to store shelves across the lake in the United States sometime in the future.

The three person core group that makes up Swedish developer Frictional Games is definitely pinning down what makes a horror game really a horror game: a weak and vulnerable main character, an underlying imagination that players think of while playing, and many themes derived from notable fantasy/horror author H.P. Lovecraft.

The story, even though there are scant details now, involves a man named Philip who receives notes from his long-lost deceased father. His inherent curiosity brings him to winter-capped Greenland, which is where these notes point too. This is where Lovecraftian themes come in; for example, Philip’s inability to escape fate. It appears that it’s Philip’s fate to find out who his father is and why he’s dead. In the narrative, it mentions that even though it took Philip close to a year to finally catch a plane to Greenland, he ultimately drops everything in his life and heads to Greenland to find out what happened.

One of the main focuses of Penumbra: Overture is the physics. Powered by Newton Game Dynamics, the game will be pretty physics heavy. Picking up items is done by holding down the left-mouse button, and right-clicking allows you to throw it; throwing is based on the object’s weight and your strength so you won’t be throwing crates and barrels ten feet into the air, or even lifting them like Gordon Freeman or John Blade. Even pulling open drawers or doors is a crafty addition. Rather than automatically opening upon one mouse click, you have to physically push or pull the mouse. It’s based on the amount of force on the mouse, so you can carefully open a door or fling it open with all your might.

Combat is not a main focus, but it is present in the game. Unlike other games where you have a full arsenal of weaponry, Philip is just your average man. While he can swing conventional objects like hammers or planks of wood, he won’t be able to take down armies by himself. Wielding a weapon is also enhanced due to the physics engine. Instead of one-mouse-click-kills-all, you have to swing your mouse in the direction you want to hit while holding down the left mouse button. At first it takes a little getting used to, but you do get the hang of it.

Finally, there are the visuals. With the help of some volunteers, Frictional Games’ engine is really shaping up to today’s standards. The game features many aspects of today’s visual eye-candy, including bloom, shader quality, post-effects, motion blur, depth of field and antistrophy. Batting a lit light bulb around will realistically cast shadows around the objects in a room, and moving an object close or far from the light source will cast the appropriate shadow.

Frictional Games may be a small team, but they have big dreams and ideas brewing. Each episode will be around 8 hours in length, and its expected that the second — if not the third — will be released by the end of this year.


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Author: GamerNode Staff View all posts by

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