Several months ago, I came across a trailer for the story-driven roleplaying game Insomnia: The Ark that gave me serious BioShock vibes. Since BioShock is one of my all-time favorite games, and I was definitely intrigued by what Insomnia was showing so far of its visuals and world. The game is the result of a successful Kickstarter campaign by Russian indie developer Studio Mono, and it has already won a few awards, including “Best Desktop Game” and “Excellence in Visual Art” at the DevGAMM Moscow 2018 Awards. Insomnia: The Ark is currently available in beta on Steam, and I got to try out the steampunk/dystopian game to see how just how much it was influenced by both BioShock and the Fallout series, as well.
For a background on the game’s story, Insomnia: The Ark takes place on the crumbling dystopian space station called Object 6 that has been traveling for over four hundred years to escape a dying planet. The sole descendants of a once great civilization are seeking the Evacuation Point in order to restart the history of their people. Players take on the role of Urb citizen #KZoo12, who has been taken out of a sort of hibernation called “the Big Sleep,” only to discover that a state of emergency has been declared, and they begin suffering hallucinations that they must conceal almost as soon as they are woken up. As players make their way through Insomnia: The Ark, they will uncover ways to survive the dark sides of the space station and learn the truth about why they are hurling through space to a new home, all while making decisions that will help determine the fate of the people around them.
The game begins in a sort of dream state that finds the main character in the form of a shadow person who is being led to a throne by another green, glowing shadow person. Upon waking up, #KZoo12 learns that there has been a sort of terrorist attack that has killed many people, and that he is one of the lucky few to be in the healthy state that I am. However, as we soon find out, #KZoo12 begins to hallucinate the same shadow people from the start of the game and periodically sees different objects flying upward and crashing down again. The game really begins after entering the character creation screen, which is presented via a scan to ensure that #KZoo12 is mentally and physically fit for duty.
There are several character classes to choose from, and I got to customize my character’s appearance as well. I made my character look a bit like Adrien Brody and chose to go the stealthy route by picking the class of Helot. Each class has a description of the character’s strengths and a biography as well that gives insight into the game’s society.
Once my character got the all-clear, I was sent off for my first assignment to head to a place called Sector D of the Close Radius, where a bunch of mysterious circumstances have been occurring. From the beginning, there were many people that I could talk to in order to get an idea of the type of world that I would be dealing with. All of the game’s dialogue is silent, and since some of it hasn’t been translated from Russian yet, I couldn’t make out everything that was being said to me, but I got the gist of it. The government seems very controlling, and people are definitely not happy about it.
As I made my way through the different areas of the game, the game’s BioShock influences were obvious from the broken down Art Deco wasteland that that is Object 6. There are even radios throughout playing some upbeat tunes that definitely contrast with Insomnia‘s bleak setting just like in BioShock, which is one thing I love about the game in particular.
Aside from the soldiers that lurk the halls of Object 6, I encountered desperate Mauraders that attacked with no warning and downtrodden Ghetters. The character’s health bar is not too robust to begin with, but as the game progressed, I was able to choose my character improvements from choices like Stamina, Health, and my personal favorite, Scammer. So far, my character’s past and the upgrades I’ve chosen have affected some of the dialogue options available with different NPCs.
When running from checkpoint to checkpoint, I noticed that there are no markers to show where to go. The game’s journal told me what my objectives were, and talking to different people provided context clues as to where to go, but I’m wondering if this will be changed in the final product. The game is supposed to be open-world, so there will surely be a lot to cover when it finally releases.
Before playing the main game, I got to try out the prologue first. Set a few days before #KZoo12 wakes up from the Big Sleep, it acts as a tutorial and allowed me to get used to the gameplay mechanics by guiding me through sneaking through the space station’s tunnels in order to deliver a package. According to the Kickstarter page, this will lead into the main game in the final product, and it was definitely very helpful, as there is not a lot of handholding when Insomnia starts out. This is a quality I’m sure that some players might be looking forward to, but might be intimidating for other players interested in its story and world.
So far, I’m definitely intrigued by Insomnia: The Ark and excited to see where the game’s story will go; I’m looking forward to diving deeper into its story and discovering the truth behind this centuries-long trip through space. The non-linear storytelling, gameplay, and overall tone of the game fill the void that BioShock has left in the years since I first went to Rapture, and Insomnia: The Ark‘s inspirations from that game are clear, while it still retains its own identity with a captivating, intriguing world.
Insomnia: The Ark is set to be released for PC later this year.