Edited by: Tiffany Lillie
DOWN THE RABBIT HOLE
INSOMNIA: The Ark begins in some form of dream-state reality where you follow a blue-hued ghost through a rocky path, which leads you to a black-hole-type orb, which warps you into your body. You awake in a medical bay where the doctor tells you to proceed to the next section in which you customize your character and select your class. The customization is limited but the classes are fairly diverse, with each one offering different approaches to combat, such as rifles, pistols, or melee combat. After creating your character, you proceed to the quartermaster to gain access to your initial gear and weapons, which is when I found my first bug: The map was all written in Russian. Finding the quartermaster was a serious pain because of that, although I did have time to experience some immersion within the world.
The developers have clearly put a lot of effort into creating a world that looks and feels like a future that has not been visited much. Old-school cars with futuristic modifications dot the landscape, as well as mech-type warriors that patrol gates. Citizens and soldiers mix together in a melting pot of poverty. Here is where I discovered that NPCs will stop what they are doing just to walk face first into the nearest wall, perpetually. Even the quartermaster was teeth-deep into the corner of the room, still walking. It’s buggy.
LAUNCHING THE GAME
By the way, if you have an Oculus Rift, be sure to unplug it before launch. INSOMNIA: The Ark has no VR capabilities, but insists on launching the Oculus Home and SteamVR upon startup. This also transitions all sound to the Rift and leaves you mute at the menus. The developers have acknowledged this bug and say they have begun work on it, however.
Another issue is that the camera is very noticeable through a slight downward angle behind your third-person character. Granted, this is probably because there is no ceiling or skybox above the playable areas, so it's more of a trick than a problem, but this causes an inability to judge enemy positions that are farther down a path, and you can’t really take in the environment as a whole. There is no sense of scale because, for the most part, you view the ground fifty meters out instead of viewing the entire scene.
A DIFFERENT WORLD
Despite all the bugs, the world of INSOMNIA: The Ark is really cool. Most quests will ask you to navigate the game world, which brings you to a view of the world from space. It’s a gigantic, cubed space station that has visual damages to the exterior and is truly representative of a dieselpunk future. From here, you click on your newest area icon and a time-lapse begins as you watch a dot representing you move from point A to point B. Random events can and will occur on your march or drive to the next area of operation, be it an ambush, locating a storage facility, or just helping the impoverished citizens “remove” some looters, so there’s plenty of combat.
Melee and ranged combat feels pretty fluid and the enemies react well to being struck by bullets or by hatchets. Your quick-bar access to grenades and health stimulants make you feel like you are truly in control of your character and you will quickly learn the importance of cover and fire superiority. Each firearm feels as powerful as it should be, though ammo is scarce, which adds another layer of “Is this a good idea?” gameplay. Heavily-armored troops will shrug off your bullets with a satisfying clink at each impact, while their lightly-clothed brethren will jerk and bounce from each round impacted. Your character does not suffer from as much recoil as the enemies, but that might reflect a decision the developers made to allow you to keep positive control of your character.
The camera view offers an unnecessary difficulty to combat, as you cannot move the view, but instead move your crosshair across a fixed screen, vertically. This makes distant targets feel more like a chore than a challenge. Initial combat is where I noticed there is a LOD issue, as charging melee foes will maintain a low LOD from their entry point onto the combat ground (which may be forty or fifty meters ahead) all the way to in your face. I’ve also had multiple instances of enemies running right past me only to find the nearest wall to put their face into.
The Verdict: Bad
While the aesthetics are extremely interesting and present a thoughtful look into a dystopian dieselpunk future, the excessive bugs, bad pathfinding, oddly-paced gameplay, and clunky menus make this title borderline unplayable. Though this title is not Early Access, it absolutely should be. I think INSOMNIA: The Ark could be an enjoyable experience, but not until the developers get rid of all the atrocious problems.