Zachtronics, the maker of Spacechem, Ironclad Tactics, Shenzhen I/O, and most recently the outstanding Opus Magnum, is working on a new game called Exapunks. The year is 1997, and you're a former hacker with a bad case of the phage. There's only one thing to do: Read the zine—write a virus—get a dose.
Your Exapunk hacking skills come to you by way of Trash World News, an underground computer mag that carries tips, tutorials, secret information, and "searing commentary." Based on the knowledge they contain, you'll create EXAs (Execution Agents) and turn them loose in networks belonging to banks, universities, television stations, traffic signs, game consoles, or anything else that might prove useful—including your own body.
Hacking servers or region locks will open up access to other in-game content, and you can even create your own homebrew games on the in-game TEC Redshift console—if you hack the devkit first. Multiplayer will be supported in head-to-head hacker battles, and you'll also be able to create your own puzzles—that is, networks—and share them through the Steam Workshop.
The game will include two printable issues of Trash World News, which Zachtronics said will be "essential to playing the game." They'll basically serve as Exapunk's instruction manual, in other words, much like the faux circuit-building guide that came with the studio's 2016 game Shenzhen I/O. And if that game (and others) are anything to go by, you'll need it: Exapunk sounds like a willfully dense and difficult game, which would also be in line with previous Zachtronics experiences.
Exapunks is set to go live on Steam Early Access on August 21, and will sell for $20. A limited edition release, with printed copies of Trash World News, 3D glasses for the TEC Redshift in-game programmable console, and an envelope with secret stuff inside, can be preordered directly from Zachtronics for $35 in the US, or $45 everywhere else.
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Andy has been gaming on PCs from the very beginning, starting as a youngster with text adventures and primitive action games on a cassette-based TRS80. From there he graduated to the glory days of Sierra Online adventures and Microprose sims, ran a local BBS, learned how to build PCs, and developed a longstanding love of RPGs, immersive sims, and shooters. He began writing videogame news in 2007 for The Escapist and somehow managed to avoid getting fired until 2014, when he joined the storied ranks of PC Gamer. He covers all aspects of the industry, from new game announcements and patch notes to legal disputes, Twitch beefs, esports, and Henry Cavill. Lots of Henry Cavill.