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Default Neo Scavenger

June 29th, 2014, 17:52
NEO Scavenger takes place in a near-future, post apocalyptic Earth, where human warfare and supernatural activity have fragmented mankind into struggling pockets of civilization. Harsh wilderness and blasted ruins cover most of the planet, dotted by fragile settlements that can be extinguished in an instant. A few cities survived the apocalypse, evolving into massive, ultra-urban fortresses. Other areas have become so devastated that even to this day, the only inhabitants are the ghosts of the past.
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Default Neo Scavenger, a surprise coming from nowhere

June 29th, 2014, 17:53
Neo Scavenger or how to make the most of the turn based stuff in a turn based game.
While other developpers cling to a turn based structure in a form that went stale long ago, Neo Scavenger, by a former Bioware employee (an evidence redemption exists) uses the turn-based structure as a foundation to provide a type of gameplay hardly possible with a real time system approach.

In the Neo Scavenger RPG, the player assumes the role of an unknown character who cryoslept past apocalyptic events to later wake up to the reality of a post apocalyptic world, remembering nothing of whom he was, trying desperately to catch up on the new norms imposed by a devasted world. And the first norms to be used to are the consequences of a societal collapse on a larger scale, people forced around to live off the land, looting former inhabitations in hope to find pieces of technology or exploiting remnants of natural resources that might have turned poisonous.
Scavenging a world that disappeared is the new norm to make a living.
The lessons are immediate: the PC might die of many causes: exposure to cold, thirst, hunger, blood loss, diseases, and from opposition with other human beings or various creatures, likely genetic experiments.
Civilization is not lost though as some prefer to dwell behind high walls in the comfort of a city than facing the perils in the outside.

Neo Scavenger makes a spare usage of numbers to say the least.
Here the character build is based on a set of abilities/disabilities that rely as much of other things in the game, on textual depiction.
Number crunchers will find no joy in this game because no number are attached to them. Decisions to be taken are driven by an intuitive comprehension of the situation rather than a quantified report of odds and basic computation. Stats and their irrelevancy to treat single shot situations do not transpire up to the player's level. Things not to be seen in numbers are not seen in numbers but are perceived and the impression reported by texts.
The character build determines the challenge given by the game. A typical human might choose to take up to four abilities among various categories (combat, living off the land, technological abilities), the number of them might be extended to eight by choosing one disability in exchange for an ability.
From that composition, the difficulty of the game might be very different. The standard difficulty of the game is on the higher side and tweaking with the build is one way to alleviate the higher than common difficulty. It must be said that, on average, a disability consequences are offset by the benefits of taking an extra ability.
Experiences on difficult vary extensively between a playthrough with an eight ability build and one with a four ability build. Within the four ability range, the difficulty experiences also vary depending on the orientation given to the character.
Bringing an average geek from pre apocalyptic times(a PC loaded with technological abilities) to survive is another story compared to a PC who is stocked up with living off the land abilities, one sure way to ramp up difficulty in a challenging game.

Tactical combat: How the miracle?

Combat, as it fits survival, is one option among others. Neo Scavenger comes with no XP system, the PC relies on his build abilities and increases are given by gear like a meat cleaver or a rifle. Items are limited in use and get destroyed in the long term. Bullets are scarce and expensive.
Contrary to so many other RPGs out there, the player will no push his weight around, he wont boss the game world. Superiority by equipment is short termed and each fight might be the last.

Yet combat remains an option a player ponders as in the Neo Scavenger ravaged world, one way to make it is by taking from others, by intimidation, by physical force. When an NPC has something that you think is yours, then it is all up to you to take it.
Asymetrical encounters are sought. Sizing up what might be your future prey is key to survival. While it is hard to determine what ability an NPC has (abilities that weigh on the outcome of a combat)when first seen on the hex based world map, the equipment is known.
The option of spying comes at the expense of one AP and reveals more on the prey. Taking that much needed crowbar to help looting goes easier when sporting a loaded rifle in your back. Might be in that case, intimidation will be enough or maybe you'll have to fire one round to force the NPC to surrender and yield his belongings or part of them.
First though, you have to catch up on your prey. The hunt begins. Each time a character, PC or NPCs, moves one hex, tracks are left on the ground. Tracks that might be followed, a feature that open up other ways to take from others: tracking them, wait for them to fall asleep, then creep on them and loot them. Or let another NPC kill them while you are hidden a few hexes away waiting for the situation to clear up and loot the remains.

