Don’t Starve developer’s next game, Incongnita, is a real punch in the face

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A version of this post appeared on the Quarter to Three forums. It has been reprinted here with the gracious permission of the author.

The currently available version of Incognita, a tactical stealth/hacking game from Don’t Starve and Shank developer Klei Entertainment, is one of those early pre-release alphas. What’s there right now is really limited. It’s essentially a procedural office building generator. You take a two man team into the office building to rescue a captured agent. That’s it.

But, after the jump, I’m really happy with the promise shown at this stage.

First off, Incognita is very pretty and the animations are well done. Putting someone against a doorway and asking him to peek will have him quickly lean around the door and snap back into cover. However, put him against a pillar in a corridor and he’ll edge to the corner, dip out to look to one side, slide back into cover, slide to the other side, and then look that way. Crouching, cover, and overwatch all have pleasing animations too.

The security guards who patrol the building are lazy, but it can be really brutal if they come from an unexpected direction. In a number of early games I had a security guard one-shot one of my agents after appearing from a doorway I didn’t properly clear. Each agent seems to have two hit points, which means he can take two shots. Unless you’re flanked, in which case a single shot can be fatal. This works the other way around too, promoting use of stealth and cover to get into position to hit a guard from an unexpected direction. Because if you don’t drop him in one shot, he’s going to raise the alarm.

Both starting agents — let’s call them the sneak and the robot — have a one-shot power. The sneak has a dart gun which will knock out the target in one hit, but only for two turns. At which point you’re going to have to deal with the same guard again. The robot also has a pistol, but his one-shot power will knock out a guard for between six and eight turns. But it’s a melee power, so the robot has to be adjacent to his target.

The robot can also scan terminals, cameras, and safes. This is crucial, because you’ll want to hack terminals to get “CPU Points.” Each terminal you’ve hacked gives you one CPU Point per turn. You can press the spacebar to drop into mainframe mode, where you spend these points on hacking abilities like taking over cameras, which will lift the fog of war on that camera’s viewing area. This can be crucial for timing movement, or for deciding whether to make a run for it, which risks the guards hearing your heavy footfalls and coming to investigate.

The guards aren’t perfect though. I knocked one out with a solid robot punch to the face, then closed the door between us and trapped it. When he regained consciousness and tried the door, he was electrocuted and knocked unconscious again. After waking up the second time, he just wandered off the other way as if nothing had happened. Although if I was at work and I got cold clocked and then electrocuted, I’d also just go get some coffee and take the rest of the day off.

Incog_2

Incognita is largely undocumented at this point — it’s an alpha — but the interface is clear and 99% easy to use. The only problems I had was when I’d used a trap to shock a guard who opened a door, then tranquilised another guard in the same doorway because I was trying to pick the right button to close the door. It can get fiddly.

After the difficulty of my first few run-throughs, I reset my mindset and played carefully. I was instantly rewarded with my first “win”, as I freed the sharpshooter and escaped. But I ignored a safe along the way though, so I scored a zero. Rescuing the agent was the whole point of the mission, so I didn’t take the opportunity to rifle money or documents along the way. No bonus for me this year, but it wasn’t a failure. Just getting out was a great feeling.

The pre-order that gets you access to the alpha is available here. There’s going to be a team-building aspect beyond punching the security guards, but who knows when that will get here or how the development cycle will proceed from here. But Klei’s first step is very promising.

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