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Preview: Monstrum

You are alone. The creeping darkness is not your friend. The creaks of the metal and the splashing of the waves tell you that you are no longer at home, and the moonlight howls tell you that something lurks in the shadows. Something that has no intentions of aiding you in your hour of need. Something monstrous.

Developed by Team Junkfish, a successful young group of AbertayUniversity graduates, Monstrum is a videogame designed around a simple principle: tension. Every aspect of the in-development version of the videogame presented to VRFocus at last week’s Game Developers Conference (GDC) in San Francisco suggested that a nimble mind is just as important as quick reactions. It’s just as easy to be caught off-guard as it is to plan a decoy and daring escape, but first the player must learn a little about their surroundings.

Monstrum_1

The player will find themselves lost on a ship out at sea with their singular objective being escape. They must find a lifeboat, ensure it’s seaworthiness and vacate their current premises with haste. However, this task is not as easy as it sounds. Every time the player enters the ship it’s structure is procedurally generated: what may have been the obvious path to safety last time around is a tortuous dead-end this time. The comparisons to Left 4 Dead‘s AI Director are perhaps inevitable, and Team Junkfish and aware of this. More than that however, they embrace it.

The puzzle structure of Monstrum is designed to reflect the stage-by-stage nature of Left 4 Dead. Seeing your ultimate conclusion, the player must mentally work back through each potential conflict until they find the starting point. This inevitably involves collecting items and returning them to the lifeboat, but it’s not as straightforward as walking too-and-from. The challenge of Monstrum is to complete this task while avoiding that previously mentioned monster.

There will be several in the final build, Team Junkfish assures VRFocus, each with different behavioural protocol. Furthermore, they will be randomly assigned just as with the level design, so the player will truly never know what they are about to face. The brute in the early preview build was a hulking best of glowing red and black, quick and powerful but ultimately quite dumb. He was willing to enter a fight without a second thought – and his brute strength meant that he would inevitably emerge victorious each time – however he is easy to distract or confuse. Throughout Monstrum the player can find a collection of items that can be used to lure the monster or act as a decoy. The player also has the ability to hide, but doing so can be dangerous: if the monster is truly hurt by your actions he will rip apart the room in search of you, and it may only be a matter of time.

 monstrum_2

The small sample of Monstrum that was offered to VRFocus was little more than a tease. Played without Oculus Rift and with only one monster, this ‘pre-alpha’ build offered an insight into the kind of videogame experience that Monstrum promises to be without spoiling the unique nature of it’s randomised presentation. Monstrum will be coming to Rezzed, Birmingham, this weekend with full Oculus Rift compatibility, and VRFocus will keep you updated with all the latest from Team Junkfish.