Early Access Epsilon

I got my hands on the Early Access of Serellan‘s hybrid stealth-action tactical shooter Epsilon recently..

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Epsilon emphasises both team play and tactics, with use of covert surveillance technology with interactive digital maps during a pre-mission planning phase and then squad based strategy during the mission itself.. where you need to bear in mind that while you may have laid out very careful plans, it can still go wrong!

So, with a rather cool comic-style intro, the scene is set: terrorists have infiltrated and captured the Unipol Cybercrime HQ, and have taken hostages.  In we go!

Epsilon - Tactical Map

I was intrigued by the idea of the planning phase and the tactical map.  At first I was a bit lost with all the symbols, and I’d have liked the key to be visible alongside the map instead of clicking back and forth between map and key.  However, once you’ve had a little time with it, you know what the symbols all mean and it doesn’t matter any more.

I’m not sure if I had missed an instruction somewhere, but I discovered by accident that you can click on a camera to view the hostiles through it!  I had assumed I’d be locating and destroying the cameras to stop them seeing me, but this was a lot more exciting.. and useful as you can target the hostiles so they show up on the map too 🙂

Epsilon - Tag Hostiles Via Camera Feed

To plan the route for your squad you set waypoints through the map.  I’m happy to admit that I have no idea what I’m doing with waypoints.  I figured it was safer to make loads of points and go slowly, rather than risk the squad charging off through a room full of hostiles.  I could just have the squad follow me, or use the “go here” command in-game, but having some kind of tactics for the team to follow sounds more fun.

Waypoints

You can spend as long as you like on the planning phase, which is great as it allows those like me to have more time to think, and the experts time to set up the perfect plan.  After setting up the waypoints, you move on to equipping the squad.

Epsilon - Equip Squad

Primary and Secondary guns.  Lots of guns.  I don’t know any of them, but that’s not going to surprise anybody who knows me.  Some of the items are currently unavailable and marked as a “Future Feature”, which really, you can’t complain about as Epsilon is still an early pre-alpha.  I was interested to see some stats for the squad members (Assault, Stealth and Accuracy) and though they were all the same for each man, I think this must be something planned for the future too!  Once the squad is set up to your liking, you can hit start and the mission begins!

The team spawns at the bottom of a set of escalators, and then it’s up to you to get things going.  You can interact with the squad via the menu or hotkeys, and have them move on to the next waypoint, or gather up on you or a selected location.

Epsilon - Spawned

On my first few attempts, I found that I could tell the squad to open a door and that sometimes it would work, but sometimes not.  I’m not sure if all the instructions were fully working or whether I was trying to do something I shouldn’t, e.g., asking the guys to go through an unlocked door without getting them to unlock it first.  When I successfully got them to breach and clear, it was great to see.. and as there are a limited number of charges, I didn’t feel too guilty about it being overpowered.

Epsilon - Squad Instructions

I liked the sci-fi, near-future look of the game, and I was impressed with the lighting and reflections and how smoothly the game ran.  There were a few odd issues.. one of my team spawned holding his pistol with a hand in front of it as if it were the primary weapon.. there was some clipping at times too.  But, pre-alpha.

Tim commented that he didn’t like the detail down the sides of the HUD, but after my first failed run I’d already got used to it and didn’t really see it anymore.

Hostiles surrender when clipped, but if you don’t go and secure them, they can get back up and attack again!  Securing them is easy, as it’s a matter of holding a button as I assume we’re handcuffing them.  Freeing the hostages works in the same way – it’s simple and reasonably quick.

Epsilon - Secure Hostages

AI is incomplete yet, but it’s still playable.  I managed to get split up from the squad when I came under fire and got mixed up with a second hostile while trying to get around the first.  The squad obeyed their instructions and continued on to the waypoint, and I ended up further away on the map.  Unfortunately, hostiles from the floor above headed down the stairs, and attacked the squad.. who did nothing to defend themselves.  Two down.. and the last guy badly injured.  I didn’t succeed with that mission 😉

Epsilon - Splat

Epsilon is only in Early Access now, and given more time I’m sure it’s going to be something really great.

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