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Signalis - a Sci-fi Survival Horror with Resi 2 vibes


Alan Stock
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5 minutes ago, Benny said:

Hmm.

 

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Then it's good you can do that, though I'd say by hiding that knowledge arbitrarily several hours after you may have been faffing about with them seems like pretty bad design to be honest.

 

Totally agree. Especially as you need 3 spare slots to do it so it just adds more busywork around the item box.

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8 hours ago, earlymodernsteve said:

@Benny re: health items

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You can combine the patches with the basic health spray to make spray+ but this is hidden in a document you cone across a couple of hours in.

 

 

Spoiler

The problem with this is that its still two seperate items you have to combine, each with their own slot, and you often end up with spares of either type. It certainly didn't help me. Plus you can't combine either of those to themselves, like you can with green herbs in Resi. In Resi it makes for a better inventory choice of whether to combine two or 3 green herbs to save space, or wait for a red herb to get better value. Plus red herbs are useless by themselves in Resi so that also makes for more variety and a more meaningful choice to need a green herb to get value from it. Its not helped that the repair patches look just like ammo. The various injectors are distinctive in shape and colour so you can actively avoid picking them up if you don't need them, which is fine. They are very generous with health drops in this game, I went through some bosses spending loads of health pickups I'd saved up without bothering to reload and optimise. But by the end of the game I had loads sitting around.

 

One thing I don't really like is the healing items that heal over time. Its fine as an idea but its too vague, they need an actual timer gauge on the screen or something. You never know when the healing item is still doing its thing and whether to pop another to top up your health or to wait, and the only way to tell is to keep popping into the menu to check your health level.

 

In Ending news (no spoilers ahead) I've been in the Steam thread and it was only a few days ago that they cracked the secret fourth ending (called the Lily ending), as is common with these things it came down to people coming across obscure discoveries, sharing it with the community and basically it getting brute forced through a joint effort. Kudos to them. I'm curious as to whether there are any clues as to the method that haven't been discovered in the game yet as it seems fairly random, or whether its designed as a grassroots kind of puzzle.

 

Last night some code whizzes on the Steam forums also started datamining the game to determine why it seemed so random that people with very similar stats were getting different endings. It turns out it works on an obscure formula which assigns you points based on certain stats and if your points reach a certain threshold you'll get a different ending. For example if you beat the game under 10 hours it assigns a point to one of the endings, and if you kill a certain number of enemies you'll get a point to another ending. Then it effectively uses an internal flowchart based on these points to determine which ending you get. This is why a few people were able to get a different ending just by re-doing the final boss, because one of the stats is based on healing yourself out of critical health. They must have just been on the threshold of having enough points to trigger the other ending and using their healing items differently pushed them over the edge. Noone would have figured out the exact requirements if this datamining hadn't been done. Those 3 endings aren't radically different but they do reinforce the themes of the story. 

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That seems somewhat bizarre. I don't quite see how it can work narratively to have what determines the conclusion to a story be based on a random collection of stats.

 

But then I've not played it since dropping the game due to the inventory management, so I can't really speculate beyond that.

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Well I've gone down the story analysis rabbit hole now, and I must say its been really fun reading and coming up with theories. There is loads of great discussion and analysing going on in the Steam forums, it literally took me hours to read through the main thread. The story is actually really well crafted if you like that kind of thing, with tons to unpack, loads of hidden details and interesting themes and references. Definitely like Silent Hill where its much more satisfying after the fact, where the exploration of the story is more fun than the game itself!

 

Re: the endings. There is some correlation narritavely with the stats and what ending you get, although its a bit tenuous.

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Still plugging on and got to 

Spoiler

Nowhere but my tired brain couldn't work out what to do with all the shape-locked doors - not helped by s bug letting me enter one when I shouldn't have been able to and then me spending ages trying to replicate it. Turns out I need to use the radio but the hint is so subtle it's practically nonexistent. A standard static noise for rooms that need the radio would be a useful QoL improvement but I guess that goes against the deliberate aura of obscurity they're aiming for.

 

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Up to [spoilers for after deck 8] 

Spoiler

Nowhere, which is a bit too on the nose, especially when they have you fighting a Flesh Lip

 

and I'm not quite sure how I feel about it overall. I'm happy to play within a developer's intended design but the restricted inventory really hasn't added much. A difficult choice between taking healing items or extra firepower isn't a choice but a chore when it just means having to run to an item box, drop off your inventory and come back. Silent Hill realised that in the first game.

