Quick Look – Industria

Today I’m going to talk a little bit about Industria, a game I added to my wishlist after playing the demo during PAX Online in 2020, as part of Unwise Owl’s group review of the Humble Choice for September 2022. Industria has no paid DLC, and retails for $19.99.

Despite having been on my wish list for quite some time, I knew I wasn’t in a big rush to pick up Industria. While I have nothing against a four-hour game, twenty dollars seemed a little steep to me for such a compact experience. Sure, the game’s store page makes it sound like a really interesting setting for an FPS, but the demo I played a couple of years ago was rough around the edges, and there wasn’t anything about it that made it a “must buy” for me. However, when it showed up in September’s Humble Choice, I jumped at the chance to be the one to give it a whirl.

Now, first person shooters aren’t my bread and butter by any means; they’re more of an occasional indulgence. When all the pieces come together, it’s a genre I can get pretty invested in. Industria has a pretty unique concept – going on a search for a missing person in a dangerous parallel dimension. However, a significant part of the early game relies a little to heavily on environmental storytelling, and doesn’t really get you invested. Then, the pacing is so very slow, and the combination meant that it just couldn’t hold my attention. If you’re only giving me four hours of game, I want to be all in right from the start.

A little more than half an hour into the game, I found myself stuck on a puzzle, and I had yet to encounter a single enemy that I had to deal with. Which is probably best, because despite picking up multiple ammo types, I also hadn’t managed to locate a gun yet. Now, I’ll allow for the possibility that I might have missed a weapon pick up; being unsure of where the game was leading me, I tended to just pick a direction and go that way until I couldn’t, but I feel like if a game is being billed as a shooter, it shouldn’t be squirreling away your first chance at a ranged weapon down a dead end corridor somewhere. You should either start with a gun, or trip over one pretty damn quickly.

I may have been a little more patient with a longer game, but knowing that playing through the entire game was going to be a fairly short affair, I found myself pretty irritated pretty much from the start. Was the lack of direction an oversight, or a deliberate choice in order to pad an extremely short play time?

Then there are the puzzles. Now, I normally don’t mind a puzzle or two in a game, even when they feel a little out of place, so they didn’t immediately turn me off. The first couple were simple enough, tiny speedbumps on the way to blasting my way through the story line.

But just as there is the first whisper of actual danger, I found myself needing to get through a gate to turn on some steam engines to power an elevator to (maybe) get to the person who ostensibly just saved my life by shooting a couple of robots. Having to hunt around for the correct chemicals to mix to be able to remove the rust on the gate mechanism was already tedious, and I had a recipe for that. Trying to figure out how to get the engines running with no instructions and no real feedback from the game was the last straw for me.

I wanted to feel the tension of being lost in a strange unknowable place. I wanted to care enough about the man I was searching for to press through the frustrating bits. I wanted to have the opportunity to shoot some baddies. That was when I realized the only thing I didn’t want to be doing was fixing the stupid steam engines, and I closed the game. I don’t expect I’ll go back to it.

Not only can I not recommend purchasing this month’s Humble Choice for Industria, I don’t even think I can in good conscience say it’s worth an install if you already plan to buy the bundle, at least not if you’re looking for a heart-pounding shooter with a good story. But if you’re looking for a slow-paced walking sim with passable graphics, questionable lighting choices, and spotty sound design in which you may have to – eventually – shoot at something, well, then this might be exactly the game you’re looking for.

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