Tuesday, 1 October 2013

My Usual Spiel: Sub Rosa, trust, deceict and greed simplified

Release Date: 17/8/2012
Genre: Indie Team-based FPS

Publisher: Cryptic Sea

Developer: Cryptic Sea 
Platform: PC/Mac/Linux
Players: Online Multiplayer

Classification: Unclassified

The Latin phrase Sub Rosa, meaning “under the rose” in English basically means anything secret or confidential, it is also the name of one of the best small indie games I’ve experienced. I found out about it through my good friend Brok Power who had previously shown me the original Ace of Spades.

Sub Rosa is a 3D FPS (First Person Shooter) which brings so much more to the table than your average FPS that you may not understand it all until you actually play it. Set in an alternate laissez-faire 1980's city, you join one of three corporations with one goal: making money. Gameplay involves tense deals, double crosses and car chases between these opposing teams or ‘companies’ named Goldmen Inc (Gold), Monsota (Blue) and OXS International (Grey) situated in a very plain looking city at various levels of sunset.

Sub Rosa Gameplay (version 0.7b)

Sub Rosa was originally created by Cryptic Sea for the 7 Day FPS game jam, hence it’s simplistic nature, like Ace of Spades the first primarily noticeable thing about Sub Rosa that is the graphics are minimal at best, you’re in a city of tarmac roads and 3 dimensional block buildings with not much else other then parking garages and grassy areas, if you can call the green parts grass that is, there aren’t even any trees (as yet) and the characters and vehicles are all of a similar minimalistic style, it’s often hard to distinguish what team you’re driving past as only their ties are coloured which makes it hard to see from a distance. Of course this is all expected in which the original version was made in 7 days for a competition and I think they’ve done a pretty good job, after all it’s still in beta. The plain black/white/grey menu screen fits perfectly and I am impressed by the amount of options available, I found the game is not able to be alt-tabbed but you can get around this by playing in windowed mode which isn’t too bad, there are a few servers available but none in Australia though the ping seems to be ok in most cases.

A Three-way deal gone wrong at the highway near the park, you can actually see the bullets whizzing around.
Once you enter into a server or the very useful driving or shooting ranges you immediately notice a few ways that Sub-rosa differs from your normal FPS, the basic controls are mainly the same, WASD to move left mouse button to shoot, E to enter vehicles, TAB to show the map etc, when you first move around you’ll notice you character doesn’t quite stop as soon as you take your finger off the move button they sort of slide to a stop, making general moving around and especially getting into cars a bit awkward. 
"What a mess" "You're tellin me"
The game uses a one-hand one-object way of handling items and uses the number keys as an ‘inventory’ rather than a “click 1 for main weapon” click 4 for knife” etc style so for example if you can only pick up an item or drive a car if you currently have nothing in your hands (or hand) and you “store” an item by pressing the number keys which have 5 slots. This makes things kind of tricky when you’re starting out or trying to do things quickly i.e. pick up suitcase, pick up disk, select suitcase, open suitcase, insert disk, close suitcase, put away suitcase , get gun out etc you can spend a lot of time remembering what to do (especially dropping items which uses the tilde ~ key- very annoying trying to explain to every new person how to do it) but I spose you do get used to it after a while.

"No I'll take the disc, drop it, you need to press tilde, yes the little squiggly line next to the 1 key, oh wait we're in a car" "How the hell do we even speak we have no mouths" "Will you two shut up back there!"
Before a match you start in your company’s base which contains your vault and available cars. You can purchase various items inc. guns, vehicles, bandages and stocks (by pressing Q), the mission items are provided and dropped for you. As you earn money you can purchase better items to help you succeed (the 9MM is always free but you cannot purchase if you’re money is on minus figures). I’m still not exactly sure how buying stock works but there’s a pretty good explanation on the Sub Rosa Gaming site which is a great source of information for the game.

The buying screen which you can use at any time while in your own base, that's our vault I'm standing in front of by the way.
Basically the gameplay is round based, with different game modes I've detailed below.  These modes often revolve around items like wads (or blocks) of money, suitcases and 8-inch floppy discs, yes you heard that correctly you’re killing each other over information stored on a piece of technology which is probably older then you, though that’s what they used in the 70’s and 80’s. These items are used in the game as objectives and for wheeling and dealing depending on the game mode, most of the time you have to acquire a certain colour of floppy disc as a primary goal and another as a secondary goal, the primary winning you and you company more money obviously, here is a brief description of each below.

"Ok drop the case, and I'm gonna check it too, so no funny business"
 Transaction: This round is the most frequent of the game modes, the three teams either start off with a disk, cash to trade for the disk, or nothing at all. This mode usually involves the teams with the disk and the cash organising to trade and the team with nothing often either pretends to have money or just comes in shooting- the object of most games is to retrieve your primary objective (disk or cash) and bring it back to the vault inside your base.

3-Way Deal – This mode is almost always the most tense, all 3 teams have disks and have a different colour disc as their primary goal, the teams must communicate to organise a clean trade or double cross.

Acquisition: In this mode all teams have to acquire the floppy disks from enemy NPC characters driving limos around the city. If you fail to do this the NPC’s drive out through the tunnels on the edges of the map and the round finishes.

Race: As the name says this mode involves a race around the city in a pre-determined track blocked off by barriers with white banners as gates. This is one of the most interesting game modes as it has a special rule that the first player who fires a gun they lose $10,000, though once any player on any team has shot everyone is free to shoot as they please.

Acquisition mode can get pretty nasty
 All modes apart from race usually involve some kind of communication with another team, you can do this by pressing the Y and U keys, there is no global chat (though there is same-team chat).  The city environment consists of flat and angled roads, buildings and some grassy spots with many key areas:

Company Bases: Located on 3 corners of the map, this is where you start in a round depending on which team you are on.

Buildings marked with letters: A, B, and C are parking garages, with some being multi-level. D is a large open building, often called the “factory” or “warehouse”. Brok likes to call it "where people go to die".

The Park: A patch of green near the middle of the map. Very popular for 3-way trades.

The Dead End: Yep that’s it, the only one on the map. A favourite spot for gold-blue deals.

Civilian cars be found on various carparks, in race mode barriers are set up to mark the course, there is also some other grassy patches, pillars and gaps around the city. You should be cautious if asked to perform a deal in the dead end or building D as these are places with limited cover and prone to ambush.

The city map and memorandum (mission briefing)
I must admit I’ve had a lot of fun in the game; it’s the unpredictability of it that leads to many fun albeit incredibly tense encounters when one loose shot can turn an already tense deal into a shootout where one team member grabs the case and limps bleeding through a hail of bullets back to the car before the driver screeches away and floors it back to base with another car in hot pursuit. My friend Brok and I have had lots of fun playing it while voice chatting and it’s makes it that much easier than trying to type everything, it’s amazing also the amount of strategy involved as you try to co-operate with or outsmart the other team. The only drawback I found is that if you’re playing over LAN you have to be all on the same team otherwise you’re going to hear each other’s strategy.

If you like Indie games or just FPS with a twist and are looking for something different, this is a good one. I leave you now with a video made by my friend Brok aka Mr. Pink


We built this city....

1 comment:

  1. Co-authoring and "Sub Rosa Radio" video by Brok Power