26 years after its release – still in the past millennium – Beneath a Steel Sky is finally continuing. Charles Cecil and Watchmen co-creator Dave Gibbons combine their skills for the successor and send you to a world that can be confidently described as a mix of Cyberpunk and Mad Max. Around this time, protagonist Robert Foster and his AI buddy Joey battled an average AI, in part two, Revolution spins these action threads some time later.
Foster is the center of the action again, which begins with the kidnapping of a child and he promises to bring it back. The tracks lead you from the wasteland to Union City, a tech-packed megalopolis with which supposedly happy residents are mostly watched over. There’s also your old pal Joey, who is worshiped here like some kind of god. What is happening here? What happens to the kids And what about old Joey in him? These are things to discover.
And I’ve looked at a bit of it over the last few days using a preview version of the game. One that mostly proves two things: On the one hand, the initial puzzles suggest good things. On the other hand, the revolution still has a lot of work to do in terms of technology. This applies, for example, to animations, some of which are unfinished. In other situations, the characters engage in conversations that weirdly turn heads. And a conversation partner was standing on a waist pole on the side of the road, which is certainly not expected.
But these are things that are due to the first release, especially since Beyond a Steel Sky doesn’t have a specific date yet. Originally, we were talking about 2019, then 2020, the team has not commented specifically since. That’s not bad, because at the end of the day, everyone benefits if they take as long as they need – as long as they do it.
Where the predecessor was still a classic point-and-click adventure, Beyond a Steel Sky is more of a Telltale game in terms of perspective, but you feel like you have more freedom. Much like an action adventure, your Foster travels the game world from a third person perspective, always looking for new puzzles and new conversation partners.
If you talk to other people, there are several topics to choose from. On the left are usually the more general things, on the right the more specific things that are important to the accomplishment of your current task and may give you new clues. It certainly helps to exhaust all conversation options. The game shows you if you come across something new at the top of the screen by using green arrows next to the respective topic.
As for the heart of the game, the puzzle, it is a more sophisticated price than what the Telltale games offered you. In this regard, Beyond a Steel Sky combines the element of perspective of these titles with the puzzle qualities typical of a classic adventure. And that’s good news. Solving the puzzles turns out to be a satisfying challenge which – so far – has not been too easy and just as difficult. Put your brain to work and you come to the solutions. Many puzzles are intertwined, which means that you have to do one thing first, for example to get an item for another puzzle, the solution of which will then take you elsewhere. It creates a good sense of progress and you regularly have successes.
And it’s not just about finding or combining things. Another option is, for example, the tool you get at the start of the game – after luring a bird into an electric fence – and hacking into various technical equipment. You reconfigure the programming by swapping buttons. On the one hand, it has a practical use as it helps you solve puzzles. On the other hand, you often do stupid little things, let the dispenser spit out an endless number of boxes or water a few flowers with the sprinkler system. You feel like you can change a little something in the world.
It remains to be seen how far you’ll ultimately change the world in Beyond a Steel Sky. So far everything looks – literally – good, which is not just true for puzzles. The game has a really nice comic book look that suits it well. The previous tasks were successful and not so crisp that it would be frustrating. Although the revolution on the technical side still has something to do before Beyond a Steel Sky is ready for release. But I am confident that Cecil and his team will be able to do it. We’ll see how well it works when the game appears – when it does.
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