Safe House (PC) Review

By Wes Maulsby 29.06.2018

Review for Safe House on PC

Safe House is the first game from Labs Games, a one-man studio out of Vancouver, and it shows hints of promise from this new developer. Players take on the role of an agent responsible for overseeing clandestine espionage and military operations in a fictional war-torn African country in the height of the Cold War. As the scope of the campaign grows, so to do the obstacles in your way, as well as the power of the enemy against whom you are waging a secret campaign. The goal is to establish and grow your own titular safe house, which you will operate out of and expand in order to meet the growing challenges. Unfortunately, the greatest obstacle players will face is the game's own ineptitude and a poor presentation, which stifles any attempts for it to become fun.

The gameplay idea is the best aspect Safe House has going for it. The idea of taking over an overseas espionage campaign is a solid concept, and the core gameplay revolves around the construction of additional rooms for your agents to operate out of - each of which comes with its own set of challenges. The game is set up to unfold in phases. During the nights, the player will be charged with executing various tasks. This will begin easily enough by only needing to be able to see through messages to turn away enemy agents. Throughout, you will construct more rooms, each of which come with their own tasks that must be completed, and thus that is the core gameplay hook. In-between these evening sessions, you can either build onto the safe house or send agents out into the field to conduct missions. This, unfortunately, is where the list of the game's strengths ends.

Instead, it is time to move onto the areas where the game is lacking, and those are disappointingly numerous, yet they can be wrapped up cleanly in two words: presentation and polish. The presentation is poor. The graphics are startlingly dated, as the character models could have passed as extras from the original Grim Fandango, except those 20-year-old characters actually had faces. The 2D depictions are slightly better, although they can in no way stack up to even what other indie developers are able to create with 2D art. The lack of a strong art style or character depiction encapsulates the fact that this does not have a lot of personality. It has an identity - it is a political thriller sort of affair set during the Cold War - but without distinct character looks or personalities, a distinct art-style, or anything resembling compelling music, this becomes little more than an interactive desktop wallpaper.

Screenshot for Safe House on PC

The lack of presentation permeates into the gameplay, as well. The core hook is to run a safe house, manage all the tasks, and build new additions to your safe house, which in turn introduces more tasks. While the addition of more things to potentially do during the night initially seems like it could become daunting, the way the game treats the tasks, as well as the night segments in general, neuter any potential difficulty. The task to complete in the very first room (turning imposter agents away at the door) never changes from the first time you do it to the last time. Introducing new challenges without expanding on or evolving the previous ones turns the list of challenges instead into a list of chores that have to be mindlessly done in order to progress. Compounding this is a shocking lack of stakes that suck out any potential difficulty. There is no urgency within the game, and with the only punishment coming from failing a chore, by far the best tactic is to just play everything safe; and safe is boring. Once the realisation of this takes hold, it all becomes a bit a slog, and the once promising beginning is completely replaced by a gussied up grocery list.

The lack of polish rears its ugly head in smaller bits throughout the gameplay that initially seem trivial, but, via repeated exposure, they grow into their own problems. The UI is not snappy with aspects of a task lingering for a while after completing those respective tasks, and the sluggish camera feels unresponsive for a few seconds after getting back to an overview of your safe house. Some aspects of the interface and buttons are inconsistent, and there are times when the text-box is partially cut, rendering some of the information difficult to discern. There are additional bugs, such as one of the field agents never retaining points gained from levelling up. Individually, none of these would be enough to warrant even a mention, but the repeated exposure, as well as running into some of them over and over again during review, took its toll on any ability to enjoy this for extended periods of time.

Screenshot for Safe House on PC

Cubed3 Rating

4/10
Rated 4 out of 10

Subpar

Safe House is an unfortunate case. Its core concept and chief gameplay hook are not without potential, which is what makes playing this so frustrating. The foundation to make a solid little spy-themed version of Papers Please is there, but none of the other necessary components made it into the game. A sparse presentation, coupled with an increasingly apparent lack of polish, restricts any potential this game had, instead reducing it to a fairly forgettable experience.

Developer

Labs Games

Publisher

Labs Games

Genre

Strategy

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  4/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   

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