Telepaths Tree‘s and IMGN.PRO‘s Inner Chains looks as if it could breathe fresh air into the world of body game horror games with adventure exploration elements, but it leaves a bad odor behind.
Inner Chains (PC)
(Poland 2017, developer: Telepaths Tree, publishers: IMGN.PRO/EuroVideo Medien GmbH, platform: PC)
In a world that embraces the mechanical and nature as well as a social structure of castes, one of the planet’s human inhabitants tries to reach the mythical place Last Hope and leave the degenerated and dying planet behind.
Epic in narrative scope
The premise of the first few minutes of the game is great, as one is introduced to a hostile, dark environment in which oppression, slavery, and manipulation under the name of religious zealotry is the only thing one can discern. Even more intriguing is how the background story and world lore is presented by making the player to first learn its language by finding runes and then to look at murals, so that the more one recognizes the letters, the more one understands the writing.
Flawed in resulting narrative
However, this is all there is to the story and characters, as the protagonist remains as mysterious as what is actually going on. If one doesn’t try to decipher the texts, one won’t even know why one is here, where one is going or what one has to do. And even if one takes the time and delves into the background story, there isn’t much development or meaning behind it all. This is probably one of the few games in which what happens in the background or before the game is more interesting than what happens during the game, which isn’t a lot, so identifying with the world or its characters emotionally simply doesn’t work, making the whole journey rather tedious and pointless.
Tedious is the best way to describe the gameplay as well. While one is able to use different organic weapons for puzzles as well as combat, e.g. burning through a path of thorns or electrifying energy mechanisms to open shut-off entrances, the actual gunplay is always the same. Even if the dangerous environment can be used to one’s advantage to bring down enemies with poisonous plants or other things, the A.I. isn’t the best and one doesn’t survive enemy encounters because of either the environment or too many enemies. As these aren’t varied and most deaths are rather cheap, it’s not a lot of shooter or stealth fun.
A different and the same place
The boring gunplay isn’t made better by the uninspired level design that is also quite confusing at times. Everything looks the same and because backtracking is often necessary, one will easily get lost. One can activate some organic structures that emit a light source to follow, but it doesn’t prevent the player from getting completely lost, without having any clue of where to go next or what to do. In addition to orientation problems and some very annoying game-breaking bugs, e.g. requiring ammo for some sections to clear a path, there is also a very unfair checkpoint system that throws the player back a long way from where he suffered a cheap death.
If these looks and sounds could kill
Artistically, the game looks stunning, with impressive vistas to take in and some mindbending organic structures to traverse. If it weren’t for the bad level design and same-y environments, there would be even more potential eye-openers, as the way how vast the world appears to be isn’t justified by the enclosed spaces one goes through most of the time. The lighting effects and textures on walls, grounds, and characters are also very well done, so it’s a shame that there isn’t much else in terms of atmosphere. What is left is further stomped down by terrible voice acting, looping sound effects and music one doesn’t even notice while playing.
If this game was any good
Inner Chains has so much potential with its background story, character and creature design, building a unique world that could deliver so much more. Mixing exploration and FPS action is commendable as well, but it simply fails in every way, except for the impressive art direction. Its main storyline that already ends after 4 hours with a nonsensical and tedious boss fight is just as boring as the main character, while the combat and puzzle solving are as unexciting as they can be.
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