Dead Cyborg Brings Excitement, At First

by Ostatic Staff - Aug. 19, 2011

I have to confess that even as I grow older, I still love computer gaming and get excited when someone releases a commercial quality game for Linux. When Dead Cyborg Episode 1 was released on August 15, I thought perhaps this could be my next purchase (or, more accurately, donation).

The early screenshots looked great and the story line was intriguing. I guess Dead Cyborg could be described as a first person adventure puzzle game "about the meaning of life... and death... in a rusty post-apocalyptic metal and concrete world." I love first person games: shooters, adventures, horror, puzzle... The game itself is available as a tarball of binaries or, it is said, one can run it in their browser.  I didn't have much luck with that.

Installation is easy, just unpack it. There is a readme with some important information, so read that. Interestingly, 32- and 64-bit versions are included in the one tarball as well as additional startup scripts for those using Pulseaudio and choices between fullscreen or windowed. I had to install Blender (it's developed in Blender) and soft link a libjpeg file (a hack most developers cringe at), but then it started and ran well.

The honeymoon didn't last long. I can't rightly blame the game, and I don't, for my hardcoded playing habits or lack of coordination. WASD controls movement, which I'm accustomed to using, but the game is designed to use the arrow keys to control the main character's sight and interaction. I've always used the mouse for that and adapting to the arrow keys is a setback. I wish there was the option to use the mouse.

Game play is a bit slow going for me because of the arrow key brain rewiring I was having to do, but it was interesting and fun. In fact, it was starting to be very engaging. But another personal quirk of mine isn't going to be accommodated by this game. I love gaming, but for short spurts of 10 minutes or so at a time - and Dead Cyborg has no save feature. So, it's either play all the way through the level or start over. I'm assuming it'll autosave at the completion of a level. If it doesn't, then that's definitely a deal breaker for me.

Episode 1 seems to have four levels and other episodes will be released if enough funding is raised for the previous episode. This is the biggest strike against it. I don't think I'm alone with the personality quirk of getting addicted to my latest favorite game. Reaching the end of Episode 1 and having to wait for Episode 2 will be suspenseful (although at this point the site says that Episode 2 is about half way finished), but not knowing if the end will ever come is almost too risky to commit to.

Setting aside my idiosyncratic quirks one finds an great looking environment and graphics, interesting storyline, and fairly tightly integrated puzzles. I can rewire my brain to use arrow keys, and the levels seem short enough to plan enough time to complete without a save, but I'm not sure the business model will assure folks will want to get involved. Donation-based payments usually work out well for games (judging by the Humble Indie Bundles and World of Goo), but folks may not want to donate if the next episode may or may not arrive dependent upon if other folks donate enough or not. And will the previous episode continue to be available for those coming in and donating at the second or third episode? The arrival of the next episode shouldn't be in question (from the user standpoint). I can understand the developers' reasons for this, but I just don't like the model. I'm not sure I can get on-board.

See the Website for more information, review links, FAQs, trailers, and such.