Tuesday, 12 September 2017 08:06

Neofeud Review

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Neofeud: a rich, but flawed point-and-click title

It's no secret that some of the biggest indie video-game darlings the past few years have come from single-person developer studios -- titles like Axiom Verge, Undertale, or Dust: An Elysian Tale, for example.

All critically acclaimed and loved by all sorts of players, these entries all had that indie charm while also showing off excellent mechanics and intriguing stories. Along comes Silver Spook Games' Neofeud, a point-and-click adventure that was one of the last releases to be Greenlit on Steam before Valve shuttered the program.

Neofeud was written, produced, and hand-painted by Christian Miller, a developer based in Hawaii. It’s a dystopian, sci-fi adventure inspired by older titles such as System Shock and Fallout and films like Aliens, The Matrix, Bladerunner, District 9, and Elysium. Taking a little more than 15-hours to finish, Neofeud showcases a deep tapestry of plot twists and turns, rich backstories, and action weaved throughout the point-and-click gameplay.

It's raw art design, but it's easy to forget that every single thing you see on screen was all created by one man.

The story is set in the year 2033. Humans have created sentient robots who are, "humanity's unwanted bastard children," as per the title's press release. The main character, Karl Carbon, is an ex-cop dishonorably discharged now serving as a social worker up to his ears in red tape everywhere he goes. When the story finally gets going, he's ordered to look for a mysterious "Johnny" in a cyborg ghetto. Johnny, Karl expects, is likely going to be thrown in the massive robot landfill dubbed, "The Pile." However, Johnny's a much more complex character than what he first appears to be, as Karl eventually discovers.

The story's characters, be it major or minor ones, all have unique wrinkles to them. There's also quite a bit of text to read, which isn't unexpected for the genre, but it is on the long side compared to others of the same type.

The first thing you'll likely notice is the unique art style that has that "handmade" feel to it. You might love it, or you might, like I did at first, find it a little unpolished. It's done well, though, and The Arcade, in particular, stands out as one of my favorite-looking scenes filled with cool-looking characters. The highlight being Talos, the Terminator-looking robot who grabs Karl by his neck and lifts him off his feet upon first meeting him. He's a badass robot that you see in action soon after meeting him.

I'm a bit torn on the art style because there are character models, and settings that I think look astounding, but then there's others that they could have maybe been workshopped a bit more. It's raw art design, but it's easy to forget that every single thing you see on screen was all created by one man.

Nearly every line in Neofeud, which feels like almost as many as a full-length movie, is voice acted by a variety of different characters. It has robots with voices that speed up and then slow down or are high pitched then break into low-pitched tone for a brief moment, and the humanoid voices that they also made are all quite distinct. Making almost every character sound so distinct is a real accomplishment, and at times the voice acting sounds on par with big-budget AAA titles.

The story also unabashedly takes from its influences in cheeky ways. The doctor inside The Arcade quotes "Howl" by Allen Ginsberg.  You'll also find the famous line from Cersei Lannister in "Game of Thrones," Season one, "When you play the game of thrones, you win or you die."

There's another part where you must enter in the acclaimed Konami Code to progress past a particular puzzle. It's also great fun to hear characters call Proto-J "The Six Billion Dollar Baller."

A few times throughout my playthrough I found myself wondering, "What does this puzzle solve? Where is this headed?"

Neofeud is not without its flaws, however. It takes too long to discover what Karl's big-picture goal is. A few times throughout my playthrough I found myself wondering, "What does this puzzle solve? Where is this headed?"

For example, at the start, where you're helping a female cyborg, it doesn't appear to have much to do with the overarching narrative. It's fine to have tangents, especially for a point-and-click entry, but starting with one made me wonder where we were going next.

The story does eventually get on track and you get to some smart bits of story mixed with gameplay, but, it feels like it takes a little too long to reach that point.

There are small faults that break the immersion, too. For example, in the opening cutscene, there's a small typo. It reads, "The Kingdom of Heaven open for an instance." The sound balance in that same cutscene is off, as it's (at times) hard to hear what the people are saying over the music. You also have no idea who's talking or what roles they have in the story. Maybe having their names below the portraits could have alleviated that.

Later, during the first conflict with a police officer, he fires his gun at the cyborg woman he's confronting without anything happening to her as a result. In the Arcade when you're in the middle of the firefight, it turns into an awkward third-person-shooter scene if it were done in a point-and-click style. If you think that sounds awkward, trying to play through it is more problematic. You have to know when to press the spacebar for Proto-J to shoot his gun, but if you do it at the wrong time, he dies, and you have to try again. It's all a matter of trial and error, but without any clear direction.

As with almost any point-and-click title, some of the puzzles can seem a little off-the-wall obscure. But, here they don't approach the point where you're pulling your hair out trying to figure out why this particular thing interacts with another random thing.

More than anything, the HUD is the real issue, especially when you're trying to save or load. I've saved and loaded my game at least a dozen times but I'm still not sure if the floppy-disk icon with the up arrow or the down arrow is the save button or the load button, or vice versa.

Neofeud's futuristic, Bladerunner-like world, its thoughtful dialogue that's entirely voice acted, and its fresh point-and-click puzzles make it a title worth trying, as long as you're aware that it has some annoying flaws you'll encounter along the way too.


The Verdict

After a slow start, Neofeud develops into a complex tale that approaches profound ideas about what it means to be sentient, what it means to care about someone who may or may not be alive, and how it could be a big problem our society could face someday soon.

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Jake Sorich

Jake Sorich has been playing video games since he was a young lad. He's into Super Mario Bros., Mega Man 2, and Contra, among others. While his gaming tastes have matured a bit -- he's now more into RPGs like Pillars of Eternity, and First Person Shooters like Mass Effect 1 and 2 -- he's still, in a lot of ways, that same kid who's fascinated by the immense challenge, vast worlds, and experimental spirit of video games. He's also an experienced writer/journalist who's contributed to such publications as Paste Magazine, Montana Magazine, and his website, TheBigSkyStateBuzz.com, which he founded in 2014.


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