Combat. Combat is brutal, its depiction and resolution graphical. And surprisingly enough, combat is tactical.
While many around wish that tactics are summed up to crunching numbers, things are otherwise, this game unexpectedly manages to bring tactics while using a turn-based structure.
This is a miracle and miracles are the way things ought to be.
It happens as the game does not cling to the outdated turn based structure known as "IGOUGO" but goes with simultaneous resolutions of action.

Each opponent loads up his moves for the next turn and they are resolved together. It works and delivers a Street Fighter like version sampled in turns.
Anticipation, forcing moves, dictating tempo etc are required qualities to prevail.
The player must strategize his way to overcome an opponent, determine the tactics to support the strategy and be respectful of the flow of the battle.
Regulars of Street Fighters like find a lot of tactics that prevail in this type of game like zoning. Distance is one of the few numbers Neo Scavenger features. Working the distance, keep in control of the flow of the battle are vitally essential to prevail or even survive. A combat might look under control then an unfortunate mishap: the PC trips on a root (terrain difficulty is to be taken into account) while attempting to step back, the opponent in a despair move hits a critical and then the flow of battle is reversed. While the odds stacked up in your favour the second before, suddenly, they stack against you. From that point, the struggle to keep the PC alive is on, it is all about manipulating your opponent to yield the much needed space to buy yourself a retreat move. Retreat does not come for free and it usually the result of actions like disorienting the opponent, stunning him, getting him to trip etc to make space for yourself to run for your life.
It is not yet over though as once back to the world map, a character has the option to track down an injured character. When lethally injured, a character corpse and loot might be retrieved a few hexes away as he crawls despairly to leech on his wounds.

Remember: the player is given no special seat in this game. You're not the big boss. Which means that what applies to NPCs also applies to you: you will get hunted by NPCs because you have what they think belong to them. They will track you down to confront you openly or trail you down to take advantage of your sleep or your poor health status.

NPCs usually belong to factions which determine their general behaviour. Factions might be friendly to the PC, neutral or adverse. Among the adverse factions, some figure out that the food problem might be solved by eating people, for cannibals, your weight in flesh, regardless of your equipment, is always valuable.

The generation of a virtual world or the rise of my nemesis:

Day 2:
I am still coming to awakening past the events. The world has changed for sure. Right now though, I must fend for myself. Finding food. This hospital gown will only take me that far. I need clothes to get warm. And shoes. My feet hurt. They are blue.
I was lucky enough to find an isolated shelther in the woods while I was scavenging for berries. It looked deserted and I had no issue forcing the door to manage to find those night googles. They do not work but I took them. I sport them on my head like a trophy. Who knows? May they have value?
I must discover what is going on. Is civilization still around? I know I am not alone. I cant be alone.
I did not see him coming. I was lost in my thoughts, walking down the path like a lost soul. He stands there, a few metres away from me. Like he appeared from nowhere. Staring at me.The first person I meet, pushing that sled before him. Coming to me. Are people surviving like homeless used to, moving from place to place, collecting garbage? I am waving to him, trying to figure out his intentions. Friend or foe? No answer. He keeps moving toward me. What a strange look he has. Dull, blank, empty, as if he was looking through me, behind me. Who is he looking at this way? What is he looking at this way? Naively, I am turning around to check if there is someone behind me. Noone. Nothing. Too late, he is on me and is not friendly.
He came at me, fists flying. Landing blows. One after the one. I have never been good at fighting people. I regret not to have learned before. His fists. Like hammers. In a move of despair, I am trying to dodge. Awkward. His fist finds my stomach. That sound. It hurts. I am coughing blood. Down on the ground, I am crawling away. This bastard is going to kill me. As my last reflex, I am begging for mercy. Please, spare my life. Take what I have. But let me live.
He stays his hands. Searches me brutally. Snatching my googles. He immediately put them on his head. I am left with nothing. Nothing but my life. I am alive.

Day 7:
I am slowly adjusting to my new life in this new world. Living off the land, sleeping rough. There are other people around. But I prefer to avoid them. Hiding from them. I found things, ways of surviving that I'd have prefered not finding out. I do not want to meet those people.
I must rest.
That sound. How many hours did I sleep? Back to my feet. Fast. No mistake. He is him. He is here. Once again, pushing his sled ahead. As he did before. The gentle moon light deceives nobody though. He is after me. He killed people before. I realized the luck I had the last time. I learned the reason behind his strange look. I know why he looks at me this way. This time, I wont get away by begging for my life. But I am prepared. Clutching on my spear, I am ready for a fight. I lunge at him. Again and again. He is hit. In the thigh. In the shoulder. He is bleeding. He is tough. He keeps moving to me.
Suddenly, it happened. My spear has broken. Nothing in his face has changed but I can feel he is smiling interiorly. I stand no chance. No future but in flight. He knows that and tries to corner around. Keep moving. Play the terrain. I manage to lure him to an uneven section. His ankle twists. He is on the ground. I am running without looking back. I am alive.

