Industria (PC) Review

Is Industria, a stylish and atmospheric, but short-lived sci-fi hybrid of walking-sim and first-person shooter worth your time?
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Industria – developed by Bleakmill and published by Headup – is a deceptive hybrid of a game. The opening hour might convince you it’s a slow-paced, combat-shy walking-sim with a focus on the narrative, world-building, and puzzles. The following 3-4 hours, however, turn into a distinctly cinematic FPS experience with an increasingly thin and disjointed narrative. It ends up feeling like a great proof of concept yet lacks a cohesive story arc or conclusive ending.

Events kick off on the outskirts of a research laboratory in East Berlin in 1989, on the night the Wall falls. The protagonist and research, Nora, receives a desperate call from her colleague and partner, Walter. There has been an incident at the laboratory, and something called “Atlas” is spreading through their computer systems – a situation likely to be compounded by the arrival of the Stasi, looking to destroy any state-funded secrets. Nora dashes to the laboratory to discover Walter has disappeared after using the teleportation device they were both working on. With little to lose, she follows him into the unknown.

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Hakavik is a fascinating blend of steampunk with newer, automated machines. Unfortunately, most are trying to kill you.

It’s a fantastic setup and, for the opening hour, the narrative and world-building are Industria’s greatest strength. Everything happens so swiftly and the player is left as bewildered as Nora. She passes through a massive library, full of the echoes of past conversations, before finally awakening in a parallel world – a steampunk version of Germany on the cusp of automation using new energy sources like chemical batteries. The problem is the city of Hakavik is long-deserted, aside from one perplexed wheelchair-bound resident who assists her. It also happens to be infested with hostile robots controlled by a force the locals also refer to as Atlas.

Admittedly, it’s not the most novel parallel-universe or sci-fi story, but Industria has great pacing for most of its runtime. There’s environmental storytelling and notes to find, radio conversations with the lone survivor, and Nora talks to herself – a lot. These narrative-driven moments are interspersed with creepy exploration, simple puzzles, and bouts of combat that become more frequent as the game progresses. For a good 75% of the experience, Industria maintains a near-perfect balance of storytelling and combat, before combat starts to dominate and the game rushes to a conclusion.

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Combat is used sparsely in the opening half of the game, with several great sections spent creeping through dark buildings by torchlight.

This balance is important as, if you assessed each component in isolation, you’d find no real standout elements. Industria is a game that’s more than the sum of its parts. The writing and voice acting feel authentic and believable (despite the premise), the environments feel foreign but lifelike, the thick atmosphere is a potent mix of loneliness and dread, while the combat feels unwieldy but impactful – at least until you begin to see the seams.

At first, you do little more than walk around abandoned environments, soak in the atmosphere, enjoy some world-building, and solve simple puzzles. What is this city? Why was it abandoned? Where did the robots come from? Did Walter truly emerge 20-years before Nora? Puzzles will rarely tax you or break the pacing but, unless you’re being asked to stack boxes or use crank handles, they’re simple once-off affairs. However, Nora soon discovers a pickaxe and you get your first taste of combat, bludgeoning a few lumbering robots. Once you’re onto the city streets in the third chapter, pistol in hand, the FPS elements kick off in earnest and Industria never looks back.

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Early puzzles require light inventory management, looking out for environmental clues, and some point-and-click style actions. Unfortunately, these are soon ditched for turning crank handles, pulling levers, and occasionally stacking boxes.

Now that’s not to say the game ditches the world-building and storytelling elements entirely, but you begin to spend a lot more time looking down the barrel of several Cold War-themed guns. Around the same time, you’ll also realise the AI hivemind is no tactical genius and it’s often hard to believe the humans ever had to flee the city. There are rudimentary-looking shambling types that awaken when you get close, lunging at you from the dark with glowing red eyes. There are dog-like robots that charge at you and explode. There are more futuristic-looking androids with electric batons (annoying) or submachine guns (utterly incapable of dealing significant damage at long range).

For a game that becomes more dependent on combat encounters as you progress, they offer little challenge. Any sequence that involves exploring dark, abandoned buildings always provides tense and enjoyable close-quarter firefights, but too much of the end-game is spent in large or outdoor arenas, with way too much ammunition and long sightlines. Gun-wielding robots keep their distance and make for easy pickings with a scoped rifle, while any melee threat is swiftly dispatched with a shotgun. The pickaxe, pistol, and submachine gun are swiftly rendered obsolete, best reserved for breaking open boxes of supplies or removing wooden obstructions.

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By the time I hit the halfway mark, I had a full arsenal and far too much ammunition for any encounter to feel truly dangerous. Although unremarkable in comparison to dedicated FPS, the shooting does look and sound great throughout.

