Discussing Alien: Isolation's difficulty and Amanda's inventory

By Ozzie Mejia, Jun 10, 2014 7:00am PDT

The Creative Assembly continues to face what's been a tough task from the outset. The developer is hard at work making a fun and memorable Alien game, hopefully giving fans the experience that they've desired for years. But aside from past history, the developer does have some hurdles to overcome with Alien: Isolation.

Namely, the monster they unleashed may have turned out to be a little too tough to overcome. As described in our last preview, escaping the Xenomorph proved to be somewhat of a frustrating experience for those that attended GDC. As it turns out, according to one of the game's writer/producers, the key to making Isolation a less difficult experience is through help from some friends... and some tools of the trade.

"Today, we wanted to really show everybody some of the other inhabitants of the station, how their AI behaviors interact, and also show some of the things that Amanda has on her person that can really help out. No magic devices to give extra lives or anything, but there are ways to influence the AI behavior around her to give her that extra chance at survival."

The previous preview focused a lot on the Xenomorph's sophisticated AI, but The Creative Assembly notes that human AI will be on that scale, as well. Amanda can use this to her advantage by either getting some help in exploring the ship or by keeping an eye on the other people's reactions, since their behavior will likely alert her in regards to how close the alien is. Of course, other humans being around also means they can be used as bait, since the alien will look at Amanda and anybody else as an equal opportunity target. In fact, you'll often this conflict happen, whether intentional or not, since Amanda can attract attention to a far-away spot, which could lead to both the Xenomorph and other humans investigating, leading to potential fireworks.

To give an indication as to how intelligent the alien is, the developers were initially hesitant to answer the question of whether its behavior patterns had been adjusted since March. After all, the alien is the alien and will behave just as a monster should. While this continues to raise difficulty questions, the devs made sure to point out that they're well aware of these concerns.

"We really have to open it up to everybody. So the things about pacing and difficulty levels is very much our prime concern at the moment. The way we built and designed the alien is such that we can toggle things up and down or we can adjust placement of items, ammo, and craftables. So we hope we really find the point between enjoyment and challenge."

But what happens upon hitting that point of no return, such as the impassable point of the GDC demo? Surely, the enjoyment level starts to diminish after dying in the same spot repeatedly with no hope of advancement. Fortunately, the solution involves one of Isolation's main additions: craftables.

"That's something that we're aware of and it's the kind of pacing that we're attentive to," he added. "It was such a stripped-down experience during that GDC demo, Amanda didn't have anything to help her. Now there flares, noisemakers, and there are flamethrowers, which can be used to a very limited degree. Giving options are necessary and now we're ready to show some of those that should help give her a bit of an extra edge."

And indeed, the additional inventory items proved to be very helpful. Movement in the spaceship proved slightly, though it was still a very tense experience. The alien continues to be an omnipresent figure that will set off your Motion Tracker at any time, made more alarming by the fact that the device was also tied into my DualShock 4 controller. Though I had the option to toss a noisemaker on the other side of the room, I still had to tread carefully to avoid the wrong end of the Xenomorph's tail once again. Crafting can be a tricky business and didn't come across as terribly user-friendly, but the inventory items themselves are plenty useful and serve as ample distractions to escape a hairy situation.

My hands-on time with Alien: Isolation was very limited this time around, meaning there was no time to hit the demo's narrative notes. However, Shacknews will be on the lookout for The Creative Assembly's addition to the franchise on the E3 floor.

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