Afterfall: Insanity is a survival horror game in a similar vein of the Resident Evil and S.T.A.L.K.E.R. franchises with a dash of Fallout and maybe even some Metro 2033 sprinkled in, but if you’re not familiar with it, you’re not alone. The game started off as an indie project by Polish fans working under the name Intoxicate Studios, looking to create a post-apocalyptic shooter. In 2008, Nicolas Games saw it and decided to legitimize the project, turning it into a full retail release.
Although Afterfall probably won’t be winning any awards or topping sales charts any time soon, the game does admirably well given its humble beginnings. Issues with control, pacing, terrible (often laughable) voice acting and translation put a damper on the overall experience, but those who are willing to stick with Afterall: InSanity despite its shortcomings can expect to enjoy a solid indie gaming experience with some cool and original game mechanics sprinkled throughout.
It’s the end of the world as we know it
Afterfall takes place quite literally after the fall (get it?) of humanity as we know it. The year is 2032 and nuclear war has ravaged the planet. Humans are forced to protect themselves from rampant radiation found on the earth’s surface by taking shelter in sun-deprived cities and bunkers deep underground. As the world decays, so too does humanity. Bloodthirsty mutants, heartless mercenaries, and other horrible monsters wait in the dark depths beneath the surface.
You enter this bleak world as Dr. Albert Tokaj, a psychiatrist and pharmacologist working in one of the many shelters set up by the Polish government in the aftermath of World War III. You see, despite life being extremely dangerous now, it’s also extremely boring. The lack of fresh air, exposure to sunlight, and pretty much all the things we as humans grew to love about our existence are gone — and to top it off the residents of Glory Shelter, your stomping grounds, are starting to become afflicted by a disorder known as Confinement Syndrome. Playing as Tokaj, you’re eventually tasked with finding out whom or what is causing the inhabitants to start losing their minds.
Beauty and the mutant beast
Visually, Afterfall isn’t as ugly as some of the mutants running around its white walls and tight corridors. In fact it’s quite beautiful at times. The enemy textures are admirable, and the game makes good use of the Unreal engine. Atmospherically, Afterall is top notch: lighting is used effectively, lights flicker and shadows bounce off walls realistically, all adding a tense and eerie feeling to the games environments.
As any fan of the genre can tell you, a survival horror game lives or dies by the proper feeling of anxiety and on-edge tension it can establish. Without that, it will quickly make the experience feel bland – thankfully Afterfall spares gamers from suffering such a fate, despite the game doing its best to sabotage itself through its poor voice acting (more on that later).
Of course, all the pretty graphics in the world won’t mask a games mediocrity when its controls fall short, and sadly that is the case with Afterall. While the game does well to show off its graphical chops, it’s the controls–not the freakish mutants–which is the scariest aspect. Put simply, the controls in Afterfall are clumsy, guiding Dr. Tokaj was a chore I could have done without, especially when navigating environments and fending off multiple attackers.
But it didn’t stop there. Combat was equally oppressive, especially given that the bulk of your arsenal is of the hand-to-hand variety. Axes, pipes, and other melee weapons help you diagnose and administer monsters with a prescription of pain – and sure there are ranged weapons available, but they take some time to show up in the game, and by that then you have already suffered through enough of Afterfall’s coma-inducing combat.
Perhaps quite foolishly, I kept hoping throughout my exploits that the hand-to-hand combat would expand, but all I ever got was a shallow fighting experience with combos that originated from stiff animations. There are even some random quick time events and finishing moves thrown in to spice it up, but again they didn’t always work the way they were intended to. In the end I found that as long as I attacked, blocked, then rolled out of the way, I was ok. And as soon as I could — I abandoned melee combat altogether and began blasting my way through the remainder of my adventure.
It’s better if you just don’t talk
If you can make it past the uninspiring controls, Afterfall does offer a fairly original and interesting game mechanic that helps augment the gameplay in a positive fashion called “Fearlock”. What Fearlock does is simply represent Dr. Tokaj’s fear level. When something particularly horrific or disturbing happens, Tokaj slips into Fearlock — causing his attacks to become boosted, but suffering from accuracy while using ranged weapons and firearms. It’s not entirely game-changing, but it’s a cool little mechanic that helps add depth to the otherwise sterile combat.
Maybe it’s a consequence of the games low-fi budget, an example of poor translations, or both–but the voice acting in Afterfall: InSanity is downright pitiful. Any sort of tension or atmosphere that the game does so well to create in that moment is almost entirely discarded once one of the characters starts flapping their post-apocalyptic gums. To be fair though, the game is an indie title and happens to hail from Poland, so given that it must traverse language barriers, more than likely that accounts for some of the weaker voice acting. Still, it can detract from the atmosphere and overall experience and can’t be overlooked entirely.
I found myself really at odds with Afterfall: InSanity. On the one hand I admire and appreciate what Intoxicated Studios is trying to do–create a terrifying and compelling narrative that will drive you forward as much as it will creep you out.
However, the game tries to do too much, which while commendable causes Afterfall to stretch itself too thin. Combat is dull and unpredictable at the best of times. Towards the end of the campaign some environmental puzzles are injected into the game, but by then it’s too late, and would have been welcomed earlier. The overall score in Afterfall isn’t bad, but once again the poor voice acting inhibits the narrative and overall experience of the game to some degree.
Sadly, given the developers limited resources, Afterfall is never really able to achieve the levels of greatness it strives for. And yet despite all its shortcomings and faults, Afterall: InSanity is a fun game. The graphics are impressive, the story, while a tad derivative, will keep you going, and the survival horror atmosphere found throughout is well executed — not to mention at $30 it’s actually a fairly decent value. If you can get past some of its more glaring issues and play Afterfall for what it is, not for what it could be, you won’t be (entirely) disappointed.
Score 7.0 out of 10
(This game was reviewed on a PC on a copy provided by Nicolas Entertainment Group)