Inner Chains has one of the most epic intros a game could have in my estimation. That alone made this game something I wanted to try out, so when a copy came across the ethereal surface of my existential desk, I was very excited to check Inner Chains out. It is worth noting that Inner Chains definitely saw a troubled release, and it was obvious this was a first time developer. Still, Telepaths Tree kept their resolve, engaged the community despite a fair amount of vitriol from gamers and regularly provided both updates and loose road maps for future repairs, until around the end of July (2017), when they stopped completely. One of the devs did however comment in the forum recently, claiming there will be at least one more patch forthcoming before the game is completely abandoned. So, with all that in mind, how was my own experience with the game?
The story in Inner Chains was very, very interesting to me. You awake as an amnesiac in a horrifying post apocalyptic world, as one of many. Legion if you will. However, you still retain your ability to perceive the world around you, even if you don’t even recall how simple language works. As you travel, you will uncover letters from the alphabet, which will in turn allow you to decipher various writings you find that develop the lore of the world, as you start to re-learn language. This was a particularly fascinating aspect of the story. Outside of that however, a lot is left to your imagination and the story as a whole is fairly elusive. Fascinating, but difficult to isolate.
8 out of 10
The gameplay in Inner Chains is actually fairly generic shooter material. You travel through almost completely linear levels, killing a decent variety of enemies, avoiding traps, and basically trying to get from point A to point B. Initially, a lot of the beings in this world aren’t hostile, but as you progress, they almost all will end up being hostile. Most notable in this are your overlords, who herd the people like cattle, and who will end up being your primary adversaries as you go along.
There is a nice variety of weapons that are all powered and operated off of a wrist/bracer/thingy. These different types of ammo, as it were, are all color coded (red for fire, green for poison, etc…) and can be recharged at stations found throughout. Each are color specific though and so you can only recharge that type ammo at each specific station. Each station also will heal you. However, each station also only has a limited amount of energy and can be depleted. Different enemies are obviously more affected by specific types of ammo and immune to others. There is also a melee attack, but this is largely ineffectual and an absolute last resort.
Throughout the game, you will also find clairvoyance stations, which look like creepy face sucking trees. These function like security cameras, although the enemies won’t be using them.
One interesting gameplay dynamic is the ability to use health as ammo if necessary. This is obviously not the best scenario, but it will come up often.
You will uncover language in the form of letters hidden throughout, and these serve as collectibles, albeit with an important purpose (allowing you to translate the various text found throughout the game). You’ll actually find that once you’ve found enough letters, you’ll be able to translate the rest easily just by analyzing use and patterns.
As far as the linear level design, I think this actually works nicely. However, there isn’t enough variation between levels, and this results in an otherwise fantastic idea becoming somewhat generic as a corridor shooter.
There have also been no lack for bugs, as I mentioned in my intro. As of my last play session, many had not been resolved and more had been created by the last patch, notably a complete wipe of gamepad controls. That has apparently been resolved since however. Clipping was a real issue at time as well. Also, and probably most noteworthy, is the end game boss bug that allows you to completely circumvent the final boss by simply climbing around and behind it. That is how I finished the game as the final boss fight was pretty weak and not fun at all. Sadly, the workaround doesn’t trigger the end game achievement, but that’s fine.
5 out of 10
The graphics in Inner Chains are stunning. Flat out stunning. In this regard, Inner Chains was a complete success. I don’t believe I’ve ever played a game that looked quite like this one, and that unique take on a game world was very, very compelling.
10 out of 10
The audio in Inner Chains was a mixed bag. There are moments of brilliance, especially with regards to the ambient world noises. However, much like the gameplay, the audio in general becomes lackluster after you’ve heard everything and ends up being a cacophony of annoying sounds as you get further into the game and have been listening to the droning audio for several hours. Definitely needs more variety.
5 out of 10
As you can probably tell, Inner Chains is a mixed bag of brilliant story and graphics, and sub par gameplay and audio. I would recommend trying this one out, but I would also temper your expectations. You should be able to complete the game in between four to six hours, and you can definitely find worse games out there, but this one does fail to live up to expectations.
All told, this gets a straight 7 out of 10, which might actually be a bit generous, but reflects a lot of great ideas, despite the failed execution in several glaring ways.