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Sir, You Are Being Hunted alpha impressions

Ah, the English countryside on a chilly winter’s morning. There’s a thick fog on the moor, dreary grey in the sky and an unpleasant drizzle in the air. It’s cold, wet and miserable – almost as bad as queuing. For the uninitiated it can be foreboding and creepy at the best of times, none more so than when you’re all alone, trapped in the woods away from the bright lights and big cities. And don’t even mention the gentrified, moustachioed robots who are you hunting you down for sport.

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Sir, you are most definitely being hunted. It doesn’t take long to realise this as you head out to explore and scavenge this procedurally generated archipelago of islands. An experiment has gone awry leaving you trapped here lest you recover the 25 pieces of a machine that can return you home.

“These tea-drinking, tweed-clad droids are not too dissimilar from those who still partake in fox hunting”It’s a daunting task, one made more difficult by the robotic fiends who patrol the islands with their deadly blunderbusses cocked and loaded. These tea-drinking, tweed-clad droids are not too dissimilar from those who still partake in fox hunting, snootily reliving the 18th century with all the pretentiousness you’d expect.

They’re mechanical aristocrats, top hats and all. As you cower in the tall, damp grass you’ll know when they’re nearby, each enemy signified by a distinctive digital clatter and a propensity to talk to one another about Britain’s favourite hot drink. Sound plays an integral role in your survival.

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You’ll spend the vast majority of your time unarmed after all, hiding amongst the trees and undergrowth and avoiding patrols as you move between quaint little villages. Houses here can be looted for supplies, whether it be food to keep you from starving to death, a map of the island or bandages to wrap up a bleeding wound.

You’ll need to be quick, though, because robots like supplies, too. If they discover a house before you do they may post up some guys to guard it and keep the treasure for themselves. You can try to take them on in a fight but this is an incredibly risky strategy unless you’re armed and their numbers are low. Better to distract them by dropping an alarm clock or throwing a glass bottle. You can even set up bear traps to temporarily disable them before finishing the job if you so please.

Whether it was worth the effort and drain on supplies or not is another matter. Snobby robots like peculiar things, so you may find that the house they were guarding is full of useless junk like mouldy bread or an old boot. But could you pass up the opportunity of finding something fantastic? Risk and reward at its finest.

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So far enemy types are limited but varied. The Blunderbuss-wielding patrols are the most common and they’re occasionally accompanied by robot dogs that can sniff you out even when you’re hidden. The stout Squire is perfectly content to leave you be considering his weight, though he will attack if he spots you looting, while an ominous balloon observes the night skies with spotlight in tow. A recent update also added some Halloween-themed nasties, but they’re better left unspoiled.

“It’s funny, too, balancing the incredibly tough task of meshing humour with a tense, dread-inducing atmosphere”Environments are similarly varied, maintaining a cohesive aesthetic amongst its four current areas: Rural, Fens, Mountain and Industrial. You can gain access to each via boat as you travel from island to island in search of more salvaged machinery and dwindling supplies.

It may be very early in development but Sir, You are Being Hunted’s promise is readily apparent. Its systems and rules are concise yet the AI leaves room for some welcome unpredictability. It’s funny, too, balancing the incredibly tough task of meshing humour with a tense, dread-inducing atmosphere against a sentient threat. These robots are definitely not ghouls and ghosts, and that’s frightening.

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It’s still relatively simplistic in its current state, which betrays the inherent replay value present in procedurally generated worlds of this nature, but more depth is set to arrive with future additions (including some appetising multiplayer). Monthly updates have been promised from here on out so it will certainly be interesting to see how it continues to evolve from this encouraging start. A quintessentially British game is a rare thing. Let us savour it.

Sir, You Are Being Hunted is now available on Steam Early Access.

The author of this fine article

is a Senior Staff Writer at Thunderbolt, having joined in June 2008. Get in touch on Twitter @richardwakeling.

Gentle persuasion

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