I’ve been playing games for longer than I care to admit. I’m not an absolute old school ZX Spectrum gamer, but I am from a time where cutting edge was a 40MB hard drive and the release of the Creative Sound Blaster was a big, big deal. I’ve watched a strange curve of the way gaming technology has come through. In the 90s and first decade of this century, we were on this rush and competition to produce the best and most realistic 3D graphics we could. It was exciting and every time another title with even better graphics came along, we got even more excited. For a time, graphics were almost valued above gameplay.
Then, sometime in the last couple of years, this changed.
Steam allowed, through Early Access, Greenlight or just plain determination, pretty much anyone to come along and publish a game on the platform. it allowed games to see the light of day that would usually never have been able to. And this meant a huge influx of mediocre looking but incredible gameplay and story-driven games to emerge. Games like The Escapists or Undertale found a huge fan follow not because of their flashy AAA-budget graphics, but because of the passion their creators put into them.
Volume is one of those games.
It’s elegant in its simplicity. The graphics are simple vector models and the levels are clear, clean blocky affairs but its just downright great looking. The colours and shapes all lend in to what the game is about and the lack of unnecessary clutter seems to make the game feel better.
The game’s creator, Bithell Games (also behind indie hit Thomas Was Alone) describes the campaign. The game’s campaign follows Locksley, who commits crimes through non-lethal stealth. Sneaking, distracting, avoiding. As he grows in popularity and notoriety, so will his inventory. An arsenal of gadgets await discovery in a quest to rob from the rich and give to the unheard.
The story isn’t important here, though it is excellent in its neo-political commentary. It’s set in near future Britain, where a powerhouse mogul (Gisborne – played by Andy Serkis of Gollum fame) has corrupted the political system as a money hungry mogul. You can ignore it all completely if you want because this story plays a minor role compared to the narration and Locksley’s interaction with the AI named Alan. It’s witty and fun and offers the entertainment needed to puzzle your way through the campaign which is 100 levels long, each adding more complexity in a pace that introduces you to the game mechanics bit by bit so by the time it gets hard, you’re familiar with how it all works.
This is a mix of puzzle and stealth that isn’t inherently difficult, just challenging and a keen sense of observation and some quick fingers will have you through the main campaign in about 6 hours if you don’t get too stuck. Once you hit the end of the campaign you can look to the Steam Workshop where plenty of user made levels await or you can get into the level designer and make your own levels.
A healthy smattering of checkpoints litter each level, so if you do get spotted by the enemy AI guards, you won’t lose too much progress but don’t mistake that for a potential mix of broken keyboards or mice as you get spotted for the 40th time by the same #@%ing guard on the same #@%ing level – if you aren’t patient and give yourself time to learn the patterns needed to get through the level, you’ll find yourself in a world of frustration.
Volume is good, but not excellent. It’s worth a play if you’re a fan of games like Metal Gear Sold’s VR Missions and similar such games and if you enjoy cheeky, sarcastic AI (though Portal will never be beaten here). The difficulty balance is good too – it’s fast paced enough to keep you interested but still challenging enough to not be a walk in the park.
He also hosts the nAvTV podcast and this here website is his domain.