Safe House Review (PC)

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Safe House

Developer: Labs Games
Publisher: Labs Games

Main Review

Review Context: I haven’t played many games with repeatable tasks like this, but the game that is closest to this that I liked would be Papers, Please.
Date of Playthrough: May 21, 2018

PC Specs Game Played on:
OS: 
Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit
Processor: 
Intel(R) Core(TM) i3 CPU 540 @ 3.07GHz
RAM: 
8 GB
Video Card: 
GeForce GTX 950 2GB GDDR5 ACX 2.0 SC+
Resolution: 1440×900

Disclosure: This review was based off of a review copy.

Safe House, developed and published by Labs Games, is a game that flew completely under my radar until I watched the trailer. Safe House is about managing and running your own spy safe house. So just how easy is it running a safe house?

The main mode of Safe House is a campaign mode with missions where a story is unfolding. You are tasked to manage the safe house that is part of the CIA in the fictional African city of Kazataire, where your goal is to take down the current President. When you start the game you are looking at a layout of rooms that almost look like book shelves, with several of the rooms already filled. It is your goal as the player to complete the tasks in each of the rooms, giving you cash, which helps you complete missions, and build new rooms or upgrade rooms.

Safe House

The campaign mode is essentially a tutorial mode, as it is clearly designed to get you used to each different room within your headquarter. The gameplay loop is start a day, complete your tasks until the clock hits 10am, then afterward you are sent to a screen with a cap number of how much cash you are allowed to lose from your mistakes. If you reach the limit displayed on the screen then you are given a penalty moving forward. The task cycle has the three phases of construction, assigning agents, and managing your daily routine. The construction phase is building or upgrading rooms. Assigning agents is when you can recruit and/or assign soldiers or spies to missions. Managing your daily routine means completing the tasks in your rooms for a cash reward. During your daily routine you have to wait for rooms to be highlighted, then you have to click on that room to do the task. You do as many tasks as you can until 10am. Unfortunately, when you are introduced to the “assigning agents” phase for the very first time there is no one to recruit yet. Nor are you allowed build those particular rooms for recruitment yet. This is a clear mistake in pacing of the tutorial and introduction to these game elements.

One of the first two rooms you are introduced to involves greeting spies entering your headquarters and having to accept or reject them based on code names they use. In the beginning of the game you are given a dossier that sits in the left corner of your screen, which has the instructions for every room, as long as you have that room built. In the code name room, you have to match any one of the words the spy says with the words in your dossier. If the word appears in your dossier then you write the word corresponding to the word the spy said . You then have to match the spy’s second response to your dossier. If all the words check out then you accept that spy, otherwise you reject the spy. This in my opinion was probably one of the better rooms in the game, as the code words change daily in your dossier.

As the campaign continues you will notice pace of play issues, as the cash rewards seem a bit too little, and each time you make a mistake cash is subtracted and added to the negative limit shown between days. This will most likely mean that you’ll have use multiple days to complete a cash goal because mistakes are bound to made as you learn each room. One particular room, cryptography, is probably the most tedious, as the goal is to unscramble letters from a group of letters. You are given scrambled letters followed by +/- and a number. You are to use the letters of the alphabet provided in your dossier to count up or down by the number given. All the ones I encountered were a five letter word, so you are essentially given ten letters to unscramble. The dossier doesn’t do the best job of explaining that the numbers can wrap past A or Z, and gives the false impression that all the letters in the solution are either plus or negative and not mixed with plus and negative, which they are. Cryptography currently has a lot of repeated words that is fixable, but sometimes I was seriously stumped as to what the word was because it seemed like gibberish. I lost most of my cash in cryptography during my playthrough.

Safe House

As the campaign moves on, in no particular order, you are introduced to new rooms, such as forgery, infirmary, black ops recruitment, bomb making, interrogation, and spy recruitment. Although cash is low in the beginning, once you hit the interrogation room the pace of the game starts to get better, as the cash rewards have also increased to a solid level. I was particularly disappointed in the campaign mode’s spy and soldier recruitment. I ran into bugs and it isn’t quite as deep as I thought it would be. Both the soldiers and spies each have three different stats that can be upgraded with each level up from their completed missions. You can only have a maximum of four soldiers and four spies, which is not a huge roster at all. They have levels attached to them and experience bars, but weirdly those experience bars kept disappearing.

As you play the game longer the user interface gets easier to use and you are clicking through your dossier with ease. The scrolling between rooms is a bit slow, but gets smoother with VSync and scroll speed cranked up. The graphical style may be simple and plain, but it is acceptable for a game like this. I found the figures of the spies very funny. The game does have cinematic sequences that are interesting, and by the end of the story mode there is an interesting political ending that I wont spoil here. If you enjoyed story mode, then Endless mode is the next place to go, as you start from the beginning with the story stripped out.

Safe House is essentially a task manager game. If you don’t like performing a lot tasks repeatedly, then you probably wont like this game. You really do feel like you are on a secret mission, with the mysterious background music constantly playing. This is a mixed bag though, as it has a great foundation and a lot of rooms that are interesting, but the game still needs to be fine tuned, particularly the pacing of the game, the missions, and the recruitment system. If you are willing to wade through a difficultly paced game then I recommend it, if not, hold off for now. Safe House is a game that I will have to revisit later in 2018, as a lot of the issues I feel can be addressed and corrected for a fun experience.

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Papers, Please (PC)

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