I've decided to work through my Steam backlog alphabetically, where am I up to? Well I'm still on the A's. At least I was, and then I got a Kickstarter backer email for Sir, You're Being Hunted. I've backed a few games now, and occasionally early access or beta builds trickle in. Some are interesting, but ultimately too unfinished to hold my attention for long. Some on the other hand, are made of win.
In Sir, You Are Being Hunted you play as an old-timey fellow whose nondescript 'device' has exploded, scattering components across five islands - north, south, east, west, and central. You must wander the landscape in search of the pieces, scavenging whatever you can to survive, all the while being hunted mercilessly by gentleman robots. And with that, I begun my adventure, armed only with a pair of binoculars, and a pie - I mean, it's a good pie, but no pie is that good.
I spent the first half an hour just roaming about looking for loot in all the houses I could find, while trying not to get shot. I had a couple of attempts at taking down robots, at first with just sharp stones, and then with a hatchet. I discovered that the stones don't seem to deal damage, and though I never entirely figured out what they were for, I imagine it is for either distracting or attracting attention. Perhaps they are used for luring an enemy in to a trap? For that sort of thing I usually just resorted to dancing about in plain view. The hatchet approach on the other hand also didn't work for me at first, the robots can run away from you about as fast as you can chase them, I managed it a few times later but there's a knack to it.
The entire thing is procedurally generated, and it does so extremely well. The "rural" environment in the game reminds me heavily of growing up in the South-Easterly garden of England, and all of the biomes are decent at generating islands with memorable layouts, and set pieces which you start to recognise (and navigate by) before long.
Fairly soon I started to get the hang of things - I was cautiously creeping across the countryside looking for unguarded buildings, or perhaps sitting on a hilltop patiently observing robots patrol a piece of the device, waiting to pounce. I got in to a few gun battles, but it's hard to aim properly when you're shitting yourself - and only have 4 bullets. After dying a few times, the dominant strategy that emerged for me was to lure them into a trap and then smash them to bits with a hatchet. The advantage of this is that the robots can't shoot back at you while they're trying to free themselves, while also conserving ammo. As a result of this, I ended up with a lot of bullets towards the end of the game, but I was pleasantly surprised to find that if I did get too trigger happy I would often attract more unwanted attention from more hunters in the area.
As you find more pieces of the device, security around the islands starts to intensify, I found myself having to resort to hit and run tactics to stay alive. I was stashing weapons, ammo and supplies in various locations, and drawing every landmark I saw on a paper map I kept next to my keyboard. Eventually I tracked down the last few pieces of the device, and completed my first run-through of the game.
But this was not the end, this was just the beginning - next I would start permadeath runs, if I died I would delete my save. Though I have not yet successfully finished one, it intensifies the game. You have to be insanely careful - just running around too much can attract the attention of the hunters. Gone are the days when I would load up after a failed encounter because I'd rinsed all of my ammo whilst doing so. Now I have to retreat, regroup, scavenge for weapons whilst relatively defenceless, and return another day. It becomes less about beating the game, and more about creating another emergent story. Just recently I finished the tale of how I recovered about half of the pieces of the device, and then got cocky during my trap luring routine. I got ambushed, ran in to one of my own traps, and died in a hail of buckshot whilst desperately trying to free myself.
If I can put the wank-hat on for a minute - this is a wonderful game. It's everything I wanted it to be. It's a lovely mish-mash of free roaming, survival, hunting, and being hunted. It's rewarding, it's tense, it's fun. I didn't keep track of the number of times I sat in a bush while a hunting party hungrily roamed past me, I was too busy pissing myself. Sometimes when it's quiet, I still think I can hear robots in the distance, I'm hoping it goes away at some point.