Day 14:
I saw him coming. My awareness has grown. I am more suspicious of my surroundings, always on the watch. Always ready. He is him, pushing that sled. No doubt about it. He has done it so far. Just as I've done. This time, it is different though. I am prepared. I waive my rifle at him, sending him a warning.
Nothing is changed. He is not afraid. He keeps moving at me. Maybe he is calling out some bluff? One bullet close to being right. I carefully take my aim. Pull the trigger. Loud noise. He is hit. I heard him screaming. That bastard. He is suffering.
For a second, he looked surprised. Then he abandons his sled and rush for cover. His sled. Things have changed. He keeps moving to me. He still wants to come for me. He is determined. Determined and tough.
But I've learned.
In a fist fight? No chance.
Searching my back pack, taking out my slinger and a few stones. Letting him come to me. Keeping my distance .Taking a shot. Missed. Taking another shot. Hit. Right in the head. He is swaying around, dropping to his knees. Blood spilling around. Concussion? All the time to take another shot. In the head. He drops down.He is no longer moving. Is he faking? Slowly, I am approaching. Close enough to check he is stunned. It is over. I've prevailed. I am going to stamp this fucker dead. This is how you deal with his kind, stamping their brain to a jelly. It is what he deserves.
No. I've just come to realize without him, I wouldnt be there. It was the fear of him that kept alive so far. He came haunting my nightmares. He kept me alert. He pushed me, forced me to come to terms with the reality of this new life. That the world as I knew it no longer exist. Would I have lived through the events, I would have witnessed all that shit with my own eyes. But I prefer to sleep through them. The price to be paid, I guess.
Leaning down, my hand reaches to take back what has been mine from the start: the night googles. They are my trophy. Once more.
I leave him behind. Maybe he survives. He is tough and determined. Up to next time.

This is the kind of sequences the game create spontaneously. Nothing is scripted. It all comes from the game rules that apply on NPCs as well as the PC.
Everyone wants to survive and must meet the same imperatives to survive. What happened to the NPC that grew into my nemesis? I will never know because two nights later, my character was to meet his end in an ambush set by dogmen. He might have survived, leeching on his wounds, healing up to pursue my character once more.
Graphics in this game are simple. NPCs have one model for each, no matter the gender.
Yet, despite that simplicity, thanks to the consistency of game mechanics, as NPCs follow the same rules as the PC in their endeavour to survive, the way they behave personalize them. You'll get to learn NPCs, distinguish one from another and be able to recognize them when you meet them several times.
Few games in my knowledge reach that point in virtuality when faceless NPCs get an identity for themselves by the way they act. This is the level of gameplay this game manages to achieve.

Music adds another dimension to the game. Most of the times, it is silent to match the loneliness of the PC. Then, subtlety, short pieces are played to break the monotony. It works.

As the game stands in an uncomplete version when this assessment is written, the one weakness that might show up in the long term of the gold version is replayability through story.
The texts are well written, conveying incisively the atmosphere of a post-apocalyptic world. The story resolution is in the spirit of the rest of the game: certain decisions lead to harsh consequences. This is when doubts arise. As the core gameplay provides such replayability, why should a player take the path of the punishing story elements on a second playthrough? On a third playthrough? The rest of the game ensures a challenge as nothing is granted beforehand but why punish yourself by enduring willingfully the worst elements in the story resolution when you have the choice to avoid them?
The story resolution should come with some randomness in events resolution that would guarantee the player cant plan to take the easy path in any subsequent walkthrough.

ChienAboyeur, for RPGWatch, on June, 6th, 2014.
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August 6th, 2014, 01:52
Thank you ChienAboyeur for your description and analysis of Neo Scavenger. I enjoyed reading your article, as well as your other posts in the forum.

I also enjoyed my little experience with the game (which matches your description) and intend to visit Neoscavenger again for some more survival action for the mind.
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October 3rd, 2014, 20:11
RPGWatch Steam Curation:
Promising post-apocalyptic survival rogue-like. A challenging turn-based Flash-game with tactical fights and many hard choices. Prepare to die a lot…
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