A few weeks back, I was running around EGX like a headless chicken (with a notepad). One of the games I was searching for was The Intruder, a first-person survival horror where you control an unknown protagonist as they prepare themselves for the return of a terrifying, but forgotten (repressed) entity. I'd seen a trailer showing off the monochrome world and open-world exploration, and I needed to see more. It wasn't meant to be. Fast forward to today, and I've managed to get my hands on an early build of the game, and can write an extended preview of The Intruder as part of IGM's week of Halloween horror. Don't worry, I'm the only one calling it that.
The build I played through was set in a school, and aimed to show off the gameplay, with the open-worldness of the open world yet to come. Part of me was glad, because the woods surrounding the school looked foggy and easy to get lost in. Plus, there was more than enough in the school to keep me hiding in the girl's bathroom in complete darkness. Hm? Yeah, this happened.
After taking my first tentative steps inside the school, which I soon discovered was far less abandoned than it seemed, I found a note. The note was written by someone hiding out there, and it explained that he had been sleeping on a mattress by the front of the school. He had initially been camping out in the cafeteria on the second floor, but had since had to move down a floor. There were plans to collect a gun hidden on the third floor, though he could never quite make it there. By the time I was reading this note, he was long gone; maybe off searching for supplies, maybe no longer alive. Either way, this note helped me realise two things: the world of The Intruder is a lonely place, embodied by its monochromatic style, and those that don't prepare die.
With that in mind, I familiarised myself with the game's inventory and survival system. The inventory does exactly what you'd expect and stores anything you pick up, and the survival system shows everything you’ll need to keep an eye on to survive in this world. You have to stay alive, eat and rest, and there are bars on the HUD to represent each of these. Within the inventory there are also timers for the amount of time left until starvation, sleep deprivation, or your flashlight battery runs out (which I actually felt should have been represented on the main HUD, Outlast style). There is even a "memory clarity" rating, which probably links to the amnesia aspect of the game, though this wasn't explored in the build I played.
My search around the ground floor began well. It was daytime, I didn't think there was anyone there. I felt safe. Then I looked through a barricade, and a shadowy, humanoid creature with two glowing eyes stared back at me, before hiding inside the room. I was spooked. What was it? It seemed more scared of me than I was of it. For all I knew, this was how people looked in The Intruder. Maybe I was staring out of a couple of glowing eyes myself...
Without further incident, I found a key to access the rest of the ground floor, which also contained the staircase to the second floor. It was much darker, but I could make out the slumped forms of more shadow people. They didn't seem all that disturbed by my presence. I held my breath and crept past, praying I'd make it to the stairs. Somehow, I did, but the worst was yet to come.
In the cafeteria, where I was supposed to find a key to the third floor, a new creature patrolled. It was tall and spindly, and looked much more alien. I knew it would want to hurt me. By this point, night had fallen, and the only way to see anything was to use my flashlight. This alerted the creature to my whereabouts, and, with the help of its shadow brethren, whom had been disturbed as I ran past into the toilets, they managed to hunt me down. It was all very tense, and I spent much of my time waiting in the darkness, hoping that I'd escaped death for a little longer. I'm just not that lucky. However, I hadn't been expecting so many hostile creatures.
Based on my knowledge of The Intruder, I had thought I would be faced with one entity, not an army of them. This made me feel more like I was intruding on them, and left me a little unsure of whether I had met the entity, or whether something entirely different would be searching for me on release day. Only time will tell.
Though the core gameplay mechanics are in place, for the most part, I do have some constructive criticism thus far. Most of these are based on issues that I’m sure will be sorted before release, but some are related to building atmosphere.
Currently, the resolution of the how-to-play screen is off, and some of the buttons are hidden outside the reaches of the screen. Also, the calibration of the inventory seems to be skewed, and I had to click to the side of something to actually use it. Similarly minor is that the day/night cycle, while functioning, does so at the wrong time. For example, I began playing at 1am according to the in-game clock and it was clearly daytime, with night-time approaching at about 6am. Obviously, these are tiny issues, but ones that all add to the overall polish of a game, therefore worth mentioning. I've got your back, devs.
In terms of atmosphere, I felt like The Intruder could ramp it up in a few ways (that the studio may already have in mind for later development). Background music to set the atmosphere would be a nice addition, though complete silence does add atmosphere in its own way, I suppose – especially when this silence is broken by the clumsiness of knocking over a chair, something that is consistent between my character in both real and digital worlds. As it stands, the flashlight is also far too strong. It is actually more like turning on a flood light than a flashlight, and lights up a room in its entirety, instead of a smaller beam cutting through the darkness, casting shadows of things that may or may not be there.
Another time, the large creature actually was there, and I could hear it rasping in the darkness, somewhere nearby. Eventually, I turned my flashlight on and it was right behind me, though completely harmless, as it had gotten itself stuck in the wall. I almost felt bad for it. A few minutes on and I was whimpering in the cubicle of the girl’s bathroom while it beat me to death, so the feeling definitely passed.
Was the build of The Intruder I played really early in development? Yes. Am I still as excited by the game as I was before? Definitely. The core concepts of the game are firmly in place, and while there is still quite a way to go to reach the atmospheric open-world survival horror being promised by the developers, it is heading in the right direction. Exploring even just one location was enjoyable, yet tense and challenging, and I can already see how the survival aspects of the game will work. I’m intrigued to see how ‘the intruder’ is integrated into the full game, and whether I should be preparing myself for an army of strange creatures, or just the one so terrifying that it can cause amnesia. I really hope that creature exists, because I have a few moments I’d love to forget – that girl’s bathroom memory being right at the start of the list.
More information on The Intruder can be found on the game’s website, or by following it on Twitter. I’ll be keep an eye on updates and make sure you’re all kept in the loop when you stop by, but until then, there’s a gun on the third floor that I have to get, even if it kills me… again. Wish me luck.
Getting déjà vu right now? That may be because you read this on IGM, where my preview was first featured! Check IGM out for all the latest on indie games.