Your name is Raymond Everett. You are a marooned science officer of HMS Hawking. Your task is to make it to the end.
Artificer is a single-player survival RPG set on the remote planet of Alcor, filled with fast and deadly creatures, from freaky Alcor-type worms to more gruesome alien species. Similar to other games of its kind, such as Don’t Starve and Terraria, your combat and survival skills are put to the test as you wander this land alone.
Whilst their Kickstarter’s passed, you can check out some gameplay footage in the trailer below:
To Boldly Go…
The game, developed by Psilocybe Games, begins with an animated, 1st person perspective cut-scene of a sunrise behind the mountains on this new planet, from inside an evacuation shuttle. Suddenly you are brought into the game, with a simple task of finding survivors, and to survive.
That’s where the game begins. Your evacuation shuttle acts as a base for all the equipment and resources that you need. It’s where your workshop bench is located, and other survival items that you need to create ingredients and weapons.
In terms of finding the survivors, your character carries around a communications device that uses a signal percentage to locate them. Not only that, but the device is also used to help the player relocate themselves back to the shuttle: a very useful feature that’s needed when exploring such a vast and repetitive world.
On the surface of Alcor, you come across three types of monsters: the Wailworm, the Ossimian, and the Warniak. These are avoidable by running away, but if you need to dissect the monsters, then you need to build yourself a weapon to use against them. The chances are you will most likely suffer damage from the attack, and a lasting poisonous effect that slowly reduces your health.
What do I do now?
This is just one of the many challenges that come with playing Artificer. In terms of how you find out the combat, as well as other parts to the storyline, there aren’t a lot of resources to guide the player, as well as figuring out the world around you.
Whilst this is an effective way of making Artificer a challenging and unique experience, a lot of the time you spend at the beginning is figuring out what you actually need to do to survive.
There are no guides telling you which direction to start off with when exploring, or how to craft specific items for health which require multiple stages of creation.
There are, however, books which I can only assume is the game’s answer to instructions. The players are given four chapters: survival, astrobiology, alchemy, and divination. Each chapter comes with different stages that you can unlock by using the research table.
The more levels you unlock, the more items you can craft and the more actions you can unlock. Inside these levels comes with a basic instruction on how to create these items, but for some vital items such as a Kiln and Bubblemuffin Pulp, there is no explanation as to what to do with them.
Whilst the whole experience of exploring Alcor without a guide makes the game more challenging, after cluelessly trying to find different plants and using different workbenches, it becomes frustrating more than anything. The idea of the books is a great alternative to instructions, but could have been built on more.
How Long Can You Last?
This issue occurs in the actual combat style of the game as well, in terms of ways to defeat the creatures in a way that you can survive.
Artificer comes with two different game style choices. There’s casual mode, which is where your game AutoSaves so that when you die you are regenerated back into the campsite, or adventure mode, where you are brought back to the very beginning every time you die.
I attempted adventure mode for a couple of days, but the lack of armour, the lack of a clean water resource, and no understanding of the combat style of the game, I had to switch to casual mode to actually progress with the story. It seems that playing adventure mode is almost impossible, especially when you come across your first “boss battle”.
I died in ten seconds.
The game seems to promote your continuous play of the game in order to collect survival points, explore new areas, and build upon alchemy and divination. However, there isn’t much detail as to what to do with all of these features and how you can improve, but it might be so that your experience is challenging rather than handing these victories over to you with little effort.
Don’t NOT Click On The Item…
What actually seems to really let Artificer down is not the actual gameplay, but bugs that make the experience a frustrating one. When it comes to picking up items that fall to the ground, or shrubbery and trees in the world, you cannot interact with the items by clicking directly on them, but by clicking on the bottom right of the item.
Whilst this is a flaw you get used to, it eventually becomes a burden when you use the autopsy table. When you dissect a creature, the items do not appear in your inventory but scatter across the area where the shuttle is (because that is the only area you can build workshop benches and tables).
Depending on where you put the table, more than half of the resources that you collect from the autopsy are inaccessible because they are squashed in between the shuttle and another workbench. Clicking on the bottom right of the item makes the collection of these items impossible because it always triggers opening the shuttle as a workbench.
There are two ways of fixing this issue: the developers need to make sure that you can click on any part of an item and it will work, and that the campsite surrounding the crashed shuttle needs to be larger. A tent is provided to make more space, but it is still a struggle trying to fit every crafting tool you need.
Artificer: Should You Explore Alcor?
There are so many features that hold Artificer back from being a great game, but it is definitely one that has a lot of potential. Whilst the process of understanding the gameplay and the story is long and difficult, the experience of Alcor is quite captivating.
The simplistic yet imaginative design of the world, tied with the beautiful and eerie soundtrack, doesn’t dull the long hours of trying to figure out how to play the game. Its mixture of pastel pink and grey, of illuminating oranges and blues, gives Alcor this Avatar-esque palette that makes the graphics really stand out.
Do not let most of the issues mentioned above deter you from attempting to play the game. A majority of the issues only need an update by the developers to make the experience a lot more bearable. Artificer has so much potential, but at the moment the game is a frustrating experience (especially when on adventure mode).
With the game set for release on the 24th of August this year, there are many fixes that the developers can do in this space of time. Visit their Steam page to find out more.