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INFRA is a Source engine-based adventure game created by Loiste Interactive. The game's main focus is on puzzle solving and exploration. The game is played in first person and what makes it different is that you don’t have any weapons in the game. INFRA is the Steam debut for Loiste Interactive a small gaming development and self-publishing firm located in Finland. They started working on the game back in 2011 and the game was greenlit on Steam two years later. They managed to reach over 45,000 votes, with people saying they would purchase the game once released.
You play as a structural analyst who becomes unsettled whilst having to work in unsafe conditions. It starts with you in an office with your co-workers. You then split up to visit various locations. The game is gritty, down to earth and goes for a realistic approach. As you travel through the infrastructure of a city you will find that your actions and thorough observations ultimately determine if others will survive. A society obsessed with up-gradation has brought a disaster upon itself and it is your job to help restore it. Instead of shooting and heavy action, you will rely on your cunning to survive puzzles in an incredibly detailed world.
INFRA is all about the atmosphere and mechanics of the world. The game first appears to look like a first person horror game, but it’s much more about discovery and exploration. You find yourself exploring and making your way through 26 levels, with intricate passages, paths and areas to discover. You become trapped in a labyrinth of hallways buried under the ruins, that are well designed and interesting to explore. Also, it turns out that the catastrophe may have a negative impact on the entire area. You will have to make a difficult choice between fulfilling his duty as an engineer - ensuring the safety of the inhabitants - and saving his own life. The one main thing that stood out to me was the sheer amount of detail and careful consideration the designers have put into creating a realistic and believable world.
INFRA starts out a little slow when it comes to the puzzle solving and after a while you will be facing numerous challenges. The world is very large and there’s plenty to explore and discover. I would describe the game as a 'walking simulator,' but not in negative way. Games like Gone Home have gone for the same approach and its more about creating an immersive experience with things to discover and environmental storytelling. The most interesting and well-designed parts of the game is the environmental puzzles and unsettling atmosphere. These types of games are fairly popular at the moment, with the likes of The Witness and the you can also see it has taken inspiration from games like Portal. Some puzzles affect the life in the city, depending on you choices. Thereby, the choices you make can have bigger consequences, beyond just getting past each level.
The challenge of the puzzles can get quite tricky at times, but ultimately, they felt satisfying. The game manages to incorporate interesting puzzles into a beautifully realised and designed world. The puzzles will make you think, and the exploration side of the game, gives you time to think and be absorbed in the world. The game has automatic checkpoints that are well placed and help you through the game. All you have is a torch and camera. You have to use the camera to take pictures of areas and structural problems within the environments. I found the voice acting to be a bit poor but the narration does add some depth to the character and the world around him. The game has a linear path that you follow but the areas are pretty open and allow for exploration. At times it can be a bit unclear of where you are supposed to be heading as there's no mini-map or objective directions. You travel by foot, car, metro and other vehicles.
I have to say that I really enjoyed simply exploring the world in INFRA. You spend a lot of time looking for clues and objects that will help to progress you forward. INFRA feels slow paced but it does a clever job of creating tension at critical moments, like the sound of a beeping alarm. Part of the experience is to distress the player and make you quickly try to solve a problem in the face of demise. The game uses various visual tools and clues to guide you through the game. The world has things like newspapers and graffiti that suggest urban myths. These add a sense of depth and context to the world. You have a torch to help explore the environments. Many of the puzzles you face revolve around the concept of electricity and switches. The environment is a dangerous place to be with crumbling structures and unsteady foundations.
I only had a couple of issues with the game, firstly, the movement can feel a little bit clumsy at times. I found I would get stuck on parts of the environment and there were a couple of frame rate drops. I also found it frustrating in parts where you have to use objects, like crates to climb on would topple, get stuck and was generally frustrating. You can see the game takes inspiration from Half-Life and Portal when it comes to some of the mechanics and puzzle situations. The battery on your torch also runs out pretty quickly but luckily there are plenty of spare batteries to pick up. The puzzles are never too challenging, but difficulty does increase later on. I liked how the game would have hidden clues and written messages to help you solve certain puzzles. The characters you talk to feel a bit bland and uninteresting, but in a scheme of things you are spending the majority of your time on your own.
The overall presentation of the game is impressive. The game looks gorgeous at times and I enjoyed exploring the interesting environments. I played the game with max settings on my PC, which runs on Windows 10, GTX 970, 16GB RAM. Unfortunately with the game running on max settings it did cause the framerate to drop. I really was impressed with how lighting was used in the game, with interesting ways of illuminating certain scenic areas. The game has parts that take place indoors and outdoors and there is a good variety of locations.
The sound design is good enough and helps create a sense of atmosphere and tone. I have to say that I didn’t care too much for the voice acting and found it a bit irritating at times. I can see why they put it in the game, and it does add a layer of depth and helps to draw the player into the world. The music in the game works well and helps to add tension as it slowly escalates to exaggerate certain moments of tension and suspense. The outdoor environments look more impressive than the indoor segments but overall it looks great with detailed textures. I have to say that I liked how the game doesn't use a HUD at all, as it keeps the screen clear and makes the game feel more immersive.
Overall INFRA is a good game with some interesting ideas. I like how it focuses purely on exploration and discovery without the need for scary moments or weapons. The puzzles are well designed and carefully placed throughout the world. They start off easy but they can become more challenging later on. Clues can be found in the environment and the game does a good job of using environmental storytelling to add more depth to the experience. I'm sure there are things I missed throughout my journey and it would be interesting to see what else I could find on a second playthrough. I would certainly recommend this game if you like games like Myst or The Witness.PROS
- Beautifully designed world
- Plenty to explore
- Puzzles feel rewarding
- Environmental storytelling
- Occasional bugs and glitches
- Poor voice acting
- OS: Windows® 10/8.1/8/7/Vista/XP
- Memory: 4 GB RAM
- Graphics: Video card must be 512 MB or more and should be DirectX 9 compatible with support for Shader Model 3
- DirectX: Version 9.0c
- Storage: 10 GB available space