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Brother Glacius

Blackout Club - steam

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So a buddy of mine got me to get into the early release of The Blackout Club. It is a Stranger Things-esque co-op FPS stealth game. You play as a teenager sneaking around your neighborhood at night, trying to discover clues and accomplish goals to figure out what is going on. It is supposed to be a creepy game, but very light on violence and no gore of any kind, so fairly family friendly. I'd have no problem at all with having a teenager play this.

The game uses several obstacles to hamper you. First off are Sleepers, these are parents that are basically hypnotized that roam about the map. They are blind because they are kind of sleep walking...however, they can hear. So you have to be quiet around them. Then there are the Lucids, these people can actually see and hear, but the sight is fairly limited. So as long as you stay in the shadows, and they aren't on alert (shining a light around), you can get by them. Then there are a few traps that are set. One will zap you if you move too fast through it, another one generates a sound if you get too close. Then there are security cameras and drones that also scan an area and will set off an alarm if you linger too long.

In order to get past all of these, you can find various items to help you. There are lockpicks, foam cans, flash bangs, tranq darts, bandages and fireworks, all meant to help counter the above. Also, you get to start with one very specific piece of gear as well, a stun gun, a mini crossbow, or a grappling hook. To also aid you, as you level, you get power points that you can spend in one of several skills to add some specific ability to your avatar. They go several levels deep, and you can only have one skill set active at a time.

As this is a co-op game (up to four), it is better to have a variety of abilities and gear. A typical mission might be, to break into a house and find three pieces of evidence. Then you might have to collect foam cans and disable 10 traps, then you have to rescue someone down in the maze. Once you do all of them, you can escape to the exit. On the surface, it is a fun game. It has built in voip so that makes it nice to communicate with fellow players. It is also a nice break from the typical FPS games where you just run around and shoot things. While there is the ability to disable some of the human enemies, you have to be careful. The more you get noticed, the greater the chance for the final enemy to show up, the Shape. The Shape is an invisible entity that will target whichever character got noticed the most. They then will teleport around the map (special doors are throughout the map) and chase you down. If caught, it will hypnotize you and you basically wander around until a friend can free you. However, as you are hypnotized, you will try to alert other enemies if you see another kid, and will run away from them. Also, the normal humans will try to capture you as well and drag you to the Shape if you are weak enough. Typically, once the Shape becomes active, it just keeps hunting each player until it gets them all. You can see the Shape, if you close your eyes. Closing your eyes also lets you see a path that leads you to completing your current objective. Why? No clue, just another mechanic.

The game is fun, and challenging...and it does the creepy thing very well. The map is static, but as you level, more new areas are revealed. Evidence and gear boxes are randomly spread about in each mission, but you learn the places pretty quickly. Gear boxes are probably there 80% of the time, the evidence you can find for bonus points is much more spread around and harder to find.

The game is a bit grindy. You want to level up in order to unlock more abilities. The higher the level, the harder the game is. Also, it takes longer and longer to unlock the next skill in a tree. Each level of the skill means that many points to unlock. So a skill with 5 levels, you need 16 points. Which means you need to get to level 16. That will take days of playing. Oh, and if you decide that you want to switch skill trees, you start all over.

My biggest issue with the game is that you have no idea when the Shape will appear. Also, you aren't really sure why it targets player A instead of player B. I had a game where the first time my avatar was seen, the Shape came out. Other times, we completed the whole map and the Shape never appeared. It really needs to give players some indication of how much "sin" they have generated so that they know how close they are until the Shape comes out. Also, it would be nice if there was some way to lower your "sin" as well. Also, in higher levels, their answer for making things more difficult seems to be simply to add more Sleepers and Lucids about. I've sat on a rooftop and looked down and it looked like I had kicked in an ant-hill.

Oh, there is one last feature I forgot to mention. There is the option to play as a Stalker. If you play as a Stalker, you enter someone else's game and basically run around trying to get them caught. You get to pick up gear and such and try to use it to attract the bad guys to the players. Players can catch a Stalker and take them out. The game will allow a Stalker to enter your game once. As long as you don't become a Stalker yourself, your games will then be safe from future Stalkers. At my level, I think the game is hard/frustrating enough without Stalkers, but in the hopes of more replayability, I might open that door myself.

 

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