Divide reminds me of watching sci-fi ’90s games over my dad’s shoulder

‘Member Crusader: No Remorse? I ‘member

Though we’ve covered the isometric sci-fi Divide in the past, I was unfamiliar with how it looked and played until I got my hands on it. If I had seen it last year and known that it was going to remind me of watching my dad play games that I probably shouldn’t have been watching, it would have been one of my most anticipated games for 2017.

Playing as David, a normie from our normie world, you and your daughter are on a train when you black out and wake up in a dystopian future. This helped me jump into the hard sci-fi world, since David and I both couldn’t tell jack from shit. Instead of drowning in science jargon explaining why everything in the world can be hacked and why soldiers wanted to kill me, David was as confused as I was. It’s an old narrative trick, but it felt welcome here.

Divide plays out as an isometric mix of stealth, shooting, and hacking. The demo I played was separated into two chunks: one was more focused on story elements and general worldbuilding, and the other was a vertical slice of combat. One of the developers kept warning me that the combat demo was very difficult, and he was correct. I died time and again when I tried to shoot enemies, since the twin-stick controls were a little tricky. In a nice touch, face buttons are never used so you only have to utilize the sticks and the shoulder buttons. I think with more time to get my bearings it would have played just fine, but it’s still probably better to try to be a sneakier player.

Everything can be hacked, including drones and doors. Almost every intersection of paths you find let you “check in” like you’re playing future Facebook. There are points you receive for doing this, but I’m not sure what they’re used for yet.

My biggest takeaway from Divide, though, was remembering watching my dad play games like Crusader: No Remorse on our old PC, which was basically a magical machine that transported us to faraway lands in mind. This is mostly due to the pre-rendered backgrounds and isometric perspective, but David being a normal guy reminded me a lot of Another World, Flashback, and Fade to Black. When I brought this up, the developer said that’s something it’s been hearing a lot. Even the way the characters move and talk reminds me of games from the ’90s. Whether or not that’s a good thing is hard to say until we have more time with it.

A thirty-minute demo on a show floor is kind of a tough sell with a slow-burner like this, but I’m beyond curious to see if Exploding Tuba Studios can build upon the nostalgia it is aiming for. Divide releases on January 31, so we’ll know soon.

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Zack Furniss
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