Why INSOMNIA: The Ark Put Me to Sleep


By Terris Harned (NWOrpheus)

I wanted to love INSOMNIA: The Ark. Really I did. With its claims of dieselpunk styling, Fallout inspirations, and potentially engaging story, I was ready to sit down and be amazed. I was not amazed, unless it’s to say that I’m amazed that anyone had the audacity to actually publish a game in this state, or that people are actually defending it on Steam.

INSOMNIA places you on board a space station that is sailing through space with the last vestiges of humanity aboard. It’s an old vessel, some 400+ years I believe, and it’s not in the best of shape. This makes for a really cool setting, and I will say that there are aspects about the art style that I loved, which is what made this unplayable game even more disappointing. Why is it so bad? Well, I’ll try and break it down for you while sharing the game’s features at the same time.

I started my experience in INSOMNIA: The Ark by firing up the prologue. I’m glad that I did, because this also seems to be what passes for a tutorial. In fairness, it’s not a bad tutorial: it explains the majority of the basic mechanics of the game such as movement, combat, stealth, interacting with objects, etcetera. However, on the Prologue loading screen you encounter one of the game’s major flaws immediately: the translations are so bad they cause a negative physical reaction at times. I actually flinch or cringe when reading dialogue. Seriously, I feel like I’m watching one of those “Google Translates” videos on YouTube, but without it being funny. This first example isn’t too bad, but throughout the game the writing, and translations when they exist at all, are rough at best.

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Sometimes I think that it’s just poorly written, but whatever the case, it’s hard to -read- and as the game sells itself on its story, that’s not a good thing. My immersion is constantly broken as I have to read, re-read, and read once more a given block of text just to get what the message was behind it.

The camera is also just bad. If you’re moving and you move the camera, it turns you. If you’re not moving it revolves the camera around you. That’s it. There’s no tilt to the camera, whatsoever. You can’t look up or down, which is a crying shame, because the scenery of the game is intricately crafted. That’s a complete waste though because I can’t look at it. Even when aiming a weapon, the reticle moves vertically, but not the camera. It’s clunky and grating and really makes the game feel like amateur hour.

So I muscled my way through the clunky dialogue and combat of the prologue before transitioning into the main game. I was a shadow in some kind of strange land, with other shadows all around me. I made my way to the center of the region to enter a portal and POOF, found myself in a hospital bed being addressed by Dr. Talkbad, who sends me off to be scanned by some machine I didn’t care enough to remember the name of. Seriously, by this point, maybe an hour of playing the game, I wanted to just turn it off. I swallowed my bile, and my pride, and continued on a bit further.

I’m somewhat glad I did, because this brought us to an actual character generation. After yet more tooth pain level dialogue anyway. The game lets you select from several classes, with some unusual names. Ordinator, Halut, Tector, Jaeger and Thingmaster. Yes, Thingmaster is the name of one of the classes, alongside all those other Greek and Latin monikers. I’m not sure if this is a Porn star, an Engineer, or the Cat in the Hat.

Also, try as I might, I was only able to get beard 7 to work, or 0. Beards 1-6 are apparently as lost in translation as the rest of the game.

I honestly didn’t make it much further than this. I wandered into a sort of holding area for people displaced after a recent calamity inside the Ark. I talked to another NPC and then I just gave up. I could only stomach so much awful at one time. After speaking to some other gamers, as well as reading reviews, apparently I saved myself some headache. Some of the maps aren’t translated at all, so I hope you’re up on your Russian. Other maps have a mix of Russian and English. The game also has a high crash rate, even on strong modern machines.

One trailer for INSOMNIA: The Ark claims that the game was 8 years in the making, and has 60+ hours of gameplay. I find it sad then that they skipped over some very basic things. I admit, there is a fun hacking minigame within INSOMNIA, but I couldn’t be bothered to get to play it more than once. I never got to the crafting. I never got to explore what had the potential to be a really good story. There are just so many things in the first two hours of play that were unpalatable that I just walked away. In the short time since launch, INSOMNIA: The Ark has seen two significant patches, so at least it seems the developers are trying. My guess is that this will pop up in Humble Bundle within six months. If you really feel compelled to give it a shot, just wait for that. Maybe by then they’ll have put 20 good patches into the game to make it bearable, and you won’t get stuck with the unreasonable $29.99 steam price tag.

Final Rating: Poor (1/5)

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