A little something of the zombie variety is due to hit Steam this Autumn with a features list that promises meaningful choices, twisted narrative and a healthy amount of running away. Although The Long Reach’s current demo is quite short, we’ve taken a look at it to see what we should be getting excited about.
The Long Reach has the initial feel of a point-and-click game, if you sidestep the fact that pointing and clicking aren’t among the controls, but the main principles are there. Puzzles which get in the way of progress can be solved by finding, collecting and combining items around you and items which aren’t part of solutions can still be interacted with for narrative tidbits.
An important difference is that puzzles don’t always have to be solved and you can opt to flee rather than investigate — there’s sadly little evidence to show for this in the demo, but the developers are still advertising it for the release version. There is some hint at the mechanics, though, as fading white lines appear behind moving people. This suggests hide and escape tactics could use sound as a visual aid.
But why on Earth would you want to run away? Well, when a learning acceleration experiment goes wrong and gives human stomachs cannibalistic rumblies, you might want to keep on the move. This is a story about everyday terror — real people turned to madness in ordinary locations beset by chaos. The entire narrative aims to maximise this feeling and make decisions more meaningful.
Yes, that’s right, we said decisions. According to the developers small choices you make along the way could lead to truly terrible consequences later on. It’s not just through ordinary gameplay that you make these choices — you can talk to characters and select different replies every few lines.
At the moment, the text speed is rather slow and the only way to speed it up is to use the select key, which leads to accidentally selecting the top option in every choice. With any hope a speed option will be included in the release version, otherwise fast readers could find dialogue tedious. It also feels it could be improved by appearing as a continuous paragraph. At the moment, every new line is preceded by the speaker’s name. This can break the flow of text if a line-break happens mid-sentence.
There aren’t too many controls to worry about, although a few seem like they could have been handled better. Escape (which isn’t shown on the key-map) is used to close most things but the inventory can only be closed with the inventory key, which leads to the accidental opening of the escape menu in quite a few cases. It would be nice to use the arrow keys for movement as well as wasd so that you have a hand free for other interactions and nicer still for a little tooltip to show you what you’ve highlighted (since you can’t use the mouse, highlighting close objects requires standing in just the right place), plus some indication that you’ve actually picked an item up.
The music we’ve heard so far promises a suitably thematic soundtrack poised for all the spooky horror notes and the art style is grim to match, from the mandatory blood spatters to lighting, shadows and animations.
There is tantalisingly little to see of The Long Reach so far, but it looks like it could be an interesting game to play upon release — perhaps the main deciding factor will be whether the narrative truly delivers what is advertised, but the outlook is positive so far.
The Long Reach is due to launch on Windows PC & PS4 later this year,