“God bless the Regime.”
It's a simple phrase, yet it sums up the premise behind developer Black Wing's upcoming third-person shooter, Scivelation , surprisingly well. Right from the start, the narrative is flooded with complex themes of religion and belief, utopia and dystopia, post-apocalyptic confusion, and genetic and mechanical enhancement. But hold on, this is a cover-based, third-person shooter, right? I'd expect it to just let me shoot a few zealots in the face, not give players substance and depth.
Scivelation lets you play as two Resistance characters who have faith in God, but not so much in the abusive religion of the Regime, the dominant world power in Scivelation 's 22nd century. The demo showed off the sultry female lead, Elisha Amano, who receives a mission dossier in a somewhat gratuitous shower scene. Then it took her to the city streets, where her flexible movements let her easily platform up scaffolding and dole out swift lethal melee strikes. I didn't get to see the male lead, Mikhail Ivanov, though from TopWare's description, he's a bald marine, specializing in heavy weapons and brute force tactics.
As a largely linear experience, Scivelation features the two characters evenly to achieve a hopefully varied gameplay progression. Some levels will test your stealth skills as Elisha, whose genetic enhancements enable you to use her invisibility ability to sneak past guards, while her superior melee skills catch them off guard in close quarters. Other instances require the mechanical implants and armor of Mikhail, which you'll use to bolster your “stop-and-pop” cover shooting. Certain narrative points allow you to choose between the two, which takes you through a character-specific level.
The demo made fantastic use of the Unreal Engine 3 to display beautiful, futuristic cityscapes, and everything looked and ran smoothly. The Orwellian Vienna that was the demo's setting featured an eye-catching mix of dark, Gothic architecture and the bright neon blues of cyberpunk aesthetics.
There's another interesting twist in Scivelation : sky cities. When the Regime rose to power, it rebuilt society from the ashes by creating a man-made heaven in the sky for its self-appointed Angels. The adventure hops among locales of religious significance, including London, Moscow, and Bethlehem, or at least the cities that hover over their former earthly domains. The less fortunate of the human survivors, meanwhile, somehow survive amidst the destruction on the Earth's surface, the literal seedy underbelly of the skyward civilization. TopWare couldn't confirm whether the game would feature levels on the surface itself, though I'd imagine that the destruction presents a no-brainer opportunity for gameplay, thematic, and visual comparisons to the “heaven” above.
Scivelation has only been in development for a little more than four month, but it was in preproduction for a year and a half, which definitely shines through in the demo's storied presentation. It's a game that seems to constantly strive for complexity beyond its good looks, and while I do see potential for information overload, the title at least appears meticulously defined, even early in development. And if Scivelation can follow through on execution, then we could have one more fascinating third-person shooter before the end.