A Return to the Subtle Horrors of Space
Dabbing into the creepy vibes found in movies like "Moon," Redshift: Afterlife aims to slowly suck players into its disturbing world
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What happens when mankind first discovers faster than light travel?
This is the question FrostFire Games approaches in their upcoming survival-horror project, Redshift: Afterlife.
Upon mankind’s discovery in 2063 that the outer reaches of space contain nothing more than barren planets and little hope for other life, a treacherous series of events begin to occur. The company mainly responsible for the attainment of light speed travel, NovaTech, attempts to avoid complete failure and re-instill hope in humanity by building a space station next to a black hole. Their goals of greatly advancing their technology next to the one of the most mysterious objects in the galaxy fails, and hijinx ensues within the station.
REDSHIFT, THE FIRST FEW MINUTES
“It’s kind of like the ongoing pattern with human technology. You see it a lot in the A.I and biotechnology fields, and it’s like, ‘we’ve come a long way, but it’s not the glorious utopia we expected,’” said Tyler Moore, founder of FrostFire Games. “It’s being exploited by big companies, it’s being doled out slowly, and it’s not achieving our dreams, and what’s worse I would say is that we’re used to it.” He continued by saying how we get upset when our immensely powerful mobile devices bug out for a short period of time, or when our relatively easy to access travel options fail us.
Redshift: Afterlife, begins with you assuming control of NovaTech medical officer Sarah Pierce, whose soul stuck to the station after its destruction. You awake, seemingly alone, with no memory, and must explore the vast spacecraft to discover what’s going on. The mystery grows as you continue to struggle with your sanity, and understand your earlier demise on the station.
The game is played in real-time from a third-person, dungeon crawler perspective, often zooming in and out accordingly when specific areas of exploration are stumbled upon. “Stumbled upon” are words that could be used frequently to describe the nature of Redshift, and it’s refreshing to see that’s the identity the game takes on. Near the beginning of your adventure, you obtain a scanning device, which you must use consistently to accomplish a number of things. From learning more about your surroundings, to upgrading the level of your character, the seemingly hum drum chore suddenly becomes an addictive gameplay mechanic.The accessible upgrade menu offers perks that range from health increases, to a slower loss of oxygen when wandering the outer halls of the creepy station.
“Creepy,” is likely the other word that’s used in bunches when describing the game’s atmosphere. The corridors are dingy and deserted, and an ominous, yet subtle score accompanies your movements, and even plays a twisted interpretation of itself when you enter a black hole teleporter. These interesting finds zap Sarah to a similar, but cleverly altered version of the area you’re exploring at a given time, where you can find special upgrades, or other objects that will help you progress through the story.
All the little sound effects that enter your ears during exploration simply suck you in further to the game’s overall eerie world. Sarah will sometimes come across Orion, the ship’s computer system, and based on his introduction in the alpha preview, he’s a slow talking, yet helpful character who will occasionally break up the perilous path laid out before you.
RUNNING INTO ORION
“The opportunity to creep people out is always a welcome venture,” said Troy Morrissey, who leads Redshift’s audio design. “Getting inside the players head is exactly what we aim to do. The game will not be released until it is perfect.”
Though the title is still in alpha mode, the ambitious story, fused with the creepy setting, already accumulates to a highly intriguing concept. Small gameplay details, like Sarah’s heart rate, will actually affect how quickly you run out of oxygen when you exit the station into the outer halls, and will be included in the final version of the game. Bite-sized tension-building moments are aplenty in Redshift, and they all help entrap you in the space-station’s mysterious tale.
“I really find creepy games more interesting, games that are more about making you feel weird, deliberately trying to screw with you a little bit,” explained Moore, adding he prefers these types of games over terror-based ones like Deadspace, that use multiple jump scares. Some of the indie game’s tone is inspired from movies like Moon, and 2001: A Space Odyssey.
You can also find a number of entry logs scattered around the ship, which are always filled with either useful, or interesting material that effectively extend the ship’s mystery and add incentive to explore further.
“Early on in the design process, the most fun I had was writing up a story for every little piece of the world. How it got developed, and finding out how it brings out the moral and ethical implications of the station itself,” Moore said.
Despite the wealth of ideas and freedom to create a very inspired title, Moore predicts the development process would have been a lot smoother had the operation taken place under one roof.
“Things get slow, things don’t get done sometimes, there’s a lot of miscommunication. There’s definitely a lot of immense benefits from working in an office on a daily basis,” he said.
Morrissey said play testing was a challenge on its own as well.
“To make sure the tension, stress and fear are prevalent in the game, we need to refine the sound until its perfect,” he explained.
In the face of the obstacles the group has had to overcome during the production of Redshift, Moore is confident people who enjoy a slower-paced, tension building experience, will appreciate what their game has to offer.
“I still believe we’ve created something I think is very cool.”
FrostFire is hoping to provide players with access to the game within the next few weeks, so stay tuned to CGM for an update on when you can get your hands on an alpha version of Redshift: Afterlife.
You can also read a bit more about FrostFire’s other project Spindrift, an Oculus Rift game CGM had the chance of trying out during the Toronto Global Game Jam.