Carrion revels in the delicious notion that being the bad guy is inherently more fun; a reverse horror game from Devolver Digital that puts you in control of a nightmarish creature. We go hands on with a demo build of the game.
A hugely important, but difficult to quantify, metric within game design is the "feel" of a player character. It can often make or break an experience, particularly one like Carrion which attempts to buck existing trends and is trying something different. The amorphous red blob creature is a force to be reckoned with, and mere seconds after taking control, the rhythm of movement fell into place and we found ourselves expertly navigating the level. With a simple flick in a direction of your choosing, it throws out an adhesive tentacle and you'll quickly dart to your destination.
When you combine the efficiency of your movement with the brutality and speed of combat, Carrion absolutely clicked with us in a way that is extremely exciting. Zipping around the environment and gobbling up unsuspecting humans is a devilish delight. You have to consume enemies in order to grow, but you're hardly invincible; flanking adversaries armed with flamethrowers is one of many considerations you have to factor in to your approach.
Until you're able to increase your mass, it won't take many stray bullets to put you down. So there's a neat push and pull between quick reactions, clever positioning, and finding the right moment to strike and overwhelm. You'll have a few opportunities to save at checkpoints dotted around each level, but for the most part it's all about forward momentum and dealing with the next threat. As you progress, new abilities are thrown into the mix, including a webbing style ranged attack and the ability to burst through stronger barriers to access previously sealed areas.
Despite a simplified visual design, there's a ton of lovely touches that deserve recognition. The use of destructible elements is a neat addition, with lightbulbs, computers, doors, and other objects all reacting dynamically to the creature as you explore. It lends weight to your movement, and definitely helps convey the notion that you're an unstoppable menace. Snippets of audio as characters react to your presence, and the sound effects of your movement, feel like a loving homage to horror classics, and the use of music, although sparing, is effective.
We've already touched upon the relentless nature of combat, but it's fair to say that Carrion doesn't shy away from more graphic sequences. Human enemies can literally be ripped apart, with a cascade of blood and limbs regularly decorating each location you invade. It's proudly a mature title, and there's something truly gratifying about seeing a game like this focus on delivering its core premise without compromise.
There wasn't much narrative context provided in the demo, but we do know that the creature has been trapped in a prison of some sort and the game sees you attempt to make your escape. Regardless of which direction the story goes, we can confidently say that Carrion has skyrocketed into our list of most anticipated indie titles for next year. It's challenging, feels great to play, and puts such an interesting spin on the genre that we can't wait to see more.
Carrion launches in 2020 for Xbox One, and PC.