PREVIEW: The Seeker


the-seeker

The Seeker is a Steam Early Access science fiction stealth game in which you control a drone and must make your way through various levels of what looks like a deserted space ship to somehow save humanity. How, and from what, is not really explained, or at least not yet.

Status: Early Access

Developer: VisualTech48

Publisher: Intercido

Genre: Action Stealth

Release Date: TBA

Type: Single-player

 

The Steam store page gives some of the background story, but, like the current incarnation of the game, needs a bit more fleshing out. It’s all rather intriguing, though, and sounds like just the sort of story I enjoy.

Graphics

Graphics in The Seeker are pretty impressive. Various coloured dynamic lights create an interesting obstacle course of light and shadow to navigate, while the contrast between the bright lights of your drone body and the darkness around you creates a tense atmosphere.
The Seeker itself — the weird squat lozenge-like drone you control when you play — is nicely animated and lit. The dynamic spotlight under your control looks great, and shadows look sharp and well defined. Level backgrounds look great, and make me want to know more about what’s going on. What is Vallar (the first real level after the tutorial) and why does it look like it’s suffered some damage? And what are those nicely animated boxes twirling about in space outside?

Special effects are nice, with some crazy full-screen effects when you’re attacked by enemy drones. It can be hard to notice some interaction hints though; they need enlarging or otherwise brightening so that they more easily attract the player’s attention. The menu system looks a bit out of place, but I’m guessing it’s a placeholder at the moment, as the game is still in development.

There’s a collection of toggles and other graphics settings available to optimise the graphics for your PC. I played with everything turned up to maximum on a new gaming laptop and everything moved well. I didn’t notice any hitches or frame rate drops.

Sound

Sound is minimal and helps to focus the tense and lonely atmosphere of the game. I’d like to hear a few more effects as you move your Seeker about and interact with your environment. The title music is nice, but seems to be the only track in the game so far.

Gameplay

Although the game engine is 3D, the game plays in two dimensions from an overhead view, looking down on the action. You move your drone about with WASD a control the direction of your mounted spotlight with the mouse. Other keys allow you to turn the spotlight on or off, or to activate or deactivate your drone.
When you’re activated with your flashlight on, you can zoom about the levels pretty quickly, and shine your light on anything about you to see where you’re going. This attracts the unwanted attention of enemy drones, cameras, and other security devices, though. Turning off your flashlight makes it harder for them to spot you, but also much harder to see around you, and deactivating your drone makes it even harder for them to detect you, but causes you to move much more slowly, and prevents you from interacting with anything. And even then if they get close enough, or you move too quickly, the alarm will activate and drones will descend upon you quick smart.

About the levels are scattered security doors, which you can open, alarm panels and other security consoles to hack, and, of course, the ubiquitous drones and cameras to make your drone life miserable. I assume the goal of each level is to find the exit after hacking whatever target device is specified, but I’ve only managed to complete the tutorial level so far, so I’m not entirely sure.

You see, the Seeker is hard. Very, very hard. I’ve spent the better part of my playtime simply retrying the first level (“Vallar”) over and over and over, and haven’t managed to make it very far at all. Sometimes I know what I’ve done wrong, whereas other times a drone will spot me from way outside of its visible detection radius, or some other security device that I haven’t even managed to see yet will spot me and set off the alarm, making drone death extremely likely. Sometimes it seems that the alarm is even raised randomly, for no reason at all.

This wouldn’t be so bad if the developer’s big claims of “huge randomness” were evident in the game, but every time I’ve played this level, everything has been in the exact same spot. The level is the same, the security devices are the same, and the enemy drones are the same. I’ll give the game the benefit of the doubt and accept that maybe, just maybe, the collectible glowing ‘points’ are sometimes not all in the same positions, but even then there’s not much variation in where they’re found. So that sort of saps the motivation to keep replaying the same level just one more time.

The ‘points’ themselves probably need more explanation, too, though maybe they’re just not developed yet. It looks as though you’re supposed to be able to spend them on ‘skins’ for your drone — one of the hints mentions using the workshop to “access skins”, too — but there doesn’t seem to be anywhere in the game that has this functionality, at least not from what I can see from the main menu. One of the loading hints also mentions upgrading your drone in the drone menu, but since there is no drone menu, I can only assume this isn’t implemented yet either. So at the moment it seems that there’s no point (haha) in the collectibles.

The game is fairly stable for an early Early Access title, with the only actual bugs I’ve seen so far being minor, although I do wonder if there’s a bug in the alarm system, since it seems to go off for no reason sometimes.

Pros

+ Good graphics
+ Interesting game mechanics and ideas
+ Game world looks like it should be interesting (but there’s very little background provided as yet)
+ Steam achievements

Cons

– A lot of errors in the interface (grammar, incorrect button names, missing menus)
– Confusing – limited tutorial
– Very hard, and somewhat frustrating
– Suspected issues in the alarm system
– Claimed randomness is not evident
– Most achievements don’t work properly yet

Overall

I like stealth games. I like science fiction games. And I like good stories. This game fits two of those and has the possibility of fitting the third as well, with considerable work. But at the moment it lacks a fair bit of polish and it’s more difficult than fun.
I’ll be keeping an eye on it, though, because it definitely has potential.

Genkipro’s PREVIEW

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