Avalanche Studios has long ceased to be “Just Cause”. They have a large number of talents and rub shoulders with teams like id Software in RAGE 2, but in parallel, they developed a game of exploration and open world for four players that perhaps should have had more prominence and attention during their development. Analysis of Generation Zero.
Despite how bad it sounds, there is a certain appeal in the apocalypse. Not in vain, is one of the most recurrent themes of video games: the curiosity to know who we were, and the stories of those who preceded us, lead us from one point to another on the map. The aftermath of the catastrophe is a perfect excuse to face all kinds of thugs, demons, zombies and all kinds of impossible creatures. Games like STALKER or Fallout are able to trap us for many hours while we make secondary, strengths and all kinds of objectives, while we raise levels, we improve our character and in passing, we are taking a good account of the bullets and provisions that we have left. Generation Zero wants to be part of that type of game, but he stays in that: an attempt. It gives the feeling that it has remained on the surface, in the merely functional, and ends simply boring.
And it’s a shame because at the level of ‘setting’ it’s very attractive. As many of you already know, Generation Zero is set in Sweden of the 1980s as big as empty. The combat robots, vestiges of the Second World War, roam freely on the street; and everyone seems to have died or evacuated. We appear there, in the middle of nowhere, not knowing very well what happened and how to get safe. If that “Sweden – 1980s – robots” sounds familiar to you, congratulations: you know the work of the Swedish artist Simon Stålenhag, who in fact became annoyed that Avalanche did not publicly acknowledge having been inspired by his illustrations to make this game.
A Wasted World
The truth is that Generation Zero knows how to capture the atmosphere of this art very well. Through the thick fog, we see the lights of a police car lost in the road; we approach him to loot a backpack in the back seat that contains a gun and some ammunition. Next, synthetic music (very much in the style of Stranger Things) warns us that a quadruped robot is coming towards us. The contest begins and we see that any of his shots easily remove more than 25% health, so we take cover and point to some batteries that he carries on his back, which seems to be his weak point. Indeed, the robot explodes, but we are injured. The mission suggests us to follow the section of the road, which leads to a church, to recover. This is how our first minutes in the game take place, and how you can imagine is as immersive as a movie.
In fact, the game manages to overtake us in some moments because of how well the setting is done. As I arrived in Waltham, one of the first villages we can access, a storm came. The wind not only rocked the grass but also pushed some nearby swings in the right direction. The rainwater sounded differently when it hit wood, earth, and metal; and it did not sound the same inside and outside a house. You can see how the drops fall at an angle when the wind is strong, and vertical when there is not. By equipping a gas mask, you can see the reflection of the light and dirt of the lens, and everything looks darker and fuzzier. When you travel through the field, you can hear how the intensity of the wind affects the movement of the grass, and the sound it produces.
At a playable level, it is as empty as the world that wants to capture
If you have such a spoiled game on your hands, it’s hard to believe that all the other aspects are so neglected. Because of course, however poetic the setting may be, in the end, what you want to do in the game is to have fun, and Generation Zero rather gives the dream of pure monotony. The game does not introduce interesting mechanics as you progress in it, nor particularly imaginative weapons. The story does not advance with spectacular cinematics, nor are there NPCs with whom to dialogue, or important decisions to make. There is no mechanical hunger or sleep (something I personally appreciate, but I understand that it is not to everyone’s liking) or sections of a platform or puzzle. It is pure countryside, wood and scrap metal, with some shootings in between. At the playable level, it is as empty as the world it wants to capture.
This is a bad thing, of course, but it would not be so problematic if at least the game made it easier for you to progress or get you to explore the map was interesting. It is not like that either. From the pause menu, we manage everything: the map, our inventory, skills and the clothes we carry, as well as the missions. It is also the ideal place to check one of the main problems of the game. The missions are boring, lazy and repetitive. They are reduced to taking you by the hand on the map, from a village to which you are right next, with clumsy excuses that are repeated again and again: “You have arrived in this village, but you only find a note saying that the inhabitants they have been evacuated elsewhere. ” Often, the “story” advances when collecting a recording or something similar, clues that you can consult from the menu and that more or less build a narrative or campaign. And on this, we can talk long and hard.
There are some similarities between The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild and Generation Zero. Both games know that scanning is one of their strongest points, and both try to clean the bookmarks and text interface to make the engine of the gameplay the player’s curiosity. The difference is that exploring the world of Generation Zero becomes tedious. Not because the missions or history are clumsy, but also because we find that practically all locations are reduced to find X number of looting objects and sometimes weapons. We can tell the variety of houses to visit with the fingers of one hand, and sometimes it’s hard to get dozens of packages of ammunition, medicines, and radios in so many exactly identical houses, one after the other. The game does not offer us route points or mark areas to help us find a mandatory target, except in some very specific occasions for very specific reasons.
Generation Zero is one of those games that, like Sea of Thieves or No Man’s Sky, were launched on the market in diapers
Most of the time we do not even know what we are looking for exactly, and completing the mission does not give us the feeling of progressing. somehow. Sometimes, in the notes and recordings, we find names of characters that never appear again and mechanisms that do not work. You can find a “map that contains the names of the streets and the houses of agents of this town” but you can not consult it manually by examining that map or by displaying your own. It’s not usually worth getting out of the way to find collectibles or new weapons, but rather the game rewards your desire to explore with detailed, beautiful environments, but practically without mechanical interest. Yes, you can find clothes and accessories to personalize your avatar, but we do not believe that this justifies the walks we give on a constant basis.
The Redemption of Robots
While the exploration and progression of the game leave us clearly disappointed, at least we can lift our thumb in favor of the robots. We have not found much variety in our journey (barely half a dozen and I doubt there is more) but they are all well designed and animated, and they are good fighters. The first is a kind of watchdog that sometimes is accompanied by a tracker drone, but there are also much larger and larger ones that fire missiles. Each and every one of them is dangerous enough to force us to plan in what order we want to do things and help us with objects like radios or flares to survive. The shrapnel does a lot of damage to us regardless of our level or abilities, and unless we play with friends, we are simply forced to adapt to survive. It is clear that if the combat had been enhanced with a greater variety of enemies,
Generation Zero is one of those games that, like Sea of Thieves or No Man’s Sky, were launched on the market in diapers, and we hope that, like those games, I will be able to overcome them through updates, events, and expansions. The base is there and it is not bad at all: you have already seen that the world we like and is quite successful. Now he needs things that motivate us to go through it. Meanwhile, we can not recommend it to anyone looking for a game of exploration and survival. In fact, we can recommend that you play with friends. Do not expect anything with as many possibilities as Fallout 76, but surely entertain yourself more by talking and exchanging shots with the robots.
Developing a game of exploration and open world is not easy, and the small team behind Generation Zero falls under the weight of their own ambitions. There is a great level of detail on topics such as the environment or enemies, but their world feels so empty, simple and monotonous that we can not help feeling like we are playing a title in early access that still lacks a lot of variety and contents to take off.
- The setting is a technical and artistic success
- A challenging AI that forces us to think before acting
- There are very well-kept details here and there
- Cloned houses and buildings disfigure the finish of the world
- Exploration, history, progression … the key sections fail