Hands On with INFRA!

Image provided by Loiste Interactive

As Halloween draws near, the urge to talk about horror games just grows and grows doesn’t it? Even now I find myself tempted to start talking about just how wonderfully spooky the cramped corridors of Dead Space are! However, today we’ve got something much better to talk about! As promised, today UWG has more exciting details to deliver about INFRA, a game in which you and only you can keep your city from literally falling apart! The good folks at Loiste Interactive, the minds behind INFRA, were kind enough to give us some hands-on time with the game. What follows are some impressions from the demo I played, as well as some further clarification kindly provided by Loiste founder, Oskari Samiola. INFRA is due out next month, so please have a look and see why INFRA just might be worth your attention.

The demo I played picks up in a mission to inspect an old water supply system for defects and possible failures. The funny thing is, I didn’t really know that at first. Since it was a demo, I found myself trying to piece together what was going on. The thing is, I was actually able to do it without much difficulty. I didn’t know the full how or why of what I was doing there, but I was able to pick up on the basics based on the expressive environment design and plenty of little notes and signs left. My character was a structural analyst, pumping station was in a sorry state of disrepair, and the notes left around told me that the staff didn’t care on way or another if the place fell apart. It wasn’t hard to guess why I was there.

Of notes and environment design was only a taste of how INFRA handles its story and direction. I asked Mr. Samiola about it and learned that INFRA is a game that aims to gently guide the player rather than aggressively pushing them forward. Locations you’re tasked with investigating, phone calls, documents, letters and more will all be used to suggest where to go and what to look at. To me, all this makes it sound as though INFRA is more interested in getting its players to decide to investigate locations on their own rather than dictating that they do it.

According to Samiola, the puzzle element is going to be following a similar model. See, there were a few moments in the demo where I thought my puzzle solution might have only been one of a few possibilities. It turns out that that feeling was correct! Samiola stated that there are in fact several puzzles throughout the game that have multiple solutions, and that those solutions will often lead to shortcuts and even alternative routes offering more of the story to uncover. There will even be some puzzle solutions that can result in permanently damaging machinery, for better or worse.

The puzzles I played revolved around routing power and water, but you can expect to be doing more than simply re-routing stuff the whole time. When I asked about this, Samiola mentioned that there some puzzles that bring entire levels into play. There’s even a level that tasks you with running the entire facility with just yourself and a few computers! He also mentioned puzzle-solving that involved operating vehicles and even combing through documents to find data and codes needed to progress. There’s definitely some mental challenge here for those who want it. There are also measures in place for players who aren’t very good at puzzling. There are plenty of clues to be found, and Samiola also mentioned that there’s an option for making useable things glow. It sounds like some puzzles will take some extra thought, but will definitely be solvable.

Going back to the power and water routing, in our first interview it was mentioned that there was a great deal of engineering knowledge being put to use in INFRA’s development. So, I enquired as to whether or not the routing puzzles reflect real life at all. The response that while some freedoms were taken in order to keep INFRA’s puzzles feel fun and noticeable, many of them do incorporate realistic actions and objects into their solutions. For example, a pumping station level in which we’ll have to use computers to toggle valves and pumps in order to manipulate the water flow.

Aside from puzzles, INFRA also tasks players with some light inventory management and photo-documentation. In order to progress in some places, you’ll need the proper keys and authorization codes. Keys activate automatically if you have them, and codes will require players to exercise their memories a little bit, if not their writing skills. When asked about inventory needs, Samiola said that the demo more or less reflected the game. Items like keys are limited to each level, and there won’t be so many of them that one would easily lose track of them. Codes are simple too, it’s just a matter of either writing them down or memorizing them since the game won’t be keeping track for you. Then there’s your camera.

The camera may not be as important as your flashlight, but it plays a vital role nonetheless. As a structural analyst, your main job is to find and document the portions of the city’s infrastructure that have either failed or are on the verge of failing. This is where the camera comes in. Be diligent with your photos, because they’ll have a direct impact on how INFRA ends. While you are solving problems here and there as you move through the game, but a single structural analyst can only do so much! Take those pictures and let your office know what’s in dire need of attention!

From what I saw in the demo, and from what Mr. Samiola revealed in his responses to our questions, it looks as though INFRA is going to be a worth the attention of long-time puzzle fans, mystery enthusiasts, civil engineers, and most anyone who’d enjoy an adventure that’s a bit more grounded in reality than your average game. Simply put, my first impressions of INFRA were quite solid! As I mentioned earlier, INFRA’s first installment is due out next month on Steam. We’ll be sure to do our part and get a full review out for you as soon as we’re able. Until then, check out this cool trailer and the official INFRA site if you’d like to learn more!

There’s more going on in Stalberg than just crumbling infrastructure!