I played The Descendant this week, the first episode of an adventure game series made by Swedish developer Gaming Corps. It’s got a bit in common with Fallout—it takes place post-apocalypse and involves survivors locked inside into subterranean vaults—but borrows a chunk of design from Telltale adventure games.
After global climate change leads to a world war over the planet’s remaining resources, only a few thousand survivors are left on Earth, packed into underground cryo-storage facilities known as Arks. A handful of humanity’s descendants serve as ‘janitors’, who are awoken from the deep-freeze from time to time to make repairs, serve as medical staff, and protect the rest of the sleeping population until the surface has become safe enough to re-inhabit.
The story begins with one such janitor, who has been sent to investigate Ark-01, which for some mysterious reason hasn’t opened yet despite the planet’s surface becoming safe enough to support human life. The other part of the story takes place in the past, as one of the janitors from 01 tends to the facility. Essentially, you investigate two different time periods in the same Ark, with two different janitors, and the game bounces back and forth between their stories.
It’s a nice looking game: the environments are detailed and convincing, and the animation is done pretty well. You click with your mouse to move your character around, and items, objects, and people you can interact with are circled when you mouse over them. Like Telltale games, you’re faced with a countdown timer while choosing a response in most conversations with other characters. The Descendant even goes as far as telling you “Randolph will remember that!” after you’ve made a decision that affects your relationship. It’s impossible to not think of Telltale when you see that.
I found the acting a little labored, and while the dialogue wasn’t bad it wasn’t particularly great either. Puzzle-wise, it checks a lot of familiar boxes. There’s steam shooting out of a pipe, so you need to find a valve to turn. A computer console needs power, so find a generator, which needs gasoline. An elevator breaks, so open the panel and reconnect the proper wires. In some ways, its nice to not be stumped on a puzzle so you can continue with the game, but it would also be nice if the puzzles were a bit more original, if not more challenging.
So while I wasn’t bowled over, the first episode still had the beginnings of a solid story. I’m genuinely interested in finding out what actually happened to ARK-01, what will happen next, and how that story will be told in those two different time periods. Plus, this single episode is only a couple bucks on Steam so it’s not a huge commitment if you want to try it out and see if you like it. It took me roughly an hour to play, and the entire season is $15, or $12 if you’ve already bought the first episode.