PAX Prime Preview: Klei Entertainment's Incognita Combines XCOM, Shadowrun, and Mark of the Ninja

PAX Prime Preview: Klei Entertainment's Incognita Combines XCOM, Shadowrun, and Mark of the Ninja

Even through the rough lens of pre-alpha code and an unfinished user interface, I can tell Incognita will be something really special. After perfecting the stealth genre with Mark of the Ninja and taking a stab at the survival game genre with Don't Starve, indie powerhouse Klei Entertainment is attempting to meld the tactical appeal of stealth and turn-based tactics games together in Incognita. Rather than hit points, Incognita deals in information. A well-planned Incognita mission will require hacking into security systems to gain more information about your surroundings, while using those same systems to obscure your location from the enemy.

The mission I played had a simple goal: sneak into an office building, crack into a safe, grab a suitcase, and get out. My squad consisted of two spies: a trench coat-sporting stealth spy, who could move silently but couldn't take much damage, and a robotic hacker spy who, besides hacking, packed a mean wallop with his robot hand. Since my robot dude looked like he could handle himself, I ran right in to the next room on my way to the safe. Big mistake. My robot friend got shot up immediately, losing a big chunk of health. I managed to get rid of all the immediate danger and thought I was doing well, until an Incognita developer came by and showed me the alarm meter. This meter, out of 20, ticks up every turn when a guard or security system is aware of your presence. When it gets to 20, the mission is over. My meter was at 18.

Start over.

Incognita has specific commands for peeking behind doors and around corners, as well as closing doors behind you, so I went in at a more reserved pace my second time. I peeked through the first door and saw dotted lines on the ground, indicating a guard has been there in the last turn. I have my robot agent open the door briefly and end the turn. The hapless guard in the next room catches a glimpse of my robot friend and starts running, but isn't quite able to make it in time. On my next turn, I shut the door quickly and rig it with a shock trap. Lights out, buddy.

I only have four turns until the guard comes to his senses and starts looking for me. In the world of Incognita, everyone has a heartbeat sensor that triggers an alarm if it goes off, so lethal takedowns are a last resort. I round up all of the computers in the room and hack into them to earn "CPU Points." CPU points break digital locks on secure computer terminals and safes, so I have to stock up on those before I nab the suitcase. Three hacked terminals and two empty rooms later, I'm ready to leave. I hack the security mainframe to gain vision through all the security cameras, ensuring I have a clean escape route...

And then my appointment time is up.

Incognita has been in development for a few years, with a release planned in early 2014. Early access did so well for Klei Entertainment with Don't Starve that they will be launching a Steam early access Alpha test later this month. If you like any of the games listed up in the header, it's in your best interest to check it out. I have never had so much fun with a game that doesn't even have a finished UI.