Sure, you can select the “Hardcore” difficulty to increase the enemy damage output and reduce resources in the world, but the exploitable AI remains an issue. It was the need to manually save at typewriters – sometimes abundant, other times scarce – that was the greatest challenge when I had to stop playing. Honestly, I can think of only one late-game scenario that might provide a stiff challenge – assuming you ran out of shotgun shells before figuring out the puzzle sequence. The end-game would feel far less rushed with some new puzzles to slow down the pace.

I’ve mentioned it throughout this review but it’s worth reiterating how consistently cinematic and atmospheric Industria looks. The abandoned city is presumably inspired by Half-life 2’s City-17, with classic architecture juxtaposed against metal fortifications and unsettling, organic-looking Atlas structures. Harsh sunlight bakes the ruined streets and filters through windows into dusty interiors. If you’ve got the hardware, you can refine the experience further with ray-traced reflections and shadows. The musical score is often subdued but ramps up during several exciting sequences. The handful of voice actors do a great job and inject emotion into their lines.

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Although the visual detail drops off into the distance, Industria always does a good job of showing where your objective is and where you’ve come from. It provides a sense of scale and progression. Also yes, that figure is important to the narrative but not in a satisfying way.

Unfortunately, Industria has two major flaws, one more easily fixed than the other. First up is the visual stability and performance, with framerates often swinging wildly – irrespective of the action onscreen.  Attempting to change visual settings mid-game proved a terrible idea, triggering even worse performance, lighting bugs, and high-resolution textures simply failing to load. When it works, it looks great; when it doesn’t, it looks awful.

The second, more problematic issue is the story that, while initially compelling and focused on world-building, goes nowhere for Nora. It offers only the most basic of objectives and ends with more questions than answers. While there are some wall analogies, the initial East Berlin setting feels pointless and Industria relies on introducing new elements during the abrupt ending. It ultimately feels like a very polished prologue that should have kicked off a more involved story. The game either needs a “Director’s Cut” or “Part II” in short order. It feels like Bleakmill ran out of time and/or budget, before resorting to a barely-foreshadowed conclusion that relies on several retrofitted scenes between and during chapters.

Criticisms aside, I still enjoyed the five hours I spent in Industria’s world, especially the chaotic early game that left me as confused as Nora, exploring dark apartment blocks with robots lurking in the shadows. It might not be the most original sci-fi tale – excluding that ending twist – but it’s well told and (when the visuals don’t bug out) it looks and feels great to play. As a lower-priced indie game, it provides a breezy, well-paced experience for the bulk of your playtime and Industria finds a great balance between walking-simulator, first-person puzzling, and shooting. I want to see more from the developer and their world, but Industria needs more technical refinement and perhaps a narrative do-over.

A review code for Industria was provided to Gameblur by the Publisher

Industria (PC) Review

Industria (PC) Review
7 10 0 1
Industria is a stylish and cinematic walking-sim/FPS hybrid that starts off strong but loses its way. The mix of gameplay is excellent for the most part, with plenty of dialogue and world-building, but the ending in unsatisfying and visual bugs can break immersion. It feels like a great proof of concept yet lacks a cohesive story arc or conclusive ending. I'm looking forward to seeing more from these developers but, in the interim, Industria could do with a “Director’s Cut” or “Part II" to round out the story.
Industria is a stylish and cinematic walking-sim/FPS hybrid that starts off strong but loses its way. The mix of gameplay is excellent for the most part, with plenty of dialogue and world-building, but the ending in unsatisfying and visual bugs can break immersion. It feels like a great proof of concept yet lacks a cohesive story arc or conclusive ending. I'm looking forward to seeing more from these developers but, in the interim, Industria could do with a “Director’s Cut” or “Part II" to round out the story.
7/10
Total Score
  • Story
    7/10 Good
    It starts strong and the world-building is excellent, but it ultimately goes nowhere and ends with more questions than answers.
  • Gameplay
    7/10 Good
    No one element feels particularly novel but Industria has a great balance of exploration, puzzling, and combat in the opening hours.
  • Visuals
    7/10 Good
    Stunning and atmospheric when they work, frustrating and immersion-breaking when they bug out.
  • Audio
    8/10 Very Good
    The subdued soundtrack complements every scene, the combat sounds loud and impactful, and the voice work is excellent.

The Good

  • Great world-building, writing, and voice-acting
  • A good balance of exploration, puzzles, and combat early on
  • Atmospheric and cinematic presentation (when not bugging out)

The Bad

  • The narrative ultimately goes nowhere
  • The ending feels both rushed and unsatisfying
  • Frequent performance and visual bugs break immersion
Total
20
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