The Uncertain - Last Quiet Day

FBT has achieved sentience. And is uncertain what to do with it.

At some point in the future, humankind wiped itself out, leaving behind menial robot servants. At a loose end, the bots create a society, emulating humankind, but - in theory - without the wars and stuff. One such bot, RT-217NP spends its time foraging for electronics and fashioning them into items for other bots to buy, but when a shuttle crashes outside its cottage, the truth behind the robot’s idyllic existence is exposed.

This is one of those games that really should be awesome but just refuses to be. The setup, of 'Artie' (RT) padding about a desolated village making a living off what humans left behind is great, as is Artie’s misunderstandings of the things humans left behind – I’m like a tall Wall-E. There’s a nice subplot about how Artie has become a bit obsessive, even human, disconnecting itself from Updates to stay separate from the Bot collective, and the idea that what we leave behind takes our place and repeats our mistakes is top-notch. And the world, courtesy of Unity, is beautiful. When the story kicks in, it starts to slip into the ‘All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others’ trope, but I can work with that. What I can’t work with, is how the game is obsessed with ruining it all.

You can click some things for Artie to walk to but the shot changes and Artie gets stuck on things you can’t see. Sometimes you click and Artie doesn’t move, because you needed to press a direction key instead, but then in exactly the same situation you need to highlight something to make him go there. Sometimes a cutscene will trigger but nothing happens, it was just an animation of him walking, and you only realise you’re back in control when you impatiently tap a key and Artie moves. It’s just incredibly frustrating to move the bot about, one moment it’s like a Granny shuffling about, the next it’s a Granny on a Segway.

Sometimes you’re just letting Artie deal, other times you’re in charge, but we just don’t seem to get along. You can spot a solution but Artie will not recognise a thing until it needs the thing – for example, it was recharge time. The charger was clearly offline, so I walked Artie to the generator. It doesn’t need it. But you said you need to recharge? Go to the charger, guess what? It needs power. Back to the generator. Or Artie needs a thing to solve a problem but doesn’t elaborate on why it needs that one specific thing, not all the identical things lying about, causing you to click everything waiting for luck to do its thing, or objects pop into existence once Artie says it needs it, even though you know for a fact that thing won’t be there because you already checked there earlier; oh look, now it’s here. Sometimes Artie even changes its mind, you scrabble about for what Artie’s after, give up, go back to check in case you missed something, and Artie now just fixes it.

It also feels like humanity must have died in the 1990s because Artie needs to dial up on hardline computers to connect with other bots or get info. How did humanity create sentient bots but not Wi-Fi?

And then there’s the gameplay. The first puzzle is finding a battery in Artie’s house to power a radio, hear a pre-recorded message about the impending war and Artie then just cracks on. What was the point of that?! We spend ages faffing about doing nothing puzzles, but hardly any of it is character-driving or defining, no hint of Artie’s off-centre humanistic qualities until another Bot explains Artie’s entire personality and situation for us. Why have some environmental puzzles that provide background we already know, and then have explainer-Bots relate backstory to a room full of bots who know all of this?

The game taps out at around ten hours, and most of that is trying to control Artie, scratching through padded puzzles, and waiting for the story, and badly translated subtitles to catch up.

I actually only picked this up because part two, Light At The End was released and it looked good so I figured I should play this first, but if Light At The End is anywhere nearly as frustrating as this, as the later reviews seem to suggest, I doubt I’ll bother. What’s really annoying is how charming an adventure this starts out as; Artie is great, the world interesting and the set-up with Artie an outlier is all good. And it’s an indie title and I always have time for those. But nothing really works. Just watch Wall-E again instead.