Imagine you are hired to document an underwater expedition by a seemingly shady organization. Imagine the expedition takes place in the freezing cold Arctic Ocean. Imagine you discover life where there shouldn’t be. Imagine everything going horribly wrong as you watch the seconds you have left to live ticking away.
Now stop imagining, and try your hand at Moonray Studios narrative game Debris. Debris was released as a single player narrative in October of 2017 since that time the developers have made some sweeping changes that have dramatically changed the state of the game, which are now live on Steam.
The strength of Debris lies in the story. This is told in two parts. The basic linear progression following the normal play-through in addition to new secret areas which were added in December of 2017.
The core story revolves around the main character Ryan, who was hired by ALTA Corporation to film a promotional video about meteoric debris which was discovered in the Arctic. This debris was discovered to be an incredibly efficient source of energy, and in a world of limited resources, a new currency of energy is incredibly valuable. However, as the team of three make their way towards the debris they discover aquatic life where there shouldn’t be. Shortly after this discovery a mysterious incident separates the team and the only thing keeping them alive are their suits, which are short on power.
Through the story progression we find more debris and more life where it shouldn’t be. Thankfully, a robotic ‘squid’ is used as a means of mining and consuming debris to turn it into raw energy. This energy can be used to power the suits and prolong your life.
Through conversation of Ryan and his two team members, Sonya and Chris, we start to wonder if ALTA Corporation is responsible for the incident. Additionally, we begin to discover pieces of information found in hidden areas just off the beaten path of the main story arch. What is ALTA up to? Why is there life and why has it mutated to such an aggressive level? and WHAT THE HECK IS THAT THING?!?
No spoilers here…The game play is rather simplistic in terms of controls. Debris graciously supports a full controller, which let’s you sit back, relax, and enjoy the story. You control movement with the left stick and the direction of the camera and the way you move with the right stick. Once you discover your ‘tool’ you are able to shoot flares and some type of energy that acts as you best line of defense. However, this comes at a precious cost: minutes off of your remaining energy.
The player must progress through the narrative and find his way back to his team and ultimately back up to the safety of the surface. All the while your life hangs in the balance and you are forced to watch the seconds tick away. Firing the ‘tool’ eats away at the time you have left. The only way to survive is to explore the caverns to find debris for the robotic ‘squid’ to consume. You are then able to equalize with the squid and transfer power to extend your life. All the while, mutated life forms stand in your way. Enduring an attack from these mutations chunk away at your life support, which means you must be accurate each time you fire the ‘tool.’
Features and Criticisms
The biggest news about this game is that the developers are eager for feedback from their player-base. Met with some criticism at launch, Moonray Studios has responded in the best possible way. The biggest change came in February, which Debris was ‘re-launched’ as an online co-op game. This removed the reliance on the robotic squid and dependence on AI to survive. There were times when the squid would not follow as closely as players would have liked, which translated into some frustrating deaths. The AI issues, lighting, and controls have all been fixed to make for significant quality of life upgrades for players.
With all these changes and upgrades to the game, there are still some improvements to be had. The first of which comes in the form of the weapon aka ‘tool’ used. It can feel clunky at times, especially on a controller, and the reload time should be improved upon. There is nothing worse than missing a shot and then getting ganked by a mutated fish back to back simply because your weapon cooldown takes too long. Movement speed can also be improved upon as there are large caverns and expanses that seem to take forever to cross based on your limited travel speed.
Debris is simply a BEAUTIFUL game. It had a calming effect on me as I played, which is likely why I was extra jumpy at times when ‘things’ popped out. The narrative pulls you in and I found myself actually getting panicky as the remaining time support continued to drop.
Debris is now available and feature-laden for $19.99 on Steam. Gamers with solid graphics cards will likely appreciate this game more than others. The voice acting is solid. The December patch added 60+ secret ALTA transcripts and archives which enhances the story-line even more.
While some will complain about the linear progression of the main story, I would argue that the player owns the ending they get based on the choices they make. An open world experience underwater also seems a bit intimidating, so the secret areas and caverns satisfy the exploration facet of the game for me.
The best thing indie game developers can do is listen to their audience. Moonray Studios has done this and made improvements to Debris since launch. This is a great sign of things to come not only for this game, but for the developer.
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