Detective games

Yeah, Shadows of Doubt is on my watch list for sure. The system requirements are kind of nuts for what it looks like, but it supposedly plays great on deck. I mean, who am I kidding I probably won’t be able to resist and will jump in later today. I’m keeping an eye on those day one reviews, though.

I enjoyed the demo, although having to hide from the cops was a bit jarring. I had hoped to be more of a nuisance to law enforcement and less of an outright criminal that had to hide from them, but it’s fine.

Mostly I want something that feels like Sid Meier’s Covert Action without the car chases, giving me a stream of sensible if not mind-blowing puzzles to unwrap. Adding in a living city where inhabitants have jobs, routines and preferences is cool and I presume accounts for the steeper system reqs.

I realise the potential weakness of proc-genning everything, but in the demo I enjoyed the way I went from rifling apartment drawers, to finding a receipt, to finding fingerprints that matched the mysterious ones I found in the apartment, to identifying who they belonged to.

If it can give me a string of cases like that, that I can approach in different ways I’ll be happy.

Although even with just one open investigation the old corkboard covered in string was out of control.

I’ll probably pick this up later this evening.

Covert Action is the number one Sid Meir game I’d love to see get an XCOM style resurrection. Not that Covert Action was an authentic Spy Game at all but it was really the only one I ever played. I liked Alpha Protocol’s attempt at the genre but i prefer a sim based game rather than a more typical RPG for that.

I’ll be checking out Shadows of Doubt and will probably be frustrated where the proc gen breaks down and the shallowness becomes clearly visible. But I love what it is trying to do.

Does it? Are they doing the calculations for the citizens’ routines on the GPU? Because that’s what raised my eyebrows, specifically.

Early reports of it working well on deck were apparently not exactly accurate. I guess it forces raytracing and performance is generally bad even on strong cards, and for deck it’s a battery killer.

I played around with Shadows of Doubt for about an hour last night, and I’m pretty impressed! The interface is a bit clunky at times (I tried playing with a controller but gave that up quickly), but the parts are all there to allow for actual detective work. I’ll certainly get my money’s worth out of the current form, and I’m excited to see what changes are made through Early Access.

I just spent 20 minutes dinking around the apartment, opening drawers, etc… and my case board is already a tangled mess. :D

Yeah, the case board is the reason I had to ditch the controller for M+K. I do appreciate how it automatically fills in information when it’s collected, so I don’t have to manually mark down what color a person’s eyes are, for example.

Right? I’ve already gone full Pepe Silvia and I’m still in the tutorial.

One of the tutorial prompts made me panic and try to flee the crime seen by smashing the window with my fist and plummeting down to the street. Bystanders did not take this in stride.

I also somehow seriously injured myself in the courthouse lobby trying to drop/throw a hammer, and ended up blood-spattered and bleeding.

I played it for about 40 minutes straight, and I think I have barely scratched the surface of the tutorial. Performance seemed fine (not, like…amazing, but perfectly ok) on my laptop with a 3050ti, Ryzen 7 5800u and 16GB RAM. This is going to be a rea fun one to revisit from time to time, I think.

I solved the tutorial case using some fairly inelegant methods :

(Spoilered in case the case is the same for everyone)

Bismarck is no Columbo

I found an unknown fingerprint in the victim’s apartment, along with the last telephone number that called the victim’s phone and that caller’s first initial.

I then went through the phonebook looking for names that started with that initial and found one who had the phone number that called the victim. This gave me an address.

I then went to that address and found a matching fingerprint on the door handle. However, when I knocked on the door the person inside was male and I thought my perp was probably female.

So then I went to the restaurant the victim frequented and found the mystery fingerprint again - on one of the tables and then found it again in the ladies bathroom.

This convinced me the perp was probably the lady and not the man and so I put her name in on the case form and… success! I got my thousand dollars.

I didn’t provide any evidence that the person was in the apartment, didn’t find the murder weapon and didn’t arrest the perp, but on the other hand… thousand dollars!

I also discovered that if you really want to get into a locked area without being spotted, you can just sit outside, then save the game and reload it and you’ll have glitched through the wall into the room of interest.

I’m going to generate a new city now and start failing to see obvious clues for reals.

I don’t want to open the spoiler because I’m still working on the tutorial, but I’m very curious to hear from someone else how fixed the details of the tutorial case are.

I imagine there has to be some way to mod in scripted cases, right? It’s going to be fascinating to see where this goes.

I don’t do Early Access (especially not Early Access detective games), but I’m having a hard time perceiving how this could ever be for me, in spite of loving detective games.

See, the only way I would want a game to be infinitely playable would be if I wanted to play it a lot.

I’m not sure how a visually hideous game, in a genre in which story is everything, written by an algorithm designed by one dude with an indie game budget is something I’d even want to play one time. (Microsoft or Google-level budget for an algorithm? I would be curious, at least. But, while one guy with zero dollars can write a damn good story, I don’t think one guy with zero dollars can write a damn good AI that writes damn good stories. He’d certainly need to have proven himself by writing many, many good stories the old-fashioned way, first, at the very least. Rather than… checks notes… zero?)

And then you make it “infinitely playable?” Sounds like a pretty deep circle of hell.

But, I will watch from the sidelines while this continues cooking.

Yeah, I’m with you. Oh, the idea of an infinite immersive detective sim (especially all cyberpunky, with case boards and whatnot), in a perfect world, sounds amazing. But the reality of algorithmic content generation has never borne any resemblance to that perfect world ideal in my experience and in fact has never once approached the basic standards of a 6/10 handcrafted game for me.

I do herein insert the caveat that I’ve not played Wildermyth, which is the game that everyone assures me manages the most supreme feats of algorithmic story generation, nor this here early access game because, yeah, early access. So, maybe it really is that cool. Maybe.


I feel like the stories in this are akin to the stories that come about when playing Dwarf Fortress. If that sort of miniature world/ant farm simulation does nothing for you, you might not get much from SoD.

“Deus Ex + Return of the Obra Dinn + Dwarf Fortress” is probably a decent way of describing it.

And, for what it’s worth, I do really like the visuals.

It’s not going to generate stories like Agatha Christie or Raymond Chandler, it’s going to generate the kinds of stories that an actual private detective would have. “Yeah, I went here, I took a picture, the guy gave me a black eye. Go figure, eh.” It’s just fun to watch all the parts moving and play sneakthief. I think @anonymgeist is on to something with the DF comparison.


Don’t be raytracist.

I mean, firstly, my experience with Dwarf Fortress is entirely secondhand and having someone else interpolating the raw chaos into an actual story is likely to make it more enjoyable than I would necessarily find playing it. (It is after all infamous for its opaque UI and while the Steam release comes with a UI update it also comes with a…what, $35 pricetag? If you’re a fan I’m sure that’s totally worth it but it’s too expensive for me to buy on spec, given there’s a very good chance I wouldn’t find it that enjoyable.).

But secondly, I think kingdom management/survival is a very different genre than crime solving. And the latter I’m just not sure an algorithm can simulate in a way that’s satisfying in the way a good mystery is.