 

One thing that has constantly irked me has been entering doors relies on the little >>> icon coming up, which doesn't always happen, even when you're standing right in front of one. Classic Resi never had a problem with that. Nor with enemies being right outside a door and the entering/exiting animation meaning you can enter a room right into their arms.

 

At least the puzzle design has been fairly solid (big laffs at them giving you a Tower of Hanoi puzzle and the written solution in the same room) and the transmitter has been a nice wrinkle.

 

Wholly subjective but it's been particularly light on scares. The most horrific thing tends to be the sound when accessing the save screen (and Continuing Without Saving is a fun touch, for those who haven't tried it).

 

Hopefully the story, and the depths that Alan Stock has been able to plumb, will shine a light on why this could be considered an Essential.

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I also had that issue with the >>> doors and animations. One particularly annoying detail is when you decide to pick up an item, you can still be damaged in the animation of the character picking it up, which makes sense but in practice feels unfair, especially in boss fights.

 

I do wish they had more enemy types in this, that would have definitely helped with the variety. Even Resi 1 introduces new enemies into the mix. Silent Hill did as well although lets be fair, they were mostly really frustrating but at least they were creepy. Someone said on Steam that the core devs are just a few people so that definitely explains the scope, fair play to them.

 

I have to credit the sound design as well, I still have the Achtung voice sting and ambient noise of the game stuck in my head. They did a really good job with the sound/visual filters to nail that staticy, grounded sci-fi feel which Alien does so well.

 

I'd say for the story, its a bit like something like Donny Darko or Mulholland Drive where a lot of it might seem like a stream of conciousness but there's room for many interpretations. It has lots of little bits to pull out and solve, and there are plenty of intentional connections. This is a lot of what the Steam discussion has focussed on. I'm fairly confident in the theory I prefer now. Its just a shame that the plot discussion is taking place in a 80+ page mega thread where its so hard to keep track of individual questions, and sometimes really good posts get swallowed in the mire. It's also a big ask for anyone to read through, and is cluttered with posts about people trying to figure out how to trigger the endings (which has now been solved). There's still one secret left to solve which a dev or someone involved in the game has left a clue about, which the community is currently trying to figure out, hopefully providing another little lore nugget to ponder.

 

Uncovering the secret 'true' ending was quite the feat. Early footage of the game featuring the secret ending was put on Youtube by the same user who I mentioned above. This proved there was a secret ending to find and the fans went scouring the game for clues. A reddit user came up with a good idea, which led to a big revelation which blew the solution wide open. Once the Steam community learned of this they systematically went through the game using this info and within a day had discovered how to unlock the ending. 

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Finished with 7:30 active on the clock (9:15 inactive), 2 deaths and ending M.

 

The third part was a bit of a dip for me, or at least I liked the final section a lot more so it ended on a reasonable high. A map makes all the difference I think.

 

Would say Alan Stock's almost final thoughts on the previous page are spot on. It doesn't do anything especially novel but does often get into a good survival horror rhythm and the story is interesting, even if I didn't understand it unassisted.

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  • 1 month later...

I've been trying to finish this as I wanted to give it another try, but ye gods:

 

Spoiler

The fucking mine section. No save point, no map, and you'd better make sure you know in advance what you don't actually know yet because otherwise the game will completely fuck you.

 

There's some astonishingly unfriendly game design in this. I think many of the reviews have been exceedingly generous.

 

There's actually already plenty of guns and ammo and health to stay alive with, but you can never actually use more than one if you want to avoid endless boring backtracking. And the tool item like flashlight: why the hell does that take up an inventory slot so you can't then use any stun prods, or have to use another slot to take them with you to be able to switch to. And you can't really carry ammo along with a gun either if you want half a chance of actually picking up all the shit in rooms that you will probably not actually get to use because you have to constantly put it back in the item box because if you carry any of it it just gets in the way.

 

The real horror is just how much the game doesn't respect your time.

 

Now I have to repeat the entire mine section again after apparently missing a save point after the mine and also that whole bloody walking sim bit too and just ARGH.

 

It's so frustrating because so many other parts of it like the visuals, the sound and the atmosphere are good, but it so often plays like an absolute pig 

 

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Spoiler

So I stayed up to finish it. I think I got a better idea of what was going on at least. I've actually read about people deleting the game from Game Pass and not realising they had a fakout ending only to install it again and find their save was no longer there because of course.

