These days, an action game needs to do something unique or memorable to stand out amongst the many, many options available for purchase. While Afterfall: Insanity doubtless had lofty ideals, it falls short of doing anything that hasn’t been done a dozen times before.
In the Afterfall universe, World War II ended much differently than it did in the real world. The Axis powers created an atomic bomb before the Allies did, which enabled them to reach an armistice rather than surrendering. What followed was a Cold War much different than the one we remember. It was eventually broken by a nuclear exchange that caused most of humanity to head below the surface of the earth. The backstory for Afterfall really is intriguing and could have lent itself to any number of interesting stories, especially since the game itself is based in Poland, a central area for this conflict. Unfortunately, the game never really takes it anywhere, and in fact, most of it is never even mentioned within the game proper.
Over time, people became aware of a mental illness dubbed Confinement Syndrome. This illness essentially causes humans to slowly lose their grip on reality and go violently insane. You play as Dr. Albert Tokaj, a psychologist studying this disease. Unfortunately, you never learn much about him, as within just a few minutes the action begins. Accused of a crime, Albert takes a fire axe to the necks of his would-be guards and escapes.
The combat in Afterfall is adequate, though far from the heights reached in similar games. The guns are of the standard variety of shotguns, assault rifles, etc, while the melee weapons are based on the environment you’re in. Pipes, hammers, any number of other items can be used for combat. It isn’t bad, per se, but there’s so little variation in it that it gets boring fairly quickly. Pretty much every enemy, regardless of who or what they are, will simply rush mindlessly toward you making it fairly routine to dispatch them with your preferred method of execution.
People complained that games like Mass Effect 2 and Final Fantasy XIII were too linear, but Afterfall may take the prize for it. The entire game feels like one long ride that you never deviate from. The graphics are better than normal for an indie-developed game, especially once you get above ground. The soundtrack is also a cut above the standard, though it the voice acting and writing lack polish. The translation in particular is a bit rough, causing some of the story to lose some impact.
As an indie game, Afterfall: Insanity is quite a find, as it doesn’t really make any grievous mistakes, it just doesn’t differentiate itself from the pack in any meaningful way. As it is planned as simply the introductory game to a series of games set in this universe, it’s a positive first release. I hope that Nicolas Games is able to capitalize on the positives and find ways to freshen up the series for its next go.
Pros: Combat works fine; graphics are quite good for an indie game; no glaring flaws
Cons: Localization needs work; feels and plays like a generic post-apocalyptic action game