Developer: Slava Bushuev
Released: 14th April, 2023
Available on: Steam
Engine: Unreal Engine 4
- Very good visual design: levels feel somber, surreal and are eye-catching thanks to a great usage of lighting and weather effects.
- The extensive usage of physics and dismemberment in combat makes encounters satisfying to fight through and quite spectacular.
- Plenty of secrets and Easter eggs in each level, that will award permanent bonuses, extra resources or trigger special events often tied to achievements.
- Fitting soundtrack, composed of orchestral tracks that give levels an even more somber mood.
- All bosses, except the final one, are just beefed-up re-skinned versions of normal enemies without any special move or behavior.
- No lore or story context whatsoever, even minimal. Surely this genre doesn’t require rich lore, but the total absence of context or narrative feels dismal.
- The lack of any melee / infinite ammo weapon means you can eventually get soft-locked in the (very rare) case you totally run out of ammo. You gotta be dumb, but it can still happen.
Bugs & Issues
- Somewhat frequent crashes when loading a saved game in specific levels.
- Despite being a secondary fire command, no weapons actually have an alternate fire-mode (?!).
• i5 11400H
• 16GB RAM DDR4
• 512 GB SSD
• RTX 3060 6GB
Content & Replay Value
It took me a little less than 7 hours to complete IllWill on Hard difficulty, taking extra time to explore all levels accurately and find secrets / Easter eggs when possible. There is some replay value thanks to the Modifications unlocked after the end, which are tied to achievements and change how the game plays out.
Is It Worth Buying?
Yes, the price of 19,50€ is fair for the amount of content, quality and replay value offered. I can suggest buying even without a discount.
An old-school FPS unique enough to stand out of the crowd, mainly thanks to its design; however, it doesn’t really innovate as much in terms of gameplay. Still, a good title for its genre.
IllWill – In-Depth Analysis
Premise, Setting & Writing
Playing as an unnamed hero (?), you’re catapulted into a nightmarish, distorted dimension populated by monstrous creatures, ranging from acid-spitting mutants to knock-off versions of Rick & Morty’s Mr. Meeseks… with shotguns (which also seem to be the local ruling class/deity). There’s no telling as to how and why you got there – you don’t know who you are, you don’t know what’s going on, the only thing you know is that you must kill, as someone used to say.
The complete absence of lore and context may even fit the surreal setting, making it all pass as a bad trip, however even the most minimalist old-school FPSs usually had some form of storyline in one way or another, and it feels like a missed opportunity to not have elaborated more upon this nightmarish world.
Be that as it may, the visual style and worldbuilding are impressive, especially for a small studio like this. The intelligent usage of light/darkness contrasts, good amount of detail in most areas and long view distances, alongside creepy sound effects and a sober soundtrack, all contribute to creating a setting that doesn’t feel generic at all – a breath of fresh air. The fact you’ll most likely paint most of these locales in the multi–colored bloods of your enemies is added value, for sure.
Exploration & Secrets
Levels often develop vertically and horizontally at the same time, on multiple layers. As customary for the genre, several areas will often be locked behind gates that require a key to open, itself hidden somewhere, often behind an arena-style fight that will trigger after picking it up. There’s no map and no fall damage, while your character is able to double-jump and constantly runs at a brisk pacing, which makes backtracking for resources/secrets not too tedious. You’re able to save anytime, anywhere – even in combat, but beware, as doing so in a bad spot or with scarce resources may put you in a situation where you’ll have to restart the entire level due to ammo bankruptcy or death loops.
The hidden white violins, three per level, will act as collectibles and give you a 10% damage bonus for that entire stage, stackable to +30% in total. Other than that, secrets include unique events and the classic hidden resource caches to give you the upper hand in terms of armor, health and ammunition. They’re fun to look for, useful, and sometimes much crazier than you’d think.
Combat System & Bosses
Fights play out in a classic FPS fashion, so jumping around while circle-strafing will be your best friend. The weapon roster has some classics like the iconic super shotgun packing a punch at close range, or the powerful rocket launcher, – but also some rather innovative murder tools like the leech gun, firing dark creatures that slowly such health (or armor, if they’re machines) out of your enemies, to then drop down as pickups for you to consume.
On Hard difficulty enemies pack a serious punch, and some of them even have hitscan weapons you’ll have to be very aware of, and use cover smartly to not get shredded to bits. In some cases you’ll be able to use environmental elements like explosives, but these are more exceptions than rules and, generally, it will just be you and your guns doing all the work.
Bosses are a disappointment, as none of them, exception made for the final one, is unique in any way: sure, they have crowns and a fancier skin, but they behave exactly like the normal foes you fought dozens of times over, and to make up for it spawn ludicrous amounts of trash mobs to harass you while you dent their massive HP pool. Surely a better effort could’ve been made to make these fights more unique and engaging.
Extra Game Modes
Once the main campaign is dealt with, new game modes become available. One of them will double all the enemy spawns, while another transform each enemy into suicide, explosive bombers that will instakill you. Completing the game with these bizarre modifiers is tied to achievements, and while it doesn’t really change the gameplay THAT much, it’s better than nothing and completionists will certainly bang their heads against them for a while.
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