FBT is a Norse legend.
Basically a walking sim of Doom, it’s the old ‘scientists unleashed evil and only you can stop it’ plot, but while we’ve walked those dark, threatening corridors many times, I’m loving the chance to delve into Norse legends; it looks like a Ridley Scott 1980s fever-dream.
Waking on a surgical table with no memory, Alice is berated by the petulant AI that’s experimenting on her; guessing that something’s not right, Alice escapes and discovers that scientists had excavated Yggdrasil – the tree at the centre of Norse legends that connects the Nine Worlds – and now it’s growing over Earth. Using its roots, Alice must transport between Norse worlds to stop an evil force from taking over.
Early on, one of the surviving scientists gives Alice a hand - after she loses hers. This arm allows her to fire largely ineffective bursts of energy at enemies, crack door locks (one of the more annoying puzzles we face), scan objects and collect data we need. I’m not entirely sure what we’re collecting, or why the AI-thing is so pissy and sends various nasties after us, but that’s because it feels so generic I don’t really pay any attention. But while its gameplay is a little tired, you never tire of just gawking at the beautiful design, story, and Norse legends brought to life.
Still, art-design only gets you so far. The creatures are inspired but they all behave the same – lumber until they hear you, chase then give up if you duck behind something. If they catch up, they do weak slap attacks which Alice with her metal arm and metal attitude seems oddly susceptible to. Or we face off against huge, nightmarish creatures that patrol certain areas and we have to -mostly by luck- evade.
Interestingly, rather than just die and return to a checkpoint, we’re sent all the way back to 1996 to re-enact the sequence in Prey where you’d complete a challenge in the afterlife, and get sent back to where you were before – usually to just get offed again. It’s more annoying than clever, and one of the most tiresome elements of the game.
Overall it is tension-filled and tough, and the creatures are always unnerving, but just feel unnecessary. We’ve got the entire Norse pantheon to experience here, why we playing hide and seek in Doom corridors?
We also have a kind of sight ability. For no good reason, folks leave clues that can only be seen with your vision. Who are they hiding this from? It does make the sneaky sequences a bit more interesting, but mostly it’s just ‘locked door, turn on sight, follow clue, get around door’ - just feels unnecessary or at least underused.
Also similar to Prey, the world is often alive and pulsing, as the roots crept through the facility absorbing everything and everyone in its path. You basically follow those to the root’s end, where a portal takes you to one of the worlds, following the scientists who rather foolhardily thought would be a good idea, only to be taken apart by whatever legend lives there.
Exploring the Nine, we discover more about the scientist's plans, and how they really didn’t go according to plan. Aside from that, we stroll through the world until we find a rune-like piece then beam back to the facility before some evade-the-creature sequence and follow a new root.
Sadly, given this is an indie title, its often left to our imaginations when it comes to some of the beings the scientists scream about, or we just see them in the distance before a scripted event occurs, but taking a walk through the world is incredibly immersive; it’s like one-half a Grimm’s fairytale, one half a badly done stealth-shooter. It would have been so much more fun to just walk and witness those worlds for what they are, instead of the occasional, often clunky fights and threats. And the annoying puzzles.
Apsulov would have been awesome as just a puzzler-walker, or had a story mode, but even on easy settings it’s not easy to keep trudging forward, the nasties and puzzles getting in the way of an amazing world brought to terrifying life. So much potential, all this mythology, and then we have to sneak about or figure out the same door-locking puzzle over and over. It is hugely impressive, beautiful to look at and thoughtfully done, but it’s disconnected from the gameplay, and rarely executed in a way that means anything and the threats feel like they’re there because the developers thought they needed to jazz it up a bit. You don’t need to jazz up a mythology that gave us the Valkyrie.