Industry inspirations are evident from the leap: Half-Life 2, David Lynch movies, and more. It’s something that Blackmill’s six-person team mentioned when discussing Industry Online that got me excited. You play as Nora, a worker for the East Berlin-based company Atlas just before the end of the Cold War. Your boyfriend goes missing, and you set out to find him, only to end up in a parallel dimension where machines have taken over the house. Sadly, the four hours following this mysterious and intriguing debut failed to fulfill the opening’s potential. Blackmill aimed high, and while I thought it might take off at times, I was left dissatisfied and wished there was more meat on the bone by the time of the credits.
However, one aspect that kept me satisfied from start to finish was everything you experience in Industria without ever touching any controllers. Thanks to a world completely overtaken by machines, its atmosphere is oppressive and haunting. Score Match features funny choral melodies that play brilliantly in the game environment. Even its visuals, which occasionally cracked when viewing Vista on the horizon, sold the game well. I just want the industry to have a mix of gameplay and storytelling.
Immediately, controlling Nora feels crappy. You can’t move diagonally on the left stick, affecting a minute but the lack of input, and the game feels decidedly less fluid as a result. This industry being a first-person shooter further highlights this problem, because above all, I wanted to feel sharp and in control while fighting enemies. Of course, I didn’t.
There’s a distinct lack of guns in the early stages, forcing me to rely on the ax to attack enemies and solve environmental puzzles. I was excited about how these puzzles could evolve, but oddly enough, save for a couple, the rest of the game reuses some of the same ones. I encountered these puzzles while attempting to accomplish objectives that are almost exclusively something along the lines of “go here, interact with it, and move on”. It got boring quickly.
Blackmill made a few different fighting machines to accomplish these objectives, and I liked the variations between them because they kept me on my toes. A small circular bot sprung towards me before self-exploding. Another fought like a human with a gun, and another attacked me wildly, swinging their arms to attack. These firefights were often tense, and because Industria wasn’t eager to toss gunpowder in abundance, I would often run away, scouring through drawers and cabinets to find more bullets. I had a great time in these firefights, but I wish the actual scenarios were more polished so that I felt as diverse as the robots I was shooting.
For the first hour, the central narrative mystery is intriguing enough for me to see the relatively simple and monotonous “get here” motives. There’s also a mid-game twist that I really liked. But as I reached the final moments of the game, I lacked the clarity of storytelling I had hoped to achieve. One moment, I’m fighting a ton of robots in what could be the game’s final combat scenario. Then, I say goodbye to a friend at breakneck speed before moving on to an entirely new setting. Here, Blackmill delivers the narrative moment that everything was moving forward, and it missed the mark. Sure, it explained some character motives and resolved the industry question from the opening scenes, but it wasn’t satisfactory. It was too early to make sense, as fast as it started and was not justifying my investment up to that point.
While the industrial atmosphere certainly nailed what it was going for, the monotonous gameplay and quick-witted story left me unsatisfied. Still, I loved the ambiance and background, and I wouldn’t mind if Blackmill took another crack at it—the rest of this world needs to add a few more cogs to their machine.