Vindictive Drive Early Access Review
Sometimes You Just Need To Kill Your Dad
In almost every aspect, Vindictive Drive needs work. The visuals are unpleasant, with additional artwork adding little to the RPG Maker look. The dialogue is poorly written, failing to capture how anyone would believably speak, and the writing is clumsy. All of the characters are flat stereotypes with no endearing qualities. Controlling the game is a mish-mash of interfaces and hotkeys, one that will often leave you spending more time figuring out what to do than just playing.
All that said, there are some interesting ideas at work in this action/stealth game, and the developer made the RPG Maker system do some unique stuff. Barring an almost complete overhaul, though, I don’t see these issues being resolved by the end of Vindictive Drive‘s stay on Early Access.
It’s impossible not to notice the amateur look of the game when you start it up. The artwork, while a nice touch, just doesn’t look good. Having an animated opening and drawn character models would be a great addition to many games, but most of this looks like someone’s first foray with a drawing tablet. It’s disproportioned, elements are missing in places and generally looks like the work of someone who’s just finding their feet as an artist.
The story and characters feel about the same. It focuses on Arris, a suicidal person enraged at her father for killing her mother in front of her. That would make for solid motivation in many stories, but I really couldn’t make myself care if she got her revenge or not. That’s because she has nothing but snarky comments to make about everyone she meets, thinking awful things about everyone, no matter how pleasant they are to her.
Having an unlikeable protagonist isn’t a crime, but having one you don’t care about is. The trouble is, I feel nothing for her. She is relentlessly dark in her thoughts, unpleasant to the people she meets, and only thinks about her revenge in cold terms. Even when she recollects her mother’s death, there is no emotion to it. Nothing here gives me the sense that she actually cares about her revenge, except that she says she wants it. So, if she doesn’t care, neither do I, and the narrative falls flat.
It’s not helped by the dialogue. The characters talk like they’re clumsily trying to convey a trait. I’m told that a character cares for his co-criminals, and within a minute, he makes sure to say something along the lines of “I care about you.” I know. I got it a minute ago. Others are just so relentlessly dark, like Arris, or ramble on about waifus when they’re about to rob a bank. The dialogue is either trying so hard to convey a trait that it comes off as ridiculous or is so overwrought that you end up with the same result.
Again, the issue feels like the writer hasn’t spent enough time writing, and that this is the first foray into the craft. Character motivations and dialogue need to be a lot more subtle to draw in the player and make them care, and this just isn’t present yet.
“Having an unlikeable protagonist isn’t a crime, but having one you don’t care about is.”
As for the game itself, there are interesting elements. As a stealth/action game, players will have to use a variety of tools and weapons to get through areas in real time. Shooting guards should be a last resort, as you have listening devices, security-disabling mechanisms, and other gadgets that will help you sneak around.
These can be bound to hotkeys, letting you choose which of your tools you think you’ll need the most in a given area. These can be swapped on the fly as well, so you won’t go without when you come across a rough situation. Just don’t try to use them with hotkeys when the hotkey bar isn’t on the bottom of the screen. That’s when you have to go into the menus and manually select them. Something that took me twenty minutes to figure out, and frustrated me greatly.
Your tools aren’t without some nuisances, too. Using detection devices will make a small circle appear around you, and just from the animation, one would assume that this is your radius of discovery. It’s not. The device detects anything nearby on the screen, and this circle is just a cute effect. Also, as you use an item, it costs battery power (and you can run out), so if you haven’t figured this out and are using it every few steps, you’ll quickly run out of power. These also don’t recharge on their own.
Most of those issues could be resolved with better explanations, though, and besides, finding listening devices and cameras is neat. You can also strip these items off the walls once you’ve detected them and disabled them (which is done with the same device), using the parts to help yourself later. It adds a nice collection element and makes each moment spent disabling feel useful.
Should you miss a few of them, you’ll get dragged into the game’s live combat, as guards will be let loose into the area once you trip too many alarms (you can drop your detection level using items you pick up from disabled cameras and devices). For this, you just need to point your character and hit the attack button, providing you have the bullets. It doesn’t take much to kill you, encouraging players to take care with their shots. It’s a little clumsy to line up a shot, and the enemies are much faster, but this works with the stealth element. You shouldn’t be getting in fights, anyway.
The problem is that I just can’t make myself care if Arris lives or not. The writing and her character are just so unpleasant that it’s difficult to muster the will to make her survive. It also makes it hard to want to spend any more time in this world of absurd people and flat characters. Finding security devices and sneaking around is entertaining, but has just enough hiccups to make the whole package a little too irritating. The gameplay problems can be fixed, but short of completely overhauling the story and artwork with years of practice as artists, I don’t see how this will change after Early Access.
Worth Your Money: Probably Never