Walk down procedural streets, explore a facist-noir world and hunt down serial killers in the Shadows of Doubt.
Rain beating down on cold city streets, Alfred Olofsson walks through Little Taipei, with a bigger magnum in their stomach than on their hip. Hunting down whom they believe to be a young corporate worker who feels unappreciated and is murdering their way up the corporate ladder. Alfred doesn’t know who it is yet, two murders have happened already, and Alfred hopes to catch the killer before they end up at the top of the organisation chart of the Consult Group. That’s how my journey started in the procedural noir game Shadows of Doubt.
To start this, let me say Shadows of Doubt is incredible. It offers something that has been promised for at least a decade now, and here it is in an early access game just chilling out. Procedurally generated NPC’s living entirely full lives in the game, going to work, hanging out at a bar with their mates after work, at all times, no matter what you’re doing. Now my CPU is already crying, but this world is a joy.
You are a Private Investigator, an ex-cop roaming the streets looking for work. Murder is afoot in town, and you’re here to solve it. Shadows of Doubt is entirely procedurally generated; people, jobs, routines, buildings, and murders. While this does make for a somewhat chaotic mess, the benefit of having a completely fresh world to explore, so no approaching the same murder over and over, and no hunting down the murderer online is amazing.
The wealth of actions to take is stupendous, breaking into people’s homes to rifle through their documents or computer, talking to neighbours, sneaking through the ducts of their workplace to check their emails there, tracking suspects through the streets, checking fingerprints at the crime scene, follow up on correspondence and call histories, or break into the local diner to check the CCTV there and corroborate details. And CCTV cameras there are aplenty in the United Atlantic States, of which my Little Taipei is just one small industrialised island, as the UAS is an ever so slight fascistic corporatocracy, run by a few powerful corporations, reaching their hands into just about everything.
With the wealth of information — everything from birth certificates, rental agreements, receipts, vmail and spoken word — it’s tough to work to keep track of all the details. The caseboard lets you track all of your evidence, auto-generating little red yarn lines to illustrate connections, which is useful when the core piece of evidence in your case is a receipt for a gun found in a coffee shop with the murders fingerprints on it, discovered when you trawled through the coffee shops surveillance tapes.
Hunting down criminals doesn’t always pay the bills, and bills there are. Food, drink, equipment, housing. Small jobs are scattered throughout the game, left on bulletin boards and actually put up there in real-time by real characters who want the job done. These jobs are generally pretty similar to murder cases, making you track down a citizen before doing something to them, destroy their property, get information, humiliate them by throwing food in their face.
Shadows of Doubt is absolutely incredible in its scope, even down to the fact that murderers happen in real-time, physical people running about trying to flee or murder, which is personally incredible with 600 actual characters walking around thinking about what they want for tea.
Early in development, Shadows of Doubt has a roadmap stretching out through 2023 and I cannot wait to dig deeper into this beautiful noir world.