So this was originally going to be a full Indie Corner episode.
Unfortunately, I’ve come down with some health issues again, and while I’m on the mend, it’s having a knock-on effect on other parts of my health, especially brain fog. As a result, I’ve found it difficult to concentrate on things. My mental health has been on a downward spiral for several weeks, and while I’m taking steps to address it, I want to be open about that. It’s been tough.
As a result, there were some game reviews I need to push back while I recover, and one of these is Terra Invicta. This incredibly ambitious and complex simulation game made by the Long War devs requires a lot of time. I need more experience with the game before I feel confident enough to write about it. At the moment, that’ll take some time. From my experience, it’s a fantastic grand strategy game in the making, although it lacks a lot of polish with the interface. It sometimes makes Paradox games look like Far Cry 6 in terms of deep mechanics. However, even if I’m staring at Terra Invicta wondering how I will figure it out, I’m enjoying it all the same.
So while I’m recovering, some things are going to be reshuffled. I want to maintain transparency as best as possible, and these reviews are in the works. Apologies to those who will be waiting a bit longer for my impressions, you guys have made awesome games, and I can’t wait to talk about them when I’m in a position to do so. You will all be covered!
Disclaimer and sad health updates are out of the way; it’s time for the fun stuff. While I’m disappointed I could not cover more games today, I am proud to bring my views on this one. I’m astonished more people don’t know about Ctrl Alt Ego, and I want to help change that.
I’m usually good at keeping track of fantastic games, but Ctrl Alt Ego ultimately passed me by, and it wasn’t until recently that I learned about it. However, after spending some time with the game and chatting with the developer, I can confirm that this is a game everyone should try at least once. It is bonkers and brilliant. Even though I haven’t put too much time into it yet, this is a game to remember. If anyone is interested, I recently did an interview with the dev for the website, which you can read here.
We don’t get many immersive sims these days. It’s a shame because some of the most incredible games ever made sit in this category. The Deus Ex series, Stalker, System Shock, Prey, Dishonored, and Vampire The Masquerade Bloodlines are all great and maintain a permanent presence on my system. Instead, we must rely on the indie scene for dedicated immersive sims. AAA titles include some lighter aspects of the genre, such as Deathloop, Watchdogs: Legion, Weird West, and Cyberpunk 2077, but I wouldn’t call them accurate immersive sims. Of these, I enjoy Weird West and Cyberpunk the most. I’ve been pretty open about how much I love Cyberpunk.
I’ve played some cool indie immersive sims recently. Cruelty Squad, Gloomwood, Consortium, Graven, Streets of Rogue, and Hexcraft: Harlequin Fair all add their ingredients to the sundae. However, several of these are in early development and need work. Ctrl Alt Ego is a bizarre take on the genre, but it’s done such a brilliant job that it’s hard to fault. It combines player freedom, a surprisingly intriguing storyline, and sci-fi mechanics together into a brain-breaking drink that’s delicious to consume. I’m astonished only two people worked on it.
The story suits the setting. Disembodied in a large, sprawling space station, your task is to understand what went so drastically wrong. Helped out by a plucky AI with hilarious dialogue, the game consists of several significant, non-linear levels with complete freedom to explore and experiment. The lore and worldbuilding in the game are great, and the story delves into some messed-up areas. There’s no accurate death system, nor does the player character have a body. Instead, the player hacks into and controls different systems across the station, and you can hack into almost anything. Robots, evil daddy machines (I’m not even kidding, they are called DAD), computer terminals, doors, locks, and a ton of things to hack into. You can’t die, even if the game can get complicated. Enemies can and will kill your manipulated machines if you’re not prepared, but you don’t have to fight back. There are many ways to get past obstacles.
The game uses EGO as an energy source: hacking requires different amounts of this resource, while Juice powers different abilities and power-ups in the form of worms and disk packs. A ton of sci-fi and computer jargon does a great job of getting me invested in the world. A blend of impressive lore and breaking-the-fourth-wall hints is scattered across the game. The resource mechanic is generous, so you shouldn’t feel any pressure about management. Still, if you abuse your ego, you may find yourself in a pickle. Upgrading your base machine takes many forms: flight, turning yourself into a rocket launcher, powering up a grabby tool to move more things, and hacking into more terminals; the possibilities are extensive. Dying isn’t a problem either: using printing machines, it’s a small matter of just remaking the murdered robot and trying again. You won’t lose power-ups either. Ctrl Alt Ego has found an outstanding balance between difficulty and freedom. It gets tricky, but there are so many tools available to you that each problem has multiple angles of approach. It’s a unique blend of puzzle and immersive sim, and it’s refreshing to play a game that respects the player’s freedom of choice.
Above everything else, it’s just enjoyable to play. That’s one of the most significant factors for gaming, and it’s easy to forget in this industry. It doesn’t matter how great parts of a game can be, but if I’m not enjoying the experience, what’s the point? Sure, some games don’t have to be enjoyable to be good: Pathologic 2 was a great example of that. That game is a harrowing experience from beginning to end, but only Outer Wilds beat it in my GOTY 2019 series. This is an exception to the rule, of course. Ctrl Alt Ego brings me joy every time I play it, and even the times I got stuck didn’t bother me, because there’s always another option lingering around the corner. In addition, with the different difficulty modes and the sheer number of ways to play the game, it has a lot of replayability.
In conclusion, any fan of the immersive sim genre has to give this game a try. This is one of the most unique and refreshing games I’ve played in 2022, and it’ll be an enormous shock if it doesn’t make my Top 10 list in December.