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Hands On Insomnia: The Ark's Ambitious Euro RPG

Lost in Space

Insomnia: The Ark has been 8 years in the making. This dieselpunk RPG from a small Russian team is all about its ambitious story, just as with other Euro RPGs such as Elex and the earlier Gothic games by Piranha Bytes. It’s a subgenre that has a loyal and committed fanbase who are willing to overlook the lack of polish because of distinct style and feel. However, Insomnia looks to bridge the gap between these games and more mainstream titles such as The Witcher 3 and Mass Effect with impressive visuals thanks to the Unreal 4 engine.

Stranded on a floating escape vessel that looks like an unholy mix between a Borg Cube and a Star Destroyer, your character wakes from cryosleep to discover that you are suffering from some kind of hallucinations and that you mysteriously hold the answers to humanity’s future. Don’t you just hate it when that happens? Standard RPG storyline aside, the futuristic setting helps to differentiate Insomnia from the many other messiah complex narratives out there.

The playable beta build I tried out is surprisingly polished and complete in terms of game mechanics, but there is still much to be done with the translation. I had to stop playing soon after the game’s intriguing prologue, as many of the character names and all of the map information was still in Russian. In truth, it felt like a natural stopping place for me, to try and save the main game until the finished version is available.

Whilst there are clear classes with distinct stat advantages, the developers promise a flexible and nuanced system of character development in which perks and abilities can be mixed to produce a well-rounded avatar. My early experience with the game didn’t reach the point of further character development, but the skill tree certainly looked impressive and should afford you more than enough opportunity to explore and customise your character.

Insomnia is pitched as a story driven experience and the dialogue interactions certainly seem to live up to this billing, although these too are still in need of a more thorough translation. Alongside the conversation options and quests there is a well designed combat system that allows for close melee weapons and firearms. Early battles felt smooth and responsive and the most recent trailer promises 80 different weapons, so hopefully there will be plenty of variety within your arsenal. Equally, although I only encountered humans in the prologue, the trailers show a number of alien creatures to fight.

Although I hadn’t heard of Insomnia: The Ark before trying out the beta build, it has now become a game that I am looking forward to trying out properly when released. At the moment, this release is set for September, with the most pressing matter for them to bring their full translation efforts to bear. In the meantime, check out the video and add it to your wishlist if you’re a Euro RPG fan. It has all the potential to be a real cryosleeper hit… (Sorry)

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