Developer: Cabo Studios
Genre: Top Down Survival horror
MSRB (At time of publishing): $19.99
Game Link: https://store.steampowered.com/app/668580/Atomic_Heart/
The ideas that were created from Arkady and Boris Strugatsky’s “roadside Picnic” have been ever present in gaming since the first S.T.A.L.K.E.R game was released. The nearly Lovecraftian idea of a zone that manipulates time and space, while explorers search in the ruins for magic treasures, fits perfectly into the realm of gaming. Games like Darkwood, and Into The Radius all play off this idea. Now, with the new game Zero Sievert, a top down isometric shooter, lovers of The Zone have a new game to scratch their S.T.A.L.K.E.R itch with.
If you’ve played any of the games mentioned above, then I barely need to mention the story (not that there’s much there). You’re a hunter, trapped in a bunker after some sort of cataclysmic scenario, and are being sent into a zone to scavenge mysterious artifacts, supplies, and random screws and tins of food you find on the ground. That’s about the end of the story, but the games strength is in its art and gameplay
With Zero Sievert being a top down, pixel art roguelike, where characters are shaped like walking chocolate ice cream bars, it seems it would be hard to make that feel atmospheric and immersive, yet Sievert finds a way. Your sight is restricted to what doesn’t block your sight, not a problem in wide open spaces, but entering the thick forests, or one of many towns, and you’ll be tense and nervous for any sort of monster or bandit to jump you. The sound design and lush looking forestry help to add to this sense of immersion, with the crackle of grass beneath your characters feet, or the thick, difficult to view foliage clogging up your vision.
The sound overall is fantastic, with the crack of rifle fire and shotguns being superb, and adding tons of impact to the firefights, its quality pairing well with its excellent combat. Alot of fighting revolves around careful positioning, finding yourself the best angle while still having enough cover that enemy shots can be avoided. The frantic shooting, combined with the limited sights, created a game that was rife with tension, and there were more than a few times I would break out into a legitimately cold sweat, and many more times I would be caught off guard and start panic clicking.
The best way to describe it would be a slower and more tactical Hotline Miami.
This is backed up with a decent weapon customization system which, while simple, gives a lot of gameplay enhancements that allow for weapons to be fine tuned for things like stealth and accuracy.
It’s no revolution of gameplay, in fact it’s pretty simple. But everything is of such high quality and craftsmanship that, in combination with the adrenaline pumping fear you get fighting, makes for an addicting game.
The enemy design is a bit lacking, with standard bandits being the main enemy force, forcing you into cover with suppressive fire, and decent enough squad tactics. They come off as rather clumsy, which fits realistically into the setting, where firefights feel as if both sides are blindly firing in a panic, rather than being trained soldiers. Anything other than humans though are either boring or rely on plain luck a frustratingly large amount of the time. The ghouls one encounters early on in the game can be one-shot by a stock sniper rifle, or burst of bullets. Not dangerous during the day, but at night they can blindside you easily, and take out the majority of your health in one go. Wolf packs seem to spawn at least five at a time, and despite barely being able to maneuver around the trees, can overwhelm you with sheer numbers, like Orks in 40K
Overall, Zero Sievert is what it says on the tin. If you like S.T.A.L.K.E.R, Hotline Miami, and curb stomping Adidas wearing Slavic bandits, then give it a go.