XMIT: “Hey. Yes, you. Look, I can help you but you’re going to have to listen and do exactly what I say.”
RECV: “What? Where are you?”
XMIT: “Good job staying alive this long on your own. There aren’t many survivors. I’ve got an infra-red drone up overhead, so I can see you real pretty-like on my screen. I can see… ‘them’ too. It’s a heat vision camera, so if something’s colder than room temperature — Oh, you need to move. Take that MP5 submachine gun with you. On three, haul ass out the door, turn right and run to… you’ll see some parked cars, just get low behind them. One… two… GO GO GO!”
RECV: “I’m here. Now what? And what the hell was that THING, man? What’s happening?!”
XMIT: “Shhhh. Shut up or they’ll — crap, nevermind. Make sure the safety is off on that gun, cuz you’re in a world of shit in about ten seconds. Two to your left, right side’s clear. Short bursts, don’t empty the-“
BAM BAM BAM BAM
BAM BAM BAM
RECV: “Where those giant spiders? Those fricken things were big as a dog… a damn big dog. Get me the fu-“
XMIT: “The good news is that they’re dead. Bad news is… those are the small ones. You’ve got about two miles of real bad news between you and the docks, and what I need you to do is get there. There’s something you’re going to need on the boat if you’re going to keep surviving this.”
RECV: “A boat? Great, I’m gonna sail my ass right the-“
XMIT: “Unfortunately, not an option. You’ll see. But we need to retrieve the stuff to fix the generator, step one. Ok, keep heading that way, and you’ll see a house on the left. Go inside. Be real careful and don’t make any noise, becuase I think it’s still in there.”
RECV: “What’s still in there? More giant spiders? Why would I go IN there then?”
XMIT: “I estimate you’ve got maybe five bullets left in that gun. There’s a rifle, two grenades, and two clips of ammo in that house. Another survivor dropped it when — he doesn’t need it anymore. You do. Just be really quiet, get it, get out.”
RECV: “So, I’m not the onl-“
XMIT: “No. Now — Focus. Loot the body, get out, no hesitation.”
RECV: “I think I got everything. I can’t… uh… find the other half of him.”
XMIT: “Good enough. You can only carry one pistol, and one other weapon, so sometimes you have to make hard choices. Remember where you dropped the SMG at, in case you have to run back to it for your five bullets. Reload too soon, and you waste whatever was left in the clip, but wait too long and it’ll be when you need it most that it’s dry. Try to count bullets if you can.”
XMIT: “Ok, while you’re walking and it’s relatively safe, here are some tips so you don’t end up like that last guy. First, the monsters are fast. Keep your distance, because once they grab you it’s over. Keep a grenade handy, because if one of the big ones — you’ll know it when you see one — gets after you, throw that thing over your shoulder and run with everything you’ve got.”
XMIT: “The little ones, like you saw, go down if you smack them with your rifle or a club, so don’t waste bullets on them if there’s only one. You’re gonna need the bullets for your bigger problems. When you do have to start shooting, your best bet is to shoot them a few times just to scare them off. That last guy put a whole clip into something that was as big as a truck and it still didn’t kill it. So, deter them and haul ass.”
XMIT: “Ammo’s going to be tight, so you’re going to have to scavenge some of these buildings and hope you find some. Bad news is, buildings are the most dangerous place you could be. Can’t see jack, and the big ones, well, walls don’t stop them if they want a piece of you. Even the little ones can charge right through a door, so forget about hiding out until morning.”
XMIT: “If you’re around those critters, even if you can’t see them, you can sorta ‘feel it’. I noticed that with the others — I mean, the last guy. Uh — yeah, so if you get creeped out, it’s for a reason, so hide or something. Know your exits. Any time you go into a place, first thing you do is look for two more ways out of it in case things go pear shaped.”
