Having thick skin ought to be an important trait for any fledgling developer, as they should be prepared to act upon constructive criticism relating to how a recreation plays. Unfortunately, there are AAA studios which have set a relatively poor instance in this regard, typically disregarding destructive suggestions and arising with all manner of feeble justifications as to why their products don’t meet expectations. There are sadly even indie corporations guilty of this. Ones which might be liable to react in a fair much less professional method, exhibiting a tendency to lash out at dissenters, argue with clients on message boards, and throw infantile tantrums each time they’re held to account. The minority, positive, and often not those striving for high quality and delight, however it doesn’t help the overall image for builders regardless.
Certainly, it’s fairly uncommon for anybody on this business to maintain up their arms and admit that they might have finished a higher job. Which is why it’s so gratifying to see Thai developer Yggdrazil take some initiative and analysis the feedback they acquired for their debut title: Home Sweet Home. As a result of in doing so, they have managed to craft a follow-up that is irrefutably superior to its predecessor.
Once we have been invited to the workforce’s office down in Bangkok, we have been instantly struck by simply how candid everybody was concerning the unique recreation’s reception. Not considered one of them shied away from the combined critiques they usually all acknowledged that there was clearly room for improvement. ‘’I read every single comment on the Steam web page and categorized them [according to] what they did and didn’t like’’, stated Recreation Designer Pongtham Nantapan. ‘’From this, we discovered that the most typical grievance was that [the] balancing was unfair and irritating at occasions. So we knew we had to work on this as our number one precedence.’’
Having played via a whole lot of the horror sequel, we will confidently attest that they have efficiently pulled this off. However the refinements don’t cease there. Yggdrazil has sifted by way of all of the suggestions – both good and dangerous – to revamp your complete expertise, capitalizing upon all the things that worked before (the intriguing lore and unique Thai type) whilst fixing these issues that didn’t (the shortage of selection, the weird problem curve and the inconsistent enemy A.I).
Proper off the bat, we will inform that things have come alongside approach, as we’re dropped into a gorgeously rendered forest that’s in contrast to something that we saw within the first Home Sweet Home. Episode 1 was largely confined to barren, ugly rooms and repetitive corridors, but this new locale is way more spectacular, with detailed textures and dynamic lighting results that drench our environment in atmospheric moonlight. We haven’t even achieved something yet and already the improvements are manifestly evident.
The subsequent 5 minutes of the preview are largely used to construct rigidity and set the temper, with us traversing eerie woodland, all whilst creepy whispering and desecrated animal carcasses alert us to the truth that one thing’s amiss. After a whereas, we stumble throughout a mysterious glowing mild within the distance and determine to comply with. Because horror has to happen one way or the other, right?
Once we ultimately catch up to the unusual phenomenon, we understand that it’s our first enemy of the game: a grotesque Krasue. For many who don’t know, this malevolent spirit derives from Cambodian folklore and is principally their equal to a Will-o’-the-wisp. Solely as an alternative of being a pretty mild, it’s a floating head with inner organs cascading from its neck! Suffice it to say, it’s is an immediately distressing image and one which marks a good change of pace from the bog-standard ‘’creepy ghost woman’’ that dominated a lot of the last recreation.
The horrifying creature chases us by way of dense foliage till we inadvertently stumble upon the subsequent obstacle: a pack of reanimated corpses, type of like zombies but with slightly extra human traits. It’s at this point that we understand there’s been one other massive change for the sequel, as you can now encounter multiple foes directly, leading to more intense situations whereby you have got to assume strategically in order to out-maneuver each menace.
Beset upon from all angles, we’ve got no selection however to proceed operating by way of the tree line, which is a quite scary prospect, given the multitude of paths before us. Fortunately, it’s virtually unimaginable to hit a lifeless end, as technical artist Kittipas Klinlek defined: ‘’We would like the participant to fear that they might get lost however there’s solely ever one route to take. It’s extra of a psychological trick than something, utilizing visual design to make you assume the degrees are extra [expansive] than they really are.’’
In different phrases, intelligent degree design is all the time shepherding us down the best path. We just don’t realize it. The illusion is definitely efficient, as we feel panicked by the seemingly open environments, but are by no means subjected to the frustration of going around in circles or having to navigate by way of trial and error.
With the assistance of this invisible assist, we soon hit the level’s boundary and are transported to a later section of the game. Right here, we find ourselves scurrying round a labyrinthine temple, making an attempt to escape the clutches of a spectral Thai dancer, who is certain to turn out to be the sport’s standout villain.
