Welcome back everyone. Today we are covering the game Receiver by Wolfire Games. It was made for the 7 day FPS challenge, so do not expect an expansive title for today’s entry. Anyway, Receiver is a roguelike. A very simple roguelike. You start with a gun, a random amount of ammunition, and maybe a flashlight if the game likes you. You are dropped in the middle of a randomly generated complex, with randomly placed AI drones and turrets. You are tasked with surviving this strange environment.
Now, I want you to try something. Think of the last time you reloaded in a game. Maybe it was knocking a fresh arrow, or swapping out heat sinks, or feeding in a new belt for a machine gun. You never had to think about the process, did you? You just tapped [R] or what-have-you, and watched the game do the rest. Receiver does not do this. If you want your gun loaded, you need to load it. Step by step, often mid-gunfight. Sound fun?
It’s an acquired taste. While there is a mini-tutorial of sorts for each gun you may start with, the game’s real appeal only kicks in once you’ve played enough to know the motions by heart. Even then, you’ll likely make a crucial mistake right as a taser-toting drone zooms towards you, and it is frustrating as heck. You die in 1 bullet, or zap, and get to start all over every time something kills you. Standard roguelike fare, but the random starting conditions make it even worse. You might start with a half-empty magazine and not realize it until the worst possible moment, like I did. Situations like that certainly dampened my will to proceed. That said, if you’re the sort of person who played Search And Destroy on Call of Duty, and decided it wasn’t tense enough for your liking, you’ll feel at home here.
So at first I died so much I wanted to quit. And that is the biggest thing I can say against the game: It has a hell of a learning curve. At first, I was lucky to even see a killdrone before it beeped and flew at my face with a taser. I accidentally launched bullets out of my gun in an attempt to check the chamber. I fumbled entire magazines and my gun at the same time.
I started learning things, slowly but surely.
1- Check your ammo every time you respawn. Put any spare bullets in any magazines that you have, and put your best stocked one in first. Take a minute to press all the buttons that pertain to the weapon you spawned with.
1a- If you have spawned in a room with a killdrone, disregard the above and run like hell.
2- Look for the spot of light that marks a killdrone in search mode.
3- The game can and will put multiple drones in the same room. No, it doesn’t care that you’re almost out of ammo.
The only story you get is in these cassette tapes you’ll find, usually next to spare bullets left lying around. They talk about how you’ve survived “the mindkill” as a “receiver”: an individual with improved, or at least non-degraded mental defenses. There’s also information on how to wield the firearms and disable the killdrones, but you’ll have likely figured those things out by the time you find the corresponding tapes. There’s just enough of a story to make you want to learn the rest, enough to make you want to engage the killdrones and proceed deeper into the complex.
As far as roguelikes go, Receiver is as pure as it gets. No accrued bonuses that persist across multiple lives, no level skip, nada. At first, I hated that, but eventually I came to enjoy it. If you’ve read my earlier works, you know I’m more a fan of, I’ll call them roguelike-light games. Ones where you start over on death, but can still stock up something for later lives. That said, once I got past the initial frustration of the game, I found myself really savoring every little event and the emotions that came with it. The panic when a drone charges you, the relief of finding a cache of bullets, and things of that nature. The stakes magnified everything to a point where I, a veteran of hundreds of different games, actually got scared, nervous, happy, angry, and so on. That’s pretty impressive.
The graphics are bland, as even on the highest setting the complex just feels sterile. I will say that the guns are and drones are well detailed compared the more simplified environments. I still can’t tell what counts as a weak-spot, though. Pickups are marked by a faint glow, which makes sure you don’t pass by some much needed ammunition. The sound department is more of the same, with a brooding soundtrack that is interrupted by the occasional beep of a killdrone or gunfire. That said, the music helps set the proper mood as you play the game: nervous anticipation.
Receiver is available for $5 on steam or the Wolfire Games website. For that price, I can recommend it to anyone that has the patience to learn the mechanics. It is ultimately more of an experiment than a game, but I had fun with it, and that’s the whole point, right?