Release roundup: Svoboda 1945: Liberation, A Way to be Dead & Larcenauts

Three very different releases this time, as we discuss the World War II based Svoboda 1945: Liberation, the Early Access release of A Way To Be Dead and a big update to VR shooter Larcenauts.

Svoboda 1945: Liberation is out on Steam

We weren’t familiar with developer Charles Games, but their unique take on combining videogame mechanics with a look at a particular period in history immediately grabbed us. Svoboda 1945: Liberation offers a perspective on World War II that most will be unfamiliar with, and mixes it with interactivity.

Sent to a Czech town near the border called Svoboda after the end of WW II, you’re a historical conservationist looking to determine the historical value of a particular building. Your research quickly uncovers ties to the war, with locals (often reluctantly) sharing memories perhaps better left behind. When the war ended in this region, new horrors started for those living in the border region based on their nationality, the rise of communism and families that were torn apart.

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It’s a tale told through FMV sequences that feature real actors. During your interviews you’ll have to make choices about which topics to pursue, though there is a surprising amount of gameplay dedicated to small minigames that tie into the story as well. Because the video content was done with local actors who speak the language and the story is based on actual history, there is an additional layer of authenticity to the experience that keeps you invested if you enjoy history. Walking a fine line between documentary and videogame, Svoboda 1945 is an engrossing piece of software.

In additional to FMV and minigames, Svoboda 1945 also tells its story through (interactive) comic strips, documents and other historical accounts. The narrative even ties into your own role, as you find out that your ancestors also played a part in what transpired all those years ago. If you enjoy World War 2 history but feel like all the stories have been told already, then definitely check this one out at  its Steam page.

A Way To Be Dead launches into Steam Early Access

The asymmetrical multiplayer genre is a well populated one on Steam, but very few games manage to stick around and it’s hard to be the next Dead By Daylight. Because the right balance is so crucial in games like these, Early Access seems like a great way of introducing your title to the public while continuing to tweak the gameplay experience, and that’s what Crania Games is doing with A Way To Be Dead.

Following the typical 4 vs 1 format, this one’s a horror title in which you’re a crazed doctor chasing after his victims/escapees. The game actually ties into another Crania Games title called Roots of Insanity, at least thematically – offering a new perspective on the events of that game. While that’s a great idea for fans of the previous game, however, it might be a bit of an entry barrier for newcomers – unless of course they’re big fans of 4 vs 1 games. Or, like us, curious about the next take on the genre.

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Although we’re not familiar with Roots of Insanity, we really like the general vibe and atmosphere in the game – though the audiovisual portion of the game is still rough around the edges with less-than-smooth animations and sound effects that feel like placeholders. This being Early Access, that’s easily forgiven though.

Early impressions do reveal that (as with nearly all 4 vs 1 games in Early Access) the game will need a few balance tweak, which we’re sure will come over time. Playing as the mad doctor you can turn into a demon temporarily, but the ability feels overpowered – giving other players very few options while you’re in the mode. You can tweak the various parameters of each match according to your preferences to get around this, which is a nice feature to have, but it shouldn’t feel like the default that the developer put in needs to be changed in order to be enjoyed. Still, with an interesting setting, this is one to look out for – we’re hoping for a developer update soon and will be keeping an eye out on the Steam page.

Larcenauts receives a major update

Releasing a multiplayer-only game for VR always feels like a bold move, mostly because of the relatively small user base when compared to console platforms or PCs. That didn’t stop Impulse Gear though, as they released Larcenauts back in June for PC-based headsets and the Oculus Quest. It recently received a major update, which prompted us to take a look as well.

A 6 vs 6 shooter where you get to choose between six different specialists, Larcenauts reminds us a little of Overwatch. Its game modes (Refuel, Uplink and Deathmatch) are familiar as well, with the first two based on territory capture and capture the flag gameplay styles. Set against a backdrop of performing heists (still popular because of the Payday franchise), Larcenauts has a ton of features that make it worthwhile despite only offering four different maps to play on.

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Its launch was a little rocky back in June though, because despite being well-received critically a lot of players pointed out bugs and balancing issues. Cue the “immersion overload” update, which was released recently. It adds features for more immersion like the ability to manually reload your weapon and perform two-handed pivot aiming, but it also fixes a number of important bugs. The end result is a game that we felt was stable, didn’t give us any weird glitches and was, most importantly, fun to play. Our playtest was done on a Quest, and it’s definitely one of the better examples of a multiplayer shooter for the platform.

We’re usually hesitant when it comes to playing multiplayer titles in VR (deterred by the thought of endless wait periods in lobbies), but when Larcenauts also supports bots to make sure you can keep playing. We didn’t check this one pre-patch, but have a feeling that the critical reaction and player reaction should be much more aligned now.

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