First thing I did when I left the bar was stack crates to climb out of an alley, so yeah, Peripeteia is an immersive sim all right. You play a cyborg ex-soldier named Marie, reduced to odd jobs and mercenary work in a city where the main source of heat and light comes from fires in drum barrels. It's Deus Ex except you're Motoko Kusanagi from Ghost in the Shell, retired, in Poland.
The demo includes two missions and they're bigger than I expected. Huge tower buildings, long hallways full of trash, rooftops connected by pipes, underground tunnels. It's a good thing I can sprint forever, jump like it's going out of style, and leap-frog up ledges, which makes exploring a hoot.
It's worth exploring because of course there are multiple ways into each area. The bartender wants a keycard from the gas-mask thugs who took over a nearby building, which I get into by going high. I pause to talk to a homeless rooftop-dweller about politics, because everybody in games like this wants to talk politics. The city used to belong to the Soviet Union in Peripeteia's alternate-history future, and now it's being fought over by various factions as well as scavengers looking for the hidden caches of Soviet tech rumored to have been left behind. Which is where I come in, a walking lump of leftover tech myself, referred to as "living military surplus" in the Kickstarter pitch (opens in new tab).
I try talking to the thugs as well, though I could have crouch-walked past or just shot them. Their boss claims they're patriots, reclaiming what should be theirs, and we have a nice chat about Soviet architecture before cutting a deal. In return for the keycard, I'll have to put my cybersoldier skills to use and kill a drug dealer they dislike.
When I play immersive sims I usually end up finding an interesting route into a place as I leave it, and it's the same here. I exit via an underground passage, then after I deal with the dealer—the shooting's better than it ever was in Deus Ex—I find another way I could have taken into his apartment as well. Peripeteia's full of hidden places, reached by climbing or going the long way around or hacking a computer to unlock a door.
Worth a mention: this is the best hacking minigame I've played in ages. You get a set number of attempts to guess a password in a time limit, pressing random keys that then flash red, yellow, or green. Green if you've hit the correct letter or number, yellow if you're close, and red if you're way off. It's a simple game of 'hot and cold' played on your keyboard and I'm into it.
After thoroughly exploring the neighbourhood I get the keycard, hand it over, and catch a train back to my apartment. A post-mission debrief screen shows the train hurtling through the dark city, and then it's on to the second half of the demo and the hunt for a bunker full of Soviet tech. I'll leave that for you to discover yourself.
Peripeteia has some jank to it, especially if you switch to the third-person mode that lets you see Marie's anime face and awkward animations while sometimes sending the camera flying out of bounds. I'm not fussed by that, or the weird angles in the conversation scenes, or the inventory Tetris (actually I kind of like it). This demo's got everything I want from a cyberpunk vent-crawler, and I look forward to worming through every one of the final game's levels when it's released.
Peripeteia was funded via Kickstarter in August, raising more than three times its €10,000 goal. It's got a planned release date of late 2022, and the demo is available on Steam (opens in new tab). If you were wondering about the name, 'peripeteia' means the turning point in a narrative. It's a plot device. You know, like a deus ex machina.