 

I honestly don't think it was a particularly good game at the end of it all. I know some people on the internet seem to be going apeshit over the story, but I honestly think it feels like a bit of cryptic mystery box kind of storytelling, because of which it's being treated as something more profound than it is. It does reference a lot of greater works at least.

 

Ehhh. Well, it's something to think about now I can finally sleep anyway.

 

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I saw one of the NoClip guys in their game of the year podcast calling it the best survival horror game ever made - but then to explain that goes on to mention that many puzzles or sequences in the game are directly ripped from Silent Hill... I mean, when the game is that derivative I'm not sure how it can also be as lauded, when the reasons you're lauding it are things that are literally just taken from other games? It's weird. I don't get what people see in it at all. And it's really got some strange design decisions in there.

 

I think it's also telling that they didn't actually spend as much time discussing the actual mechanics of the game, mainly the story, which I'm afraid in this game requires an awful slog to actually experience that part of it. I would like to be able to say I liked this game and recommend it on the basis of its story, but I honestly can't, because the game is so obtuse and unfriendly and deliberately wastes your time.

 

EDIT: actually it was mentioned at one point in the podcast that the gameplay is completely divorced from the story - I'm not sure if that's entirely accurate seeing as it influences the endings. Still, BLEH

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Last bit of a rant before I go to bed. The part I hated the most, the worst shite design repetition of an enemy:

 

Spoiler

The enemies that need to be killed with radio. It's cool the first time, maybe also the second, but EVERY SINGLE TIME after that, which is many, it's mind-numbingly tedious having to stop, wait, change frequency, wait, wait some more, do it again... Sometimes the random visual stuff just doesn't want to show a number so it can take fucking forever and was genuinely, brain meltingly dull by that point.

 

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Okay I've had a sleep and I can reflect on the game with a clearer head. With bonus Immortality discussion.

 

Now, despite all the time wasting stuff and some of the things later on that make things much harder

 

Spoiler

namely removing the map and having a long section between save points in the mines unless you know exactly where to go and don't drop down a hole at the wrong time, with doors that are not obvious

 

some of the restrictions did, to its credit, make the game feel a bit more tense than it otherwise would. Essentially it becomes a game of resource management but to an absolutely absurd degree, where you will spend about as much time shuffling things in and out of the item box as you will solving puzzles or exploring.

 

This does mean a huge part of the experience is this meta game of preparedness, where you do a little tentative foray outwards to see what the lay of the land is before coming back and taking what you need to get past it. It makes for some frustrating backtracking but you do always feel underequipped at all times, which is certainly an important part of survival horror.

 

However, that's where it ultimately falls down: the game gets a bit creepy, but there's very little in the way of anything truly tense or scary. And I don't just mean in terms of the interactive parts: the story itself never threatens to become particularly affecting in terms of anything I would call profoundly shocking or unsettling. There are some interesting literary ideas and for want of a better phrase "mild existential peril", but nothing I would call especially out there that hasn't been less confusingly explored in other mediums or other games even.

 

Ultimately I think it results in a game that is probably more interesting to talk about than actually play, which I guess is cool in of itself, but I think there's a limit when the time investment is so high for often frustrating reasons.

 

Especially if you want people to replay for more endings - at least make it painless enough to run through without the item restrictions. Even some difficulty modes would have helped give people the choice on that part, without compromising the story I think.

 

As those frustrations for me kind of took me out of the game often, and made me less likely to dwell on what's going on in the game to be particularly unsettled by any of it - when you have so many barriers it just spoils that.

 

I saw the NoClip guy try to call it a good companion piece to Immortality, and I can see where they were going with that, but unlike Signalis Immortality doesn't have the frustratingly arbitrary game parts getting in the way, and mechanics are just weaved into the way the player actually experiences the game, rather than the extreme retro throwback annoyances that Signalis wants to revel in. It had the effect that Immortality profoundly unsettled me at several points in a way that Singalis doesn't get anywhere close to being capable of.

 

It's actually made Immortality go way up in my estimation since, as I was a bit lukewarm on it at first, but the way so many elements come together seamlessly in Immortality is extremely impressive and puts other games to shame with how painlessly it is actually constructed. It being snubbed for anything at that Game Awards nonsense was just depressing.

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