XMIT: “Alright, stay out of the middle of the street, and try to move from cover to cover. If you can’t see them, they can’t see you — but you can hear them, and unfortunately they hear you even better. I’ll let you know if I see any heat signatures around you. Ok, get in the tree line over there and keep going North.”
RECV: “Hey, I think I see another survivor. He’s running this way what should I…”
XMIT: “Turn right, get to that barn! Don’t look back. Don’t run the same way that other guy is going because he’s running for really big reasons — three really big reasons right behind him. RUN!”
XMIT: “Yes, you might run into other people. You’re not the only survivor. Don’t trust anybody, because they’re not all nice guys, and if they think it’s you or them, well… Doesn’t mean a couple of you can’t team up, strength in numbers and all, but friendly fire isn’t. Remember that.”
RECV: “Ok, I can see the docks. Oh, yeah, that boat is toast. What am I looking for here?”
XMIT: “It’s an auxiliary pump valve. Should be at the very back of the ship. There’s a key on a corpse over on the left you’re going to need if — Nope, nope, RUN!”
RECV: “What?! Which way?!”
XMIT: “East is clear, go right… nope, south, go south! Too late. TURN AROUND AND SHOO-“
Pop pop pop po-
** CONNECTION LOST **
XMIT: “Hey. Yeah you. Want to live? You’re going to have to listen close and do what I say.”
RECV: “What? Who the hell are you? Why should I trust-“
XMIT: “Because there’s no other choice, and you know it. Ok, I need you to head to this spot I’ll mark on your map. There’s a body there with some equipment on it that you’re going to need. Don’t worry, you’re lucky right? The other guy… not so much. Alright, get moving.”
NOCT is a top-down twin stick shooter style game by C3SK that takes inspiration from a variety of sources. Notably Stephen King’s The Mist, Day-Z, Zombie-Gunship and the AC-130 mode from Call of Duty, etc. The developers also mention Hotline Miami, H.P. Lovecraft, and The Thing by John Carpenter. It immediately reminded me of the excellent survival horror game Teleglitch, which I am equal parts in love with and terrible at playing.
The player is equal parts survivor and observer. The world is seen from an overhead thermal-optics view, with the characters and monsters being white-hot against a black background, which works amazingly well. WASD moves the survivor in the pressed direction, and the mouse aims and shoots — or you can hook up a dual stick gamepad and go that route. The game view is an interesting hybrid of overhead night vision and the restriction of only being able to see what the survivor himself could see. Being able to see everything from the air would defeat everything about the game that makes it tense and creepy.
NOCT‘s handling of death is an interesting mechanic that fits in with the game’s atmosphere. The observer chats with the survivor as gameplay progresses, and that’s how the narrative is transmitted. When the survivor gets killed, they drop their inventory and the observer connects to a newly spawned survivor that’s randomly placed on the map, with the opening dialogue explaining to “new guy” that he needs to go loot the last unlucky survivor’s corpse.
It’s when you go online that things get interesting. You can start up a server of your own and invite friends over, or join one of the established servers and take your chances with the natives. I’ve had things go both ways — one session being a largely friendly and cooperative affair, and another that turned into a bloodbath. When you die, you drop your stuff and instantly respawn elsewhere. However, since there are ample guns lying around, you’re not really out much. I would strongly hope (hint, hint) that the developer allows an option for a co-op-only server in the future, rather than have those who want nothing to do with PVP avoid their game’s online mode. Some really wild stuff can happen when you get a few people trying to take down a rampaging beastie.
NOCT is in Early Access now, but it’s already worth the ten bucks and will only get better.
[While researching on the topic, I also discovered Darkwood, which is pretty amazing itself. There’s also Alien Breed (trilogy), Splatter, Alien Swarm (excellent & FREE on Steam), so many top down creepy alien horror games to be had. Could someone please reboot SmashTV? It just begs to be a bloodbath eSport, ya know? Thanks. Writing this article cost me $40 in other games I discovered along the way… sigh.]
Disclosure: Devolver Digital provided the Steam key that was used for this article.