2007 was the year we were introduced to Mass Effect. We were thrown into an unforgettable universe with characters we still love to this day. There were real stakes and real bonds to form and that was before the second game blew our minds. Fallout 3 was my first Fallout title. After an incredible opening you were thrust into the Wasteland to meet it’s zany cast and both Fallout 3 and Mass Effect used RPG mechanics perfectly by transforming you into the heroes or villains of their universes. Insomnia: The Ark prides itself on following in the footsteps of these titans.
You begin in your apartment, to the tune of a beeping phone in the shape of a cat. The man on the other end tells you to do a simple pickup job. You are Thyper, a Ghetter and Ghetters get things done. Things don’t go to plan and you find yourself sneaking around a sewer and then…..the screen flashes white. OK? Did I miss something? You wake up in the hospital, only not as Thyper. You are now Elliot, a soldier (I guess). The main menu of the game presents with the option of a new game or a prologue. I chose the latter and was incredibly confused. You are then informed there was a terrorist attack and later learn Thyper may be involved. If that’s not enough the game immediately throws in an alternate dimension where you are some sort of Chosen One.
View the official Insomnia: The Ark trailer below:
This is one of the biggest failures of Insomnia. The prologue does a good job of setting up the world but leaves the player overloaded with information and sent to many locations with more questions and no answers. This wouldn’t be an issue but the fatal error it makes is not grounding you to something. All successful RPG’s have a character or place for you to return to, something to keep in your mind throughout your journey, Insomnia doesn’t. By not having this, you are disconnected and there is no reason to push on. It’s such a shame since the developers have done a good job in creating this world but they over complicate the plot and don’t give you anybody to care about, anyone except that damned cat phone.
Gameplay is always an important part of an RPG and Insomnia does a passable job in this front. Exploration is done through either hub locations or small corridor based maps. These areas are filled to the brim with items to collect. There is a limited inventory management system here that works well enough but with no place for you to call home, there is no incentive to fill your pockets. In Fallout you could collect anything and display it at home and in Mass Effect, the Normandy was always in need of something. In Insomnia, it’s just junk. There are plenty of side quests to do and there are no map markers to help you. To find your objectives you need to travel via the map. You select a location and move towards it like on a Monopoly board. When traveling there is a random chance of an encounter with a merchant or a bandit or even something more interesting. This is by far the best feature of the game but it’s ruined by the constant back and forth with the dozens of fetch quests.
These side quests can task you with traveling to and from the same two or three locations half a dozen times and this is the bulk of the game. Your reward for this is a little bit of cash. The game rations EXP to you and is very unclear as to what you actually levels you up. When you do gain a level, you get to buy a perk but they do very little except open locked doors and chests. Melee combat is completely broken, you can stand next to enemy and stun-lock them with ease. Too difficult? Just stand there because melee opponents can very rarely hit you. Ranged combat fairs a little better but I was left unsure my hits were based on dice rolls or just bad hit detection.
This is because the game is filled with bugs, text still in Russian, audio sync issues, textures popping in or not loading at all and of course complete crashes. It’s a shame because the game looks quite nice, running on Unreal Engine 4, the environments certainly look interesting and the lighting is excellent. It uses smoke and particle effects pretty well, too. Framerate was also never an issue.
Check out some screenshots from Insomnia: The Ark in our gallery:
In summary, this is another case of a small team doing too much. It’s frustrating because there are glimmers of hope here but it falls short every time. They’ve missed the point of what makes Mass Effect and Fallout so great and I’m not exaggerating when I say there wasn’t a single memorable character. It’s such a shame, next time I need a classic RPG in this genre I think I’ll stick to Wasteland 2.
Insomnia: The Ark was reviewed using a digital code provided by the publisher.
Publisher: HeroCraft Developer: Mono Studio Release Date: September 28th, 2018 Reviewed On: PC/Steam