games / Previews

Ravaged & Cognition: An Erica Reed Thriller (PC) Preview

October 18, 2012 | Posted by Vince Osorio

At Reverb Publishing’s press event in San Francisco, I had my eyes set on Primal Carnage, but ironically enough, two Kickstarter ideas-turned-games stole the show.


The first one, Ravaged earned 258% of its proposed $15,000 Kickstarter goal back in May. And for good reason, too. Ravaged by 2 Dawn Games aspires to be the indie answer to all those AAA first-person-shooters that saturate the market these days. However, 2 Dawn has a stellar pedigree, made of folks who brought you Battlefield 2 and the infamous Desert Combat mod. It’s no wonder gamers ponyed up the cash to fund their new title.

Ravaged takes a lot of the elements introduced in the Battlefield series and gives them a post-apocalyptic spin, which is a hell of a lot more interesting to me than another cookie-cutter “modern warfare” setting. The gist is this- it’s a multiplayer-only, team-based first-person shooter featuring two factions. The Scavengers are a lethal, vicious, motley crew who have a penchant for homemade weapons & plenty of bloodshed. The Resistance are just trying to survive & lay down the law in a harsh world. Each faction has 5 different members, all corresponding to the warrior classes you know and love, which means you’ve got your requisite sniper, demolitions expert, & soldier amongst others. Each class has their choice of melee weapon as well, so if you like beating your opponents to death with a spiked baseball bat, get hyped.


The game itself has a heavy vehicular combat focus, with each character having the option to take a ride on ramshackle ATVs, dune buggys, helicopters & oversized cars outfitted with mounted turrets. The controls (especially when piloting a vehicle) are familiar to anyone who’s played a Battlefield game, which is definitely for the best, considering how excellent that series is on a consistent basis. The game mode I played involved capturing territories & enemy bases while stealing resources & bringing them back to your headquarters, mixing capture-the-flag with normal deathmatch & “king of the hill” style gameplay makes this particular mode enthralling.


I think the best part of Ravaged, by far, is that it has the basics down pat. It feels fun to shoot your enemies. Your weapons have weight & each shot feels powerful. The vehicles are a blast to use & getting a group of like-minded individuals teaming up to take down the enemy is as fun as it’s ever been. Even little touches, like the scavengers using homemade tennis ball bombs, couldn’t help but put a big smile on my face. Ravaged is, top to bottom, a fun game, one that I hope finds and keeps a large audience long after launch. The game is available to pre-order now for $25 and should be released by the time you read this.

I feel like adventure games always get the short end of the stick in demo form. It’s just never the right venue to test out the game, especially if you’re terrible at the genre like myself & need plenty of quiet time to think about the puzzles presented to you. With that said, I came away from Cognition: An Erica Reed Thriller rather impressed with what the game had to offer. The Phoenix Online Studios production (the folks that brought you The Silver Lining) made more than $34,000 during its Kickstarter campaign, significantly more than the original $25,000 goal, making this one of the more high-profile Kickstarter produced games to finally see release.


Cognition has a “weekly episodic procedural” vibe a la CSI or Dexter, though our main heroine, the sassy FBI agent known as Erica Reed, has an unusual power that helps her get though the strange happenings that she encounters on a daily basis- she is able to see into the past though the power of touch. This is the main conceit when presented with puzzles in the game. As is natural in most adventure games, you’re encouraged to click (or rather, “touch”) everything in sight. Erica will be able to see past events, giving her clues as to how to proceed.


For example, the segment I played had Erica and her partner barging in on a cemetery where a serial killer is believed to have held Erica’s brother hostage. There’s a segment in the demo where Erica finds a plot of dirt. By observing closely, she is able to see that the killer has used a shovel (planted elsewhere in the environment) to bury an important item underneath. This mechanic works with other objects in the environment as well, in logical ways- viewing footsteps reveals the path that the killer took, touching the shovel shows how the killer hid it in the first place, etc. Adventure games live or die by their puzzles, and while the ones I came across weren’t too mind-bending, they were logically developed & solved with relative ease.

The game takes upon a stylish comic book aesthetic, which makes sense, considering that Romano Molenaar (of X-Men and Batman: Detective Comics fame) is the art director at Phoenix Online. Characters have a cel-shaded look to them, while most cutscenes take on a panel-style gimmick throughout. I was most impressed by the maturity of the storyline and the excellent voice acting, bringing Erica’s plight to life in a way that didn’t seem farcical or over-the-top. Without spoiling anything, the narrative told in the demo takes a turn for the worse near the end, making me eager to see what events unfold thereafter.

Cognition is gearing up for release shortly, as an announcement for particular release plans is set for this week. The game will be comprised of five downloadable episodes, with a PC season pass seeing release first. Android and iOS versions will be soon to follow thereafter.


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Vince Osorio
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