LEFT ALIVE – Gamescom 2018 Interview and First Look
LEFT ALIVE is a bit of everything. When I first saw its name, I thought it might be the spiritual successor to the criminally underrated and criminally unfinished Still Alive. I was quite wrong. Although LEFT ALIVE is a bag of many tricks, none of them are post-apocalyptic survival games.
Instead, it is a third person shooter with elements of stealth, mech combat, crafting, not to mention a dialogue system and branching map. You with me so far? No? That’s okay, I was a bit lost at first as well. But at Gamescom this year I had the chance to speak with the game director, Toshifumi Nabeshima. He did help enlighten me quite a bit on the whole.
Before we get into the interview though, he did walk me through a couple videos to help flesh out the core concept of LEFT ALIVE. At first glance, it seems to have a Cold War turned hot kind of vibe, with harsh, brutalist grey cityscapes and a fairly cold environment. It's set in the Front Mission universe, which means very little to me, but hopefully I’m not too wrong in assuming some real-life influences there.
You’ll be in charge of three characters through the game, each trapped in a city invaded by an enemy force. In some districts of the city, the battle still rages while others seem securely occupied. Because of this, resources are scarce forcing players to be careful with the few they can get their hands on. In the first video ammo was constantly low, with the player character relying on traps and improvised, crafted weapons to survive and escape an enemy-filled building. I was told you can employ stealth and try and avoid combat altogether in these sections, but didn’t see it for myself.
The next video was far less precise, with giant mechs charging into each other in a dockyard. It seems all notion of crafting and stealth was dropped here, but the player still had to be careful in engaging with an overwhelming enemy force.
The final video shows a conversation where the player was attempting to convince a man and his daughter to follow him to safety. Through a branching conversation, the player managed to convince the young woman but not the old man. Got to be a bit of a crumby father to leave your daughter alone with a man you don’t trust but nevermind that. Afterward, the player ambushed an execution to save more civilians.
Like I said, there was a lot going on in this video and it almost felt like I was looking at several different games. But with the help of a translator clad in a Hawaiian shirt, I spoke with Nabeshima about the influences and intentions of the developers. By the way, the game has been just confirmed to launch next year for PC (Steam) and PlayStation 4.
Why have you decided to blend all of these genres together?
Really the idea is that different people have different ideas in their head about how they want to play. Some people are very good at action games, some people aren’t so good at action games. We wanted to give them that freedom of choice to play the way they wanted to.
It also gives you the chance to roleplay in different ways. You can play as a moralistic character if you want to go through and be scrupulous or you can play more of a pragmatist if you want.
Do the three characters reflect different aspects of game genres?
You’ve always got the option of how you will handle each of the characters here. They’ve obviously got their own backstory and reason for being in the city when it was invaded, and they’re all dealing with their past as well. So you’ve got the choice: if you really resonate with that character and their background and think they should be played a certain way you can, or you can play how you want to play if you prefer.
When LEFT ALIVE is more focused on traps and planning, why did you decide to use a traditional, third-person cover system?
So it's not a major shooting game where you can just keep blasting away, but there’s not no ammo either. The base of the mechanics is a shooting game. The reason we didn’t have a more stealth or tactical oriented camera is that if we really focused the game and the mechanics on that it would, in a way, force the player to play in that way.
Those genres are quite niche, and some people really like them and some people don’t but if you’re forced to do them it takes away that element of choice from the player. We felt this gave them options on how to play. We felt generally playing as a shooter gave you the most choice: if you want to play as a shooter you can, or if you want to try stealth or traps you can. It just allows the player that freedom.
Do these alternate options also exist in the mech sections of the game, or are they combat arenas?
It depends on the scene in the game for how many options you get. So a lot of the time it won’t be your mech, it’ll be an enemy army one that you will be able to steal. You can make the decision to take the mech and cause some havoc or do you not take that risk and just try to sneak past.
You’ve mentioned that there are multiple ending but how do they trigger? Is it a final choice or affected by your overall playstyle?
Obviously, if I go into too much detail it will be full of spoilers and I don’t want to do that. But rest assured that if you try to do good things you will get a result that reflects the kind of actions you did in that part of the game.
So you do get to find out what happened to the individual people you saved as well. So like if you leave them behind at the end of the game you might get a message saying ‘unfortunately this guy didn’t make it’. If you managed to save them you’ll get a little piece about what they did after they escaped and what happened to them.
People who are interested in these side stories can see it through to the end and discover what happened to them.
Is there a morality system in LEFT ALIVE or is the ethics left to the player?
There is no morality system, we’re not making any moral judgments on the player.
How advanced does the crafting system get through LEFT ALIVE?
There is some hi-tech stuff, but you’ll have to think very carefully about how you’ll use it. I can’t say anything else without spoiling it for now.
Thank you for your time.