This week, Coverage Club is trying something a bit different. Usually, we're all about variety here, and our split articles take a look at two wildly different releases. This week, we're looking at two games from the same developer. How does one game bleed into the other? Which one is the best starting point? All questions will hopefully be answered as Robert Adams dives into Unloved and Dimension Drifter.
Covered by Robert N. Adams
Unloved promised DOOM-like gameplay and I was curious to see just how well it delivered. What I found was a game that came much closer to being the terrifying love child of DOOM and Silent Hill. I'm not super fond of scary games, and Unloved did a number on me. This particular title developed by BlueEagle Productions and published by Paul Schneider was actually based on a mod of the same name for DOOM 2, so the similarities aren't all that unusual.
As far as first-person shooters go, this is a relatively straightforward title. You'll begin by creating a profile and picking out some basic colors for your character and then you can immediately hop right into the action. This is a very compartmentalized game in a sense. Levels are randomly generated, so you'll never quite know what to expect. A variety of special settings let you customize the gameplay to suit your tastes. Each of these different modes offers varying levels of rewards.
Strangely, Unloved is almost structured like a free-to-play mobile game. There are five separate currencies to keep track of, known as Quintessence, Karma, Fragments, Rubies, and Abyss Coins. These will usually improve your overall power and allow you to survive more challenging difficulty levels. One of the most straightforward ways of doing this is through the use of trinkets, special items that enhance your character and his weapons. These might allow for a faster reload speed, more damage, or some other stat change that makes you just a little stronger.
Speaking of weapons, there are a total of five to choose from. Each of the guns has a primary fire and alternate fire. Ammo is usually abundant in the game's levels, but sometimes it's a challenge to actually find the guns themselves. While the starting pistol is serviceable enough, some of the heftier creatures require a firmer hand. I often found myself frantically running around trying to get my hands on the big guns rather than try to plink away at the baddies with only a pistol.
The monsters in Unloved are particularly unsettling. The designs of the creatures are spooky enough as it is, but the way the game spawns them in is what really makes this a terrifying experience. Creatures will spawn in when you pick up certain items or unlock doors. The only way to really know if the area is clear is to look. Nowhere is safe—I've often found a room I've just cleared positively swarming with bad guys. I'm not too fond of this kind of mechanic and it made for a somewhat more stressful gameplay experience. The only real downside is the comically-bad walking animations for some of them. This issue was further exacerbated by the complete lack of footstep sounds for enemies, so I rarely knew when someone was behind me until I started taking damage.
Part of the game's variety is in the different modes available to players. Standard play requires that you hold down the Use key to pick up items and open doors. I mostly played through my two hours of game time using these rules, but I did take a crack at something closer to Arcade gameplay that was on offer. I was much more fond of the ability to instantly pick up items, usually because I couldn't really be sure if something was going to pop up right behind me.
Unloved is a relatively straightforward game without much in the way of a complex narrative. Sure, there's creepy stuff going on. But as far as the player is concerned, you're going into these places to shoot up bad guys, complete an objective, and escape. Get the blood key, then the moon key, and then the sun key. Activate a certain number of devices somewhere and then leg it back to the elevator to escape. Lather, rinse, repeat.
If you're not super fond of pure first-person shooting, Unloved may not be for you. I enjoyed my short time with the game, but I certainly can't see myself playing it throughout an entire day like I could with some other shooters. It does pack in a lot of things to do in one neat package, though, so it isn't a terrible value prospect if you don't mind a relatively simple first-person shooter without too much in the way of a narrative.
TechRaptor covered UNLOVED on PC via Steam with a copy provided by the developer.
Covered by Robert N. Adams
While Unloved makes for a solid value prospect, Dimension Drifter (from the same developer and publisher) is much less so. This game bears many similarities to its predecessor, including randomly generated levels and augmenting characters with upgrades between levels. However, Dimension Drifter is a much newer title that hasn't had the benefit of years of updates. This is Early Access, so many features are still in development at the moment. Simply put, there just isn't as much there as there is with the developer's previous title.
A few significant changes have gone through for Dimension Drifter. The most noticeable is a shift to a third-person perspective. The ability to jump and run has been swapped out for a bullet-time power and a Tracer-esque rechargeable dash, respectively. Other than that, the core design philosophies of the two games remain the same. In fact, a lot of the game feels the same.
One of the most readily apparent similarities is the enemies. Many of the common foes you fight come straight from Unloved, terrible walking animations and all. There do seem to be some new additions once you have a little more time in the game, but the bread and butter baddies you face are very much the same. Another similarly is the random generation of levels and the need to run around to find colored keys to make it to other sections of the map.
Thankfully, this isn't entirely an Unloved remake with a slapped on sci-fi theme. A pump action shotty with rocket launching action replaces the double-barreled shotgun. Unfortunately, it also commits an egregious gaming sin by not seeming to have a proper reload animation. You cannot reload one shell at a time as you should be able to with such a gun.
Another change is the continuity of ammo. The game splits into "episodes" and your ammo, health, armor, grenades, and lockpicks carry over between levels. This means that you'd ideally want to conserve your shots where possible until you're at the very end of an episode lest you start off a mission with not much in the way of firepower. This change is interesting, but it also screwed me over a couple of times. I found myself in randomized levels with really unfortunate starting situations.
There's nothing particularly wrong with going for a new game in a different genre that reuses some assets. However, the current execution of Dimension Drifter leaves much to be desired judging from my two hours of playtime. You have fewer weapons available (2 guns in Dimension Drifter versus 5 guns in Unloved), too, which boils your offensive capabilities down to five kinds of attack: two guns, each with their own alternate fire, and grenades.
The robust customization options from the previous game just aren't there, either. Hell, there are currently special currencies you can collect in the game and you don't have anywhere to spend them! It's not a complete wash for customization, though—you can at least change the color of individual gun parts, an apparent step up from its spiritual predecessor.
The shift to a third-person perspective also puts the unfortunately dodgy animations front and center. Your character appears to power walk her way through all of the levels with an upper body that seems unusually rigid. Thankfully, the developer did seem to take the time to properly rig her breasts to jiggle. I don't normally take any issue with jiggle physics in games, but I'm certainly not as fond of it when the main character's core animations feel so off.
Perhaps the worst thing of all is the price. In short, Dimension Drifter wants more of your money for less content. There are fewer guns, fewer customizations, and fewer story elements to check out (if you care about that sort of thing). Given a choice between Unloved and Dimension Drifter, the former would have made a better value prospect at the same price. Considering that Dimension Drifter costs twice as much as Unloved, there's no question as to which of the two you should buy.
I think Dimension Drifter will eventually turn into a good game once the developer puts out a more complete product. I much prefer the fast-paced science fiction theme over the frightening, often claustrophobic horror of Unloved. As it stands, the current Early Access build of the game makes for a poor value prospect, especially when you compare it to Unloved. For now, I'd say it's best to avoid Dimension Drifter until it provides more content and pick up Unloved instead.
TechRaptor covered Dimension Drifter on PC via Steam with a copy provided by the developer.