Atmosphere for days
Step One: Put down the bottle of space booze.
Well, that set the tone right away. “This feels familiar, but unsettling in a strange way,” are my initial thoughts as I start InSomnia, and I’m not wrong. I have no problem catching on quickly to the fact that I’m some sort of outcast, probably with a few chips on my shoulder and a wicked looking, explosive headpiece. Clearly I’ve made some poor choices in this life. Of course, the cat-shaped communicator starts buzzing as soon as I get up from my chair…
InSomnia is an action RPG set in a retro-futuristic reality where humanity is all but lost. Using an isometric third person perspective, the spirit of older PC RPGs is alive and well in this game. A real-time, realistic combat system sets InSomnia apart from other action RPGs. I found myself pleasantly surprised by the fluidity of the gun combat, which required looking for cover, aiming, keeping track of remaining shots, and looking for good opportunities to reload. I’m not used to having these features in this sort of game, and it felt like a fresh and intuitive approach that complemented the basic stealth components.
InSomnia utilizes the standard action RPG inventory menu with size-based restrictions. The game also features a crafting system that I have yet to fully dive into, but look forward to checking out in the full game. The role-playing gets interesting with its robust characteristics system—there are 100+ traits you can associate with yourself over time, including the ones you start with. For example, my character started out with alcoholism as a trait, with positive stat changes and certain bonuses if inebriated (or negative stats if sober). You get the feeling that with gameplay elements like this, shown right up front, the story will fit the dark visual mood on the title screen.
As for the art direction, Studio MONO seems to have drawn inspiration for their dieselpunk aesthetic from somewhere between Blade Runner, Fallout, and Alien, and it complements the lore lusciously. Before the voiceovers and text even start, you know that something bad has happened in your character’s world, and the rust, broken panels, creeping moss, and piles of debris let you know that you’re in for an immersive, mysterious, and complex journey.
The soundtrack, which sounds like a dissonant and reverberant guitar lilting in the background accompanied by errant radio static, provides a perfect backdrop for InSomnia’s wandering and ominous mood. The score alone takes your imagination down a long abandoned ship corridor, slowly inching along—compelled to explore, but cautious at the same time.
Much work has been completed since its first Kickstarter was successful in 2014, but they’re currently seeking a second round of funding. They’ve put together the playable Prologue Demo (downloadable here), and the bulk of the game has been completed. With just seven days to go (as of the date of this publication), they’re closing in on their £55,000 goal (roughly $80,000), and with all I’ve seen and tried, I hope we get the opportunity to explore the entirety of this atmospheric and grimy future.