Kickstarter: ‘Refuge’ – Are windmills becoming the new lighthouses?

The Ark; some forgotten pinnacle of rock, crowned by the windmill and peppered with structures from a seemingly forsaken society.  The snow gently falls…  This is your arena in Fox Rogers’ current Kickstarter pitch, a lovingly crafted monochromatic world into which 2 players will be dropped, yet only 1 will survive.

I’ve thrown some money at the pitch, and not just because it has a windmill (although if someone ever made a game called “Windmills and Lighthouses: It’s going to be emotional”  I’d probably just let them be a signatory on my bank account) It caught my attention for a few reasons, but before that, I’m going to be a little cold and clinical and outline what the pitch reveals. 

Visually the game is presented purely in monochrome with a stark and simple style (the character models presented are reminiscent of ‘Kentucky Route Zero’). The Ark is an ‘spike’ of rock standing alone in some desolate ocean and is arguably the focus of the KS pitch and the reveal trailer which is wrapped up in a soft piano score. We are shown simple buildings clinging to the sides of the rock and the windmill perched on the peak which already serves as a distinctive ‘signature’ of the game. Some interiors are presented (caves/buildings) with an almost isometric viewpoint and an almost diorama-like style, so it can be assumed that there will be a ‘fade-to-black’ transition between the exterior and interior. We are also shown a collection of playable characters, including an example back-story and skill-set typical of a survival-sim. The gameplay details disclosed at this point are enough to draw interest, but leave a number of questions unanswered; the game is a 2-player last-man-standing type dual in what could be paraphrased as ‘competitive survival hide-and-seek’. There will undoubtedly be environmental hazards in addition to player combat and stealth elements.

This is the second dynamic hide-and-seek game that I’ve supported in recent months (the first being ‘Hello, Neighbor!‘ where your opponent is AI controlled) and whilst the two titles are in stark contrast visually, they both drew me in with curiosity. I’m eager to see how the gameplay is developed, specifically how the interior and exterior environments link. The developers of ‘Sir! you are being hunted’ distanced themselves from including interiors due to the inherent difficulties of having pursuits moving though separately loading environments. Clearly from the KS-pitch the Ark itself will play a large roll, seeing vertical movement in games is always refreshing, my hope is that the developer will maintain this throughout the evolution of the game and overcome the challenge of designing a vertical map without trapping a player at the peak of the base. Linking survival elements to the hide-and-seek gameplay is a shrewd move; the creators of ‘The Ship: Murder Party’ clunkily implemented a similar idea by forcing players to eat, drink, bathe and snooze. Similarly players in ‘Refuge’ will need to survive the Ark forcing player movement and therefore promoting risk-taking to drive the gameplay. I don’t doubt that the game will be beautiful visually to look at based on what has been shown, but I’m curious to see how these gameplay elements are tackled as they will undoubtedly make or break the experience.

… but if I’m honest (and this is my blog so I’m going to be honest… dammit!) that’s only 50% of why I backed the title; the other 50% is down to Fox Rogers himself. There is a rawness to people in those magical hours of 3am to 6am and hearing Fox speak about his project in a slightly sleep-deprived state, the honesty and commitment shines through. I admire hugely anyone who creates to evoke an emotion; my own day-job involves creativity, but the subject always lies in the practical & physical. Pressing that ‘Publish’ button on a blog post and submitting my thoughts to the small-handful of people who may read this is pretty scary; speaking about an entire game that you have begun crafting and already invested so much of yourself in is a level of scary I can’t even imagine.

I’m excited to see where this is going; ‘Refuge’ is on Kickstarter now, go and check it out here!

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