Conscript is a historical interpretation of the survival horror genre. More commonly associated with the Resident Evil series, from the beginning minutes of the games demo you can tell it borrows heavily from the format. Interesting, however, is the atmosphere of the game which is inherently unique and separate from its main inspiration.
PAX Aus Online 2021 took place in a digital format for another year and with it, more demos became accessible to people to try and discover their next hidden gem. While last year, I had the chance to check out a time-bending game with a cute art style, this year Conscript presents a much darker and frightful tone.
The pixel art graphics and crunchy sound design immediately place you within a certain mindset, one of unsettling dread. Almost accidentally harkening back to the look of feel of the original Resident Evil’s graphics, the lo-fi nature of everything is enough to unsettle you from the beginning of when you launch the demo.
While the narrative of the game is bare-bones for the moment, the potential for different stories revolving around different nations caught up in the war is an intriguing one. Like most historical fiction, a lot of the same battles and countries are repeatedly represented in popular media; so it’s nice to see a genuine attempt to play in the sandbox of history and not be limited by mainly western stories.
The dreadful silence is constantly undertoned throughout the demo, reminding of a notable Australian film – Beneath Hill 60. While not specifically telling a horror story like this game is attempting to do, the film does evoke moments of tension that are also similarly felt while playing Conscript. The eery silence, the constant pressure to remain quiet in deep trenches that may or may not cross paths with the enemy. The enemy who could be much closer than you realise.
I see quite a lot of potential for Conscript. What is already publicly playable shows promise, especially considering it’s primarily being developed by a single person – Jordan Mochi aka CatchWeight Studio. While what is already there is a triumph in and of itself, I feel much more could be achieved and the concept more fully realised should Jordan choose to expand the team or enlist outside expertise. Areas that could benefit from further iteration such as tutorialisation, user interface, and writing could be greatly improved and expanded upon should they choose to go that route.
At the end of the day, what’s there is already a phenomenal execution of an interesting concept that has the potential to really impact the player’s experience. The survival horror genre is greatly underserved outside of the Resident Evil series, and any attempt to expand and iterate on the said genre is worth keeping a close eye on.