The Initiate Review
The Initiate Review
If you don’t mind taking notes and being intentional while exploring, The Initiate provides a great set of puzzles that will keep you engaged from start to finish
Posted: 08/15/17 | Category: Review | Developer: Deceptive Games, Ltd. | Publisher: Deceptive Games, Ltd. | Platform: Mac, Windows

Genre: 3D Escape/Puzzle
Release date: August 1, 2017
Platforms:  Windows, Mac

Not So Horrifying  
 

Based in South Wales, U.K., Deceptive Games is a development and publishing company whose stated objective is “to create deeply immersive video gaming experiences, while continuously working on new intellectual properties to entertain, and enthrall audiences.” Its previous adventure titles are quite diverse and include Kidnapped (3D Escape/Puzzle), Secret Monster Society (2D Point-and-Click) and Bounced (Surreal Platformer).

Its most recent project, The Initiate, is a 3D, puzzle-based, “Escape the House” adventure. It is assigned a “horror” tag on Steam which, in my opinion, is not wholly accurate. I would argue strongly that it is not a horror game. Instead, it is a well-structured and somewhat complex puzzle game that held my interest for quite a few hours. The premise is a familiar one. You awake in a strange location and must puzzle your way out while being taunted by an unseen captor. In this case, you find yourself being tested to prove your worth. Passing the test has two benefits: your own survival and the chance to join a secret society.

Game Mechanics 
 

The Initiate is built with the Unity engine and is fully 3D.  Navigation is effortless for those who remember to stand to the right of a door that is opening towards you. If you have played other 3D games, you will intuitively know to use the mouse with the WASD keys to navigate, to click the mouse to interact and to hit the usual keys to run, jump, and crouch. If you are a newbie, then figuring out the controls in the beginning will be your first puzzle because there is no ‘map’ to tell you how keys are used.

The house is rendered in intricate detail with hundreds of objects that can be examined. Clues are scattered about in such a way that you must look at everything (and I mean everything). When, at last, you find a flashlight with a UV filter, there is even more to observe! Each puzzle solution results in a new area of the house becoming accessible. In the end, you have an attic, two main floors, a basement, crawlspace access, and an underground catacomb.

This seems like a lot of ground to cover, but the floorplan soon becomes familiar and you will be whizzing down halls and running up and down stairs in no time. In addition to a plethora of clues, you have quite a bit of inventory to gather (keys, candles, statues, mysterious objects, tools, etc.). Inventory is accessed with the TAB key and there is no drag and drop. When you click on a lock, inventory opens automatically. You then ‘equip’ the proper key, close inventory, and click on the lock a second time. The lock will either open or inventory will be redisplayed for you to try another key.

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As you progress, you will find an abundance of notes that provide details on your predicament, hints for puzzles, and words of encouragement. This, plus comments made by a disembodied voice coming at you through the house speakers, forms the basis of the story. While your situation is dire (i.e., pass the test or die) and there are hints of violence to come, the game does not create an atmosphere of horror. You are being watched and taunted but not in way that creates stress or fear. On occasion, the house shakes and objects fall from shelves (which leaves you wondering if you are truly alone) but I never had any sense of a malevolent presence. For me, this was a good thing. I was free to focus on puzzles instead of looking over my virtual shoulder in fear of being attacked. In truth, I am quite happy with a game that does not kill me on a regular basis.

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Puzzle Me This…  
 

What I really enjoyed about The Initiate was the puzzles. For me, there is something deeply satisfying about using a pencil and paper when playing a game. It means that I am not being spoon fed solutions and that the challenge of putting all the pieces together is more than my less-than-eidetic memory can accommodate. My “old school” approach (copying clues and writing down object locations) never fails me. In this game, I took a lot of notes! The Initiate has a diverse set of puzzles. Some are inventory-based and some require interpreting clues. A few are purely mechanical (pattern matching, switching lights off and on, traversing a maze-like cavern, etc.). None is terribly hard and I never got stuck for any length of time. If I kept moving forward, I eventually found a missing object or a clue for the solution that had eluded me.

I also did a happy dance over the Save system. I have been on a rant for months about games without explicit saves. I started The Initiate and immediately began grumbling because there was no menu option to Save. After I solved the first puzzle, I entered a room with a tape recorder that I could click to save my game, at any time! There are several such recorders in the house and I said a silent apology for doubting the compassion of Deceptive Games.

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Initiate Me!  
 

Although there have been some Steam discussions on technical issues, I did not experience any glitches. There are a couple of cosmetic items that did give me pause. Having placed three “mysterious objects” correctly, I saved my game. When I reloaded later, the objects were back in their original places. However, they were also in their intended places and the puzzle I had solved was still complete. I am also convinced there is a typo in one of the clues for the final puzzle, as the instructions did not work as I expected. I improvised and solved the puzzle. Later, I checked YouTube and watched another gamer have the exact same dilemma.

 My only real suggestion for improvement is that Deceptive Games might consider adding subtitles for the vocals in its next release. If English is not your first language or if you just want to play quietly, it would have been nice to read what was being said. As it stands today, The Initiate is not a game that works well with the sound turned off.

All-in-all, this game is a worthy addition to the “Escape the House” genre. If you don’t mind taking notes and being intentional while exploring, The Initiate provides a great set of puzzles that will keep you engaged from start to finish.

A Post Script – Upon completion of the game, you receive a web address and a passcode to access additional puzzles. I went to the designated URL, entered the password, and was presented with the first riddle/puzzle. There was no place to answer it and only one button to click which took me right back to the login screen that required a different (and unknown to me) passcode. Evidently some synapses in my brain were not firing in tune with Deceptive Games because none of this made any sense and I could not puzzle my way into discerning the second passcode. I reread the first screen several times and decided to walk away. Perhaps Deceptive Games’ web-based ‘Phase 2’ is a bit too obtuse for me…

Grade: B
 
Intricately rendered environment with much to take in for the gamer who is paying attention
+ Diverse and challenging puzzles to keep you thinking from start to finish
Surprisingly good addition to the “Escape the House” genre
 
- No subtitle, so game needs to be played with sound ON

 

 Logo 
 
Trailer:
 

System Requirements

MINIMUM Windows:
OS: Windows 7, 64-bit
Processor: Intel i7 4790k
Memory: 8 GB RAM
Graphics: VIDIA GeForce GTX 680 or AMD equivalent
DirectX: Version 9.0c
Storage: 7 GB available space
Sound Card: Compatible Sound Card 
 
MINIMUM Mac:
OS: Mac OSX 10.7
Processor: Intel Core I5 or AMD equivalent
Memory: 8 GB RAM
Graphics: The following cards require you to have 8GB of system RAM: NVIDIA 3xx and Intel HD3000
DirectX: Version 9.0c
Storage: 7 GB available space
Sound Card: Compatible Sound Card
Specials from Digital Download
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