Penumbra: Overture Preview (PC)

A dark puzzled-packed horror adventure makes for an interesting game especially when it utilizes a physics heavy game engine to make all those creepy noises and motions all the more, well, creepy-like.

Penumbra is the product of a tech demo made purely to showcase the engines abilities, something the game looks set to do well. It’s being moulded together by an independent Swedish developer named Frictional Games, what’s more is the team comprises of just four people.

Long and dark corridors are the norm Inspecting items offers helpful text messages

The story, which is still rather sketchy at the moment, is about a guy named Philip who gets a message from a dead man. So he goes in search for answers which seem to lie in Greenland for now, in some rather suspicious looking mine shafts. The game in its entirety is to be released over three episodes, with the later two being released this year.

Light and shadow play a very integral part to the experience as not only do you find yourself hoping nothing jumps out but it forces you to dive in. Exploring these dark and foreboding tunnels with either low lighting or battery driven torch certainly keeps the suspense flowing. Monsters and other fiends may very well lie in waiting but this isn’t a pure action game so there’s plenty of puzzles and exploring to be done. Of course the funny part is that because combat encounters aren’t around every corner, it makes you feel all the more vulnerable.

The first “puzzle” in the preview, the generator It feels odd swinging doors open with the mouse, in a good way

As noted by Fractional Games, the preview release has a number of things left to be worked on. Enemy models are said to be overhauled come retail, which is good because watching a wolf bound about like a rabbit was breaking the whole “horror” atmosphere.

Interaction in the game is very dependent on the physics engine too; every item can mostly be manipulated by holding down the left mouse button and then dragging it to a direction. Doors are opened in the same way, you can almost feel the weight of the door making the game that more personal.

Make no mistake this is an inventory driven game and so accessing the goodies you’ve been pilfering along the way is very quick and easy. A simple tap of the tab key and viola its junk central. Here you can drag items to the number slots above; these are assigned to the number keys.

As you’ll be facing some foes along the way so combat will become inevitable, while you can change a setting in the options to use weapons with a simple press of a button, by default you need to use the interact button. As you hold the button down you then drag the mouse across the screen one way and then back again to launch your attack. It does take a little getting used, and if you miss and a wolf gets behind you it can be lights out. I think this is one area of weakness but with the AI animations being tweaked it could change for the better.

Sneaking has its place too, crouching in some dark corner can hide Philip from passing monsters, and the screen turns blue to show you have entered into hiding. A single movement though will break you out of it. The game has no HUD so you focus more, almost constantly, on the immediate environment this way.

Quick and simple inventory system Congratulations Philip you’ve pick-axed a wolf!

While the graphics are not going to blow any barriers, the engine is more than enough to offer a claustrophobic horror landscape to explore. Penumbra: Overture is expected to last around 8 hours, and the same for the other following episodes. A lot will be riding on the impact of this first title in the series, so Fractional Games best hope they have a real good scare for gamers in the pipeline for them wanting more.

Top Game Momen
t: Nothing really struck my attention more than the great Newton Game Dynamics powering the games engine.

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