It’s certainly been a while since I’ve actually written stuff for the site, with words and whatnot. As some of you may know I’ve been dabbling more in video content of late in-between working the day job that pays my various bills, and that naturally means less actual wordy stuff. It’s taken something very special to make me push through my sheer physical exhaustion right now and put fingers to keyboard. That something special is the all new trailer for Routine by Lunar Software.
Even in its alpha state, clearly indicated by the words “Alpha trailer” in the title, Routine elicits in me the same feelings I had watching the first gameplay trailers for Amnesia: The Dark Descent. That tension in my chest, under the sternum, and . My eyes were fixed to the screen so as not to miss a single detail, like the post-it note drawing of the little service robot wandering the Lunar rail station or the 80s-style test pattern on the screens of the public information terminals. Not to mention the subtle undercurrent of malevolence in the monotone voice of the outposts’s automated public address system.
The sleek retro-futuristic environments immediately brought to mind System Shock 2’s cold sterile corridors, well-lit in that special sort of sci-fi way that only makes the shadows darker and more terrifying. Comparisons can also be made with the Nostromo’s clean, white crew quarters in Ridley Scott’s Alien, where one of the film’s most horrific scenes takes place. You see any fool can create a spooky atmosphere by turning off the lights and make eerie “Whooo!” and “Grrrargh!” noises. It’s a lot harder to achieve that same effect in clear, well-lit spaces that visually seem safe, secure and “routine”, but if you can pull it off then the emotional payoff is so much greater. Lunar Software clearly get what makes great sci-fi horror work on a visual and atmospheric level, such as its subversion of a clean and shiny space age future into a realm of nightmares.
Small items that can be interacted with seem to be surrounded by a subtle glowing blue aura bright enough to pick out in the darkness without making things look silly like in Deus Ex: Human Revolution. This includes the eponymous floppy disks that feature in the game, and which some whippersnappers still can’t wrap their heads around. Bless ‘em. At one point the main protagonist interacts with a large wall-mounted computer monitor, using their Cosmonaut Assistance Tool (CAT), in a way reminiscent of Doom 3 and Dead Space. Instead of existing on a separate immersion-breaking screen that conveniently pauses time around you, interacting with a terminal or monitor brings up a cursor you move around in-world to select options, files and so forth. So while you’re busy hacking the outpost’s systems a killer robot with glowing eyes – like Hector in Saturn 3 – can come along and do horrible things to that meat you call a body.
Being a sadistic/masochistic sort of horror gaming snob who thinks weapons only make a game less scary and fun, I was a teensy bit disappointed when I first heard the CAT could also be used as a weapon. Thankfully in the gameplay trailer it merely stuns a robot long enough for players to run away and hide in a corner somewhere, gibbering to themselves, which makes my horror-loving heart leap with joy. Look, vulnerability is essential to horror. If you can’t cope with that and simply must have a full-auto security blanket, with an underslung grenade launcher, then go back to Dead Space 3 or Resident Evil 5.
As well as the brightly-lit sci-fi environs of the Lunar outpost’s rail stations there are also more traditional horror sections like partially flooded maintenance tunnels with broken lighting. Partially flooded maintenance tunnels with something lurking below the surface of the water that’ll drag you to a watery death from that ladder you’re climbing. I must confess I actually squealed a little at this bit. I knew it was coming but I got distracted by the impressive ladder-climbing effects, which add a nice element of physicality and a feeling of interaction with the game world.
I have but one complaint about this trailer. It’s a minor one to be sure but it’s very important to me and I’d be remiss in my duties if I didn’t point it out. You see I have money and the will to purchase this game right now yet the trailer provides no means for me to do so. There’s no pre-order link or even a PO Box to send a brown envelope full of cash to. If I want to throw money directly into Lunar Software’s pockets I have to physically track them down and press it into their hands, and with my current schedule that’s about as likely as me physically setting foot on the actual Moon. I trust Lunar Software will soon address this serious issue so we can all book our seat on a shuttle to a galaxy of terror.