I enjoy a difficult game, but every so often a title will come along that will push me to my limits. Turnover, a top down stealth action title from Long Division LLC, is one such game. I’m not saying that Turnover is bad – it’s enjoyable and offers plenty of neat gameplay dynamics. One thing it certainly is though is difficult; difficult to the point that I had to actually turn it off and step away from the game for awhile before I ended up decorating the walls of my home with the remains of my controller. Does this difficulty stop the game being fun though? Sometimes – not always, but sometimes.
The story opens in a future America where corporations have taken over. With private military security firms playing a predominant role within these corporations, one such company, Grand Robotics Inc., utilises a military security firm as its mergers and acquisitions arm. After failing to buy out rival company Bartleby Automation, Grand Robotics Inc. instead attempts a hostile take-over. With Grand Robotics Inc unleashing their military security firm on Bartleby Automation HQ, you play the role of employee Clea as she attempts to escape the building to safety.
There’s a surprising amount of depth to be found in Turnover’s story. The developers have tried to offer plenty of detail, even going as far as offering insight into how the world ended up the way it has. There are cutscenes that progress the story too, though these are fairly simple and not exactly the prettiest. Still – the fact that they exist shows that Turnover certainly doesn’t make the storyline take a backseat role.
Main character Clea is a mathematician – she’s not your typical muscle-bound video game hero. Instead of the use of crazy combat skills or weaponry, Turnover instead focuses on using your cunning and wit to survive. There’s a heavy emphasis on stealth, so you’ll need to put a lot of thought into each action you take.
À la Hotline Miami, Turnover takes place from a top down perspective. You’ll make your way through various floors of Bartleby Automation HQ whilst avoiding the sight of the guards that patrol each area. Each guard has a cone of vision – stay out of view and you’re typically safe to pass. You have to be wary of each noise you make around these guards though; actions such as sprinting or stepping on glass makes a louder noise that if an enemy hears can result in you getting spotted and gunned down. It’s brutal, but an intelligent enemy AI can only be seen as a positive.
You’ll encounter a variety of enemies throughout the game, with the likes of dogs and snipers trying to hunt you down. You’ve also got the vast security systems working against you – there are security cameras and gun turrets aplenty that you’ll have to avoid along the way. If you’re lucky you can find terminals that will shut down these security systems at the cost of alerting the enemies in that area. The alert status is when you’re most vulnerable – enemies become more aware of their surroundings and will actively pursue you.
Whilst it may feel like everything is working against you, there is some solace to be found throughout the game. You’ll have vents to traverse through (Clea has her fair share of Solid Snake-esque moments), projectiles to use as distractions or even fire extinguishers to obscure the vision of your foes. It’s just a shame that Turnover doesn’t always make it clear that you can take this approach – I didn’t even know that I could use a fire extinguisher until I saw it in a trailer for the game. Whilst I don’t expect a game to hold my hand and tell me every little thing I can or can’t do, a little extra guidance would’ve been appreciated just to cover the basics – especially in a title with such a high difficulty.
As you work your way through each floor of the building, you’ll find that Clea isn’t the only worker trying to escape. Fortunately, your colleagues are willing to help you along the way – you’ll have IT workers who can activate previously locked security terminals or, my personal favourite, the security guards who can kill your enemies. You can direct your colleagues with simple commands, but they still fall victim to some stupid moments. In one instance I was calling for an IT worker to follow me when an enemy wasn’t looking, only for him to go completely off route and run over a piece of glass, alerting the guard to his position and getting him killed. The death of a colleague results in a failed mission too, making these moments all the more frustrating.
Turnover comes with one big elephant in the room – the game’s difficulty. To it’s credit the game’s levels are well structured, offering multiple ways to achieve your goal along with a decent amount of variety in doing so. They just offer barely any room for error. Besides the temperamental AI of your allies not doing you any favours, sometimes it feels like the game is working against you. There was one occasion where I was playing through a mission and a guard didn’t notice me walk past – after failing and trying again, he noticed me immediately even though it was under the exact same circumstances. It’s odd and I can normally look past it, but when levels come with no checkpoints and a mistake like this can be the difference between completing or failing a mission, you can’t help but to feel a little frustrated.
I’ll have to give Turnover credit though – when you do complete a mission you can’t help but to feel mightily satisfied. It’s enjoyable to play the game and there are a lot of gameplay concepts that are well executed. Despite the frustration of the difficult, there’s also a ‘one more try’ feel to the game. When you fail because of your own error, you’ll challenge yourself to try again and this time succeed – failure isn’t an option after all. There’s always multiple ways to approach a level too; a true testament to the quality of the level design. It’s just a shame that a lot of the failures aren’t down to your own mistakes.
Aesthetically, Turnover offers a well designed world. Each level feels like a believable re-creation of an office block, offering room layouts that are believable as a working space. The 2D visuals are simple, but certainly do the job – this is a game that focuses more on gameplay after all. The sound design is decent too, setting the mood with a mixture of ambience noise and a few tunes that amp up the atmosphere when enemies are in pursuit.
Despite its flaws, I had an enjoyable time with Turnover – there’s certainly more good than bad. Whilst I’ll admit that the AI of your allies and sometimes unfair difficulty had me pulling my hair out at times, for the most part I actually enjoyed playing through the game. Each level felt natural and well designed, offering plenty of different ways to try and tackle each tricky situation and fight for survival. There’s certainly plenty to like with the games aesthetic style too. It’s just that you’ll often feel that failure comes at no fault of your own, which when added to the games already tricky difficulty leads to a lot of frustrating moments. I’d recommend fans of stealth titles give Turnover a try – just make sure you’ve got a few spare controllers lying about in preparation for the moments you lodge yours into the nearest wall…
– Great level design
– A decent variety of gameplay mechanics
– Clever enemy AI
– Natural, well designed aesthetics
– Some difficult moments feel like the game is working against you
– Temperamental ally AI can lead to mission failures
Format Reviewed: PC (Alienware Alpha i7)