As I played The Pit: Infinity, one major flaw stood out: I did not know where I was or what I was doing. I did not discover any context to the setting and could not find descriptions of each class’ skills and attributes. So while I could walk around the game’s labyrinth, shoot its creatures, unlock its doors, and do so many other tasks common in gameworlds, I never knew why I was doing it.
It reminds me of a question professors would ask when critiquing essays: what’s the point of it? What’s the crux – why should I care? I found myself asking this much while playing The Pit. There was no story context, narrative pull, or central goal. There was hardly any context at all. The Pit is empty.
There are three character classes: Marine, Engineer, and Scout. I found that Scout is the best to pick. You begin with high Finesse, an attribute that improves your proficiency in projectile weapons, and with moderate Brains, an attribute that improves your ability to use medpacks or to disable electrical currents blocking your path, among other perks. Marine heavily tilts towards Strength, which is hardly of any use since most skills fall under Finesse and Brains. As the Engineer, high on Brains and low on everything else, I got destroyed. There isn’t much of a choice here. Plus, the characters themselves are not very intriguing. There is no backstory to them as far as I could tell, and the lines they mutter are cheesy.
There are no thorough explanations for the skills and attributes in-game. Now, I could figure out what "Lockpick" referred to, but skills like "Mechanical" were a little more perplexing. Others included "Decipher," "Biotech," or "Electronics." Some text explaining what gameplay actions each are tied to would be welcome. If the developers intended for players to find out what they mean by learning as they play, fair enough, but I think it's better if there is some indication of what each skill does as a reference. To just have the name like "Decipher," I'm completely left in the dark.
As whichever character class you choose and with whatever skills you focus on, you progress through “the Pit,” whatever it is. I found no story setup or background narrative in the game world. For all I know, the Pit is an abandoned space station; or a research lab where an experiment went wrong; or my neighbor’s garage. There’s really no way of knowing. There are kitchens with lots of pots jumbled about, storerooms with items like ammo or health, and lots of long hallways and elevators. Each level is procedural-generated, taking more meaning from it all. There's also a dull greenish, brownish coloring pervading the place. It could have used some blues or reds to help spice it up.
I also have no idea why I’m in the Pit or what I’m looking for there. Now, I know this is a roguelike, but even these should have some setup or premise to get you going. The developers should add an intro story setup of some kind or include narrative caches like journal entries or equivalent environmental stories. As is, The Pit lacks any sort of worldbuilding.
The monsters are a random mess. There are creepy crawlies – scorpions, spiders, snakes – there are giant rats, there are bear-like things, aliens with guns, crazy humans, and other stuff, like bats. I don’t know where any of them have come from. An invasion? An experiment gone wrong? There are never hints either way. In addition to these monsters, you’ll encounter piles of bones or gore. You can search the latter, which is pretty gross. But there is no story context given for any of it. This could be Black Mesa or it could be Bubba’s Burgers. You could pretend the Pit is whatever you want it to be, either way.
The Pit: Infinity has subpar performance despite the fact that it's not a looker. My framerate often dipped below 60, and the game usually lagged after I loaded a file. Additionally, I encountered a couple of glitches. Twice I had a door lock back on me after I had unlocked it and entered a room. As these rooms were enclosed, I could not get back out again until I had successfully unlocked it again. This meant I could theoretically be trapped in that room for forever, as I did not have a 100 percent chance of unlocking the door back open (if I was the marine and by incredible chance got in, I'd be done). Another “glitch” is really an issue with cohesion. A couple of times a ladder going upwards took me down to the next floor and a hatch-door on the ground took me up to the next.
To continue mentioning “a couple” times something stood out as bad, twice there was an awkward audio sound. After encountering a “speed up trap” that made my character quickly trot, the footsteps sounds proceeded to play close together very quickly. The effect was beyond silly cartoon. The intercom announcer, in whatever facility you’re in, rarely speaks, but when he does it is hardly amusing. A comedic line I heard three or four times was “Remember to drink your Ovaltine.” That’s as clever as it gets.
Before the final release, I think the developers of The Pit: Infinity need to add some narrative to the game. They should give players some indication of where they are and what they are doing, even if it's just a long note located in the start area. They also should give in-game explanations of all the skills, spice up the visuals, and optimize the performance. As is, the game is a little messy and lacks identity. The Pit is nameless, as is your character. Your quest is unknown and so are most of your skills. The consistent lack of context is what kills this title.
TechRaptor previewed The Pit: Infinity on PC via Steam with a copy provided by the developer.