Just like the Krasue, the Dancer is a refreshingly distinctive enemy with singular behaviors and skills. Programmer Nuttawut Yamee clarified that this was very a lot the intention of the dev staff, who ‘’tried to make each character feel totally different from each other [with] their own specs’’. For the Dancer, this interprets to her having the ability to seem randomly at any given second – utilizing puppets made in her likeness as spawn factors – and having an unscripted patrol route that you simply can’t predict.
She additionally has sleek actions, in the form of genuine Thai choreography, that you simply want to memorize so as to stay out of sight. This injects a much-needed twist into the more and more stale ‘’hide-and-seek’’ method we’ve grown so accustomed to in horror titles. Principally, you’re making an attempt to move in tandem together with her numerous poses and twirls, virtually like a stealth version of a rhythm-action recreation. It’s really intense!
All these idiosyncratic qualities help distinguish the Dancer as probably the greatest stalker enemies we’ve seen in recent times. Nevertheless, the enjoyable is regrettably tainted by these pesky balancing issues that plagued Home Sweet Home: Episode 1. Particularly, the A.I’s erratic conduct can easily pressure you into a no-win state of affairs. For example, at one level I stealthily made my means into a room, just for the Dancer to materialize right in front of me, dealing with the doorway. Likewise, on one other occasion, her unscripted roaming positioned me in a spot where I used to be effectively cornered and there was nothing I might do about it. And to make issues worse, this entire portion of the demo was set in pitch-black darkness and whilst our vision was impaired by this, her’s appeared to be totally unaffected.
Consequently, there have been quite a few bits in this demo the place we have been found by way of no fault of our own. This might be untenable, have been it not for the fact that the dev workforce have executed away with these infuriating insta-kills and have thus mitigated the influence of the issue considerably. As an alternative, there’s a a lot better system in place, the place you’ve gotten a well being bar that may be refilled by way of generously dispersed consumables. In fact, it might nonetheless be good if Yggdrazil ironed out the kinks in their stealth mechanics, however at the least you can now stand up to a few attacks and reside to make a break for it.
Following a prolonged recreation of cat-and-mouse with the Dancer, we are finally given some reprieve in the form of an elaborate puzzle. Programmer Anucha Tuntiyawongsa emphasized the significance of sections like these when it comes to pacing, asserting that: ‘’If individuals are subjected to horror for too lengthy then it starts to lose its energy. That’s why we use puzzles in our recreation, to break-up the strain so that our gamers don’t get bored.’’
But this specific conundrum is extra than just a token stopgap between frights. On the contrary, it’s a really meaty problem that requires us to interact with mannequins, rotate mirrors, and usually do a lot of outside-the-box considering so as to activate a collection of teleportation gateways. We gained’t spoil the ingenious answer here, nevertheless it includes a clever perspective trick that may deliver a smile to your face once you’ve figured it out.
Lastly, we’re taken to one last space (which we will’t talk about in much detail, nevertheless it represents one other large change in scenery) in order that we will check out Home Sweet Home: Episode 2’s most enjoyable new function. Combat!
That’s right, Yggdrazil have taken a leaf out of RE:7’s guide by introducing the power to battle back towards your aggressors. Primarily, you’ve gotten a throwing knife which you can lob at certain enemies to briefly stun them. Once you’ve accomplished this, the monsters are then weak to a particular finisher assault, whereby you jam a nail into their head, decommissioning them for good. Positive, it’s hardly Dark Souls, nevertheless it’s a welcome addition that provides the sequel an extra little bit of flavour.
And in case you have been frightened that the sport would grow to be too action-oriented as a result of this, or that it might detract from the scares, relaxation assured that the new mechanic is trustworthy to old-school survival horror design. In different words, it’s inconceivable for you to go full Rambo here, because the throwing knife has a strict cool-down timer and there’s solely a limited number of nails at your disposal. Due to these restrictions, you’’ll have to select your targets very rigorously and weigh up the pros and cons of partaking every one. Most of the time, the smarter transfer will probably be to just attempt to sneak previous them, so that you’re not going to be overpowered.
To wrap up, Home Sweet Home: Episode 2 is a testomony to what creators can do once they interact with suggestions. Somewhat than simply pretending that the issues didn’t exist or matter a lot, and letting them proceed to fester, Yggdrazil has pulled out all the stops to please their followers. Beefing up the puzzles, tweaking the stealth, adding new mechanics and significantly bolstering the enemy/degree selection, this is a sequel that really improves upon its predecessor in every conceivable facet. Meanwhile, the few blemishes that do remain are merely holdovers from before and on the very least they’ve been lowered.
Based mostly on this proof, we’re very impressed with how the sport is shaping up and may’t wait to see what else is in store. As long as there’s extra loopy shit like that Krasue, it’s gonna be very special certainly.