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Klei Entertainment’s Incognita Looks Incredible

/ Aug 7th, 2013 No Comments


[adsense250itp]Incognita is the newest game in development from Klei Entertainment. Announced back in early July, it is a turn-based tactical espionage game with an isometric point-of-view and an emphasis on collecting intelligence and stealth. Klei’s past few games, Mark of the Ninja and Don’t Starve, have been extremely impressive. Seeing Klei try out different genres and trying new things is exciting since the studio could likely have been making derivatives of their past successes without issue. For them to make a turn-based strategy game is a very promising prospect for fans of the genre after seeing several amazing titles in the genre recently (XCOM: Enemy Unknown, Fire Emblem: Awakenings and Skulls of the Shogun). After making one of the best stealth games, maybe ever, but definitely in a long while; Klei is taking another stab at stealth gameplay with Incognita. This time, however, they are giving the patience intensive mechanic a turn-based spin. Incognita looks to marry Klei’s signature and distinctive visual flair with deep tactical gameplay mechanics. Recently, Klei streamed an early in-house build (a build the developers are using before the build they will tinker with for actual development) of the game on their Twitch channel. The stream revealed the basic mechanics underlying the game and some of the mechanics they plan to tweak by the game’s 2014 release.

Klei’s developer lead live stream laid out the basic ideas behind the gameplay in Incognita. The game will start in a headquarters where players are able to do a number of actions from buying new items, hiring new agents, but for the stream, the focus was entering a level. Levels take place in various complexes that the player’s agents (various classes) infiltrate. Once inside the agents must find the exit to the level that may be up several floors or through a few rooms depending on the progress of the game in order to head back to their headquarters. Along the way, the agents need to collect intelligence, which can be documents, gear or loot. Gathering information is key because while the exit is always known to give players an idea of where to head, everything is a mystery at the beginning of a level. In order to get a sense of the building, agents need to sneak around rooms, hack electronics and sometimes kill or incapacitate guards to find items and a path to the exit.


Agents can skulk about buildings.

Since the game is turned-based, during a player’s turn, they can do a number of different things. Each agent has a specific number of tiles they can move and a set number of actions they can perform per turn. While hacking a computer to gain valuable CPU points an agent will use up their action point for the turn, but opening a door or picking up an item does not cost an action point. During the player turn, an agent can use their action points to perform class unique actions, attack a guard, hack electronics or go into overwatch mode (done to prevent an enemy from killing a unit unexpectedly during the corporation’s turn). To prevent players from favoring an action heavy strategy, guns are limited by ammo. Meaning that players cannot just shoot their way through the game. Ammo can be bought or found, but that should not be the main means of progressing through the game. Cover plays a role in combat, so unit position will play a factor in shots. Also, if a unit moves too close to an enemy, there is an opportunity for a reaction shot.

While finding the exit is the main objective, players need to be mindful to find safes. Though not necessary to complete a level, if a player avoids cracking safes then their agents will be under-powered and under-leveled as the difficulty increases during story progression. The way agents level up in the game is by gathering data discs locked up in safes rather than performing actions or killing guards. This puts the emphasis on stealth and smart tactics instead of a combat intensive approach to levels.


Data disks are key to leveling up agents.

The game is procedural meaning that things generate randomly and will always look different. Levels are randomly generated and the size of levels increases as the game progresses. The bigger the level, the more difficult it is. Incognita has permadeath and gameplay is designed to be dangerous, so caution when exploring rooms is usually necessary so agents do not die prematurely, especially with an entire building left to explore. While erring on the side of caution is generally recommended, Klei put in an alarm system for each match meaning that the complex is looking for the player’s agents. This prevents players from taking too long or playing too cautiously. After each set player/enemy turns, the alarm ramps up or if an enemy guard is killed without having their heart monitor disabled, the alarm goes up too. Additionally, not disabling a heart monitor of a murdered guard will reinstate system security and ratchet up the security.

As the alarm gets higher, the difficulty increases. It starts at 1 and keeps moving up to 20. At 20 things get exceedingly difficult as an enemy swat team of enforcers enters to hunt the player. When the alarm reaches 20, enforces spawn at the beginning of the level. This happens every time the alarm reaches 20 in any level giving players a good idea of how far away the enforcers will always be. They will keep spawning until players reach the exit or lower the alarm through various methods in the game. Thus, mixing aggression and caution is key to finding good items and leveling up in the game and progressing through the complexes.


Incognita’s mainframe mode.

The game features two layers to gameplay, one is the agent mode where the player moves agents through the building to take out guards and hack computers, and the other is mainframe mode. Mainframe mode gives a grid look to the map where the player can see hacked electronics, units and devices with protected barriers. While in mainframe mode, players can use CPUs to break the ice (protection) on safes and other locked items. The higher the ice, the more CPUs the player needs, but the player has a limited amount of CPUs during any given turn. They can gain more by hacking more computers in the building, and the CPU regenerates on each player turn. In mainframe mode, players can crack safes, hack camera databases (which gives them an idea of where cameras are located in the building) and disable enemy heart rate monitors. There are two ways of gaining information in the game, which is agents stealthily maneuvering through the complex and through mainframe mode where the player supports units. Both methods are necessary for successfully moving through the levels.

Three classes appeared in the stream: engineer, stealth, and sharpshooter. The engineer can scan for electronic devices to give the player an idea of where they will need to hack. The stealth class does not make a sound when moving (indicated by a blue ring around the character a la Mark of the Ninja), so that class will not alert guards when sneaking around and has access to a dart gun to incapacitate a guard for a turn or two. The sharpshooter has a rifle, which allows the class to shoot enemies long range and is more effective at combat. All agents also have a melee attack that will knock an enemy out for a turn. At release there will be more classes, but the number is still up in the air. The plan is to make classes asymmetrical, so players will try different mixes to tackle levels. Currently, the max number of agents during a mission is six, but Klei is tinkering with that number and it may change by its release.

Incognita is not simply about playing an endless series of levels, there is a story that takes place in the game. It is linear single player story, but will have some procedurally generated content to convey atmosphere and the world built around the game. From everything Klei showed off during the live stream, Incognita is shaping up to be a very interesting title with some deep mechanics powering it. While the AI is still not quite as smart as they would like, that will change as development ramps up. Klei has plans to include female agents, but at the time of the stream the art has not been created for it. There is still plenty of time for all of their larger ideas to be implemented before Incognita’s 2014 release. The reason they are showing off such an early is build is due to the good response and feedback they got from Don’t Starve. The developer plans to have a beta for Incognita with a few months, so it will be thrilling to see where the game is at by the time Klei launches that. Regardless, the game is one to watch for next year.


Kalvin Martinez

Kalvin Martinez

Senior Editor at Gaming Illustrated
Kalvin Martinez studied Creative Writing at the University of California, Santa Cruz. He writes reviews, prose and filthy limericks. While he is Orange County born, he now resides in Portland, OR. He is still wondering what it would be like to work at a real police department. Follow Kalvin on Twitter @freepartysubs
Kalvin Martinez

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