I believe honesty is crucial when it comes to reviews. That is why I want to begin this article by saying that I was not able to spend as much time playing this game as I wanted to. This was due to technical difficulties causing me to reset my playthroughs on two occasions; one reset was caused by being soft-locked in one area, the other due to my saves being corrupted after an update that was pushed before the game went live. I chalk the corruption up to something going wrong with the rewriting of files and will not let that affect my review of this game. The first one will be noted though, because this has almost happened on other occasions while playing Insomnia: the Ark. So take what I say with a grain of salt.
Earth was lost to the great war. But with its last breath, humanity sent out a cosmic metropolis, known as Object 6, to look for a new home among the stars. After four hundred years, you wake up from the Big Sleep to learn that the ship is besieged by terrorist attacks and riots. But as you will learn, these attacks might be the least of your worries.
Insomnia: The Ark, created by Studio Mono, has been in development for eight years. Over that time, they have hand crafted a dieselpunk RPG game with its own personal twists and turns.
Dieselpunk is a unique style, and it works. For those who are not aware, dieselpunk is a style like steampunk. Instead of steam technologies coupled with brass and copper, it all revolves around diesel engines, steel and retro-futuristic tech. And everything from the walls to the clothes people wear feels genuine to this style. Even the transition between the two contrasting worlds in this game are done with excellence.
The only real criticism is the camera (this will also be a an issue later). Object 6 is massive, and it take several in game hours to cross, but the camera angle being locked to an over the head view at a downward angle only being able to move it along the horizontal axis does not give this game the sense of scale that the game should have. So much so, that at some point it feels claustrophobic. If Studio Mono freed the camera to be able to look around the environment, it would be the icing on the cake.
It is also nice to have an indie game that is also 3D, instead of the 2D games we have seen a lot of recently.
There are two overarching stories to this game. One revolves around the conflict about the metropolis, where you search to solve the mystery of why there was a terrorist attack, and who is behind it. The other half centers on these supernatural black figures you see from time to time and why they appear to you.
The quest line that brings you through the ship to see a civilization on the brink of war is nothing new, but it does compliment very well to the art style that Insomnia presents. The story does comes across forced at first, but it picks up when you meet the colonel that leads the division you have been assigned to. Interwoven into that story line is a supernatural world that is infesting your world, the Surface World. In contrast, the Frozen World is seeping into your reality, causing strange thing to happen. And with each passing phenomena, their magnitude grow. While there is still time left, you are tasked with severing this link before it envelopes both worlds. This aspect is amazing to say the least. The dichotomy created these moments where you leave this tarnish, grey world for a moment to explore a living, green one gives you a new appreciation for life. Then adding a mystical story and a true sense of mystery to it, easily the best part of this game for many.
Having contrasting stories can be a hard thing to pull off simultaneously, but this game has done a great job at connecting them together as you progress. Each one never feeling like one is stepping on the others toes.
The issue arises when it comes to navigating this story. There are no markers on any of the maps to highlight. Something not an issue until they reference places you should go that do not have a label on the map. Plus, no markers over anyone specific you are supposed to talk to leads to times where you walk right by that person with no clue. The quest menu does not divide main quests from side quests, causing me to have to break out notepad to keep track of said quests. On top of all of that, the game is not translated well. If at all in some cases, from its native language, Russian.
The RPG Aspects
Two tips: search everything and disassemble nothing. You need certain items for side quests, so you need to search everything for those items. When you find some things as well, don’t disassemble them for parts, because it may be impossible to get them back. Speaking of those side quests, they are hit and miss. Some come out of nowhere, giving you no motivation to complete them, while others are compelling with a good backstory to go with it.
The 5 classes are also a great way to mix it up with each playthrough, at first. But they only really affect the beginning as later you have more freedom with where you want to take your character.
Fast travel is a pain on Object 6. It takes way too much time to get from point A to point B. On top of that, there are random encounters that slow you down so much that it can take several minutes to get to your destinations. At least give us an option to skip the travel time and encounters.
There is also crafting in this game, but I have not been able to experience it due to not having enough parts and lack of good recipes.
Hunger and thirst must go to make this game work. You already spend hard to come by money on enough things, don’t force food and drinks into the equation. So, when you have your health pool reduced because your character is hungry, it becomes an annoying chore that you have to keep up with. In addition, you never see a bar that pertains to hunger or thirst, leaving you guessing how full you are.
The combat is nothing new. It consists mainly of a few things things, a game of you peek and shoot when they don’t peek and shoot with the occasional grenade, run up and stun lock them with a melee weapon, something that is passable, and some stealth options. It has a good weapon selection as well, ranging from all the firearms you typically see to more specialized items like EMP grenades. Weapons also have durability, a fine aspect. They also have a high amount of RNG to them as well, an mechanic that makes using them frustrating. It can also cause you to always run out of ammo for your weapons in a fight. This is the exact reason I was soft-locked in my first playthrough. But besides all of that, the biggest shortcoming of all of this is the camera (again).
The camera system makes it hard to tell when in cover or partially exposed. The cross hair also pivots along the vertical axis as well. Which while allowing you to hit far away enemies, becomes a curse when you have to transition quickly between enemies. Leading to scenarios where you to lose track of where you cross hair is. Landmines also become an issue because your character blocks your view of them when he walks. So they can surprise you out of nowhere, almost killing both you and you character.
It is so close to being good. The only thing of change needed is a camera rework. An over the shoulder camera that has free movement, with the crosshair in a static spot would be perfect. With that small change, it would alter most of the game for the better.
I wouldn’t talk about this usually, but these menus are atrocious. Since I have already spoken on the quest menu, I won’t talk about it again. Next, the character menu gives you no notes to any of the stats. This leaves you in the dark on what some things are. Inventory management is awkward due to it being a grid layout with limited space. There’s also a weight capacity that is fills up faster than the grid storage making the latter useless. The graphics menu is simplified down to 7 options, each one affecting a lot more than they should. This makes it difficult to build a good-looking game that is comfortable to different eyes. For example, there is no reason motion blur and field of depth should be tied to the same setting.
Finally, the maps are the worst aspect. In total, there are three different kinds of maps (not including the areas where there are no maps). They consist of:
- one map with nice labels and English names
- the majority of maps diamonds as labels with English names
- some with diamonds labels, having their names in the game’s native language.
This is just unacceptable.
Some serious time needs to be put into Insomnia: the Ark by Studio Mono to fix this game. There is so much potential, don’t let it go to waste.
- THE GOOD
- World is well built
- Story is strong
- High amount of potential
- THE BAD
- Camera is restrictive
- Menus are hard to use, if not useless
- Weapon RNG accuracy leads to problems (potential soft locking)
- Hunger and thirst
- Translation is poorly done
This game has the direction to be a great game, everything from the setting to the combat has amazing potential. But there are to many issues that overshadow what this game does right.