Interesting efforts from indie devs bravely taking on the formidable challenge of immersive sims.
Consortium is a dynamic murder mystery that takes place inside a giant military plane. Although it’s rather rough around the edges, it’s an interesting take on the format, minimising combat and instead focusing on dialogue and player choices. Most impressively, you can completely bypass the main mystery and still complete the game. A sequel that plans to expand upon the original premise is being crowdfunded.
An abstraction of many immersive sim ideas, Neon Struct is a pure stealth game that sees you rebelling against a dystopian surveillance state, breaking into high-security buildings, sneaking through guard patrols and generally making a nuisance of yourself. You can knock guards out but can’t kill them, and it boils down the ideas of its bigger brothers to a simpler level. But it remains intriguing through its fantastic level design.
The Magic Circle
A satirical prod at mainstream game development, The Magic Circle casts you as a game tester who goes rogue on a troubled project. You team up with a sentient AI, and go around reprogramming mob enemies, infusing them with new powers to overthrow the game’s creative director. The intriguing AI-rejigging system makes it more than a simple send-up.
Games outside the immersive sim genre make use of some of its traits. Here are a few examples.
Hitman: Blood Money
IO’s best Hitman game has nearly all the hallmarks of an immersive sim, only differentiated by its third-person perspective. Its level design encourages exploration and experimentation, while you can quietly dispatch your targets with your fibre-wire, use pre-designed assassination methods to make your hit look like an accident, or simply waltz through the crowds with the biggest gun you can find.
Isolation doesn’t quite posses the open-ended nature of true immersive sims, but immersion is a crucial factor in making the game work. It combines highly realistic environments with a convincing Xenomorph AI to really hammer home the tension and terror of being trapped in a closed space with one of those creatures, and there’s an array of tools to aid you in distracting and dealing with your chitinous nemesis.
Far Cry 3
The Far Cry series has always been a shooter at heart, but it has also placed a strong emphasis on emergent play. Far Cry 2 was the main innovator, but the third game masters the form, with its checkpoints providing dozens of little sandboxes to play around with. It also introduces dangerous predators to the food-chain and a wider array of toys, from recurve bows to wingsuits.