Distrust Review: Go a Little Mad in the Cold

Distrust is a game about survival in the harshest of climates. The game opens with a mysterious bright light and a helicopter crash. From there, you are stranded in an unforgiving Arctic environment with limited supplies and an ever-growing sense of dread. You take control of two survivors trying to make their way to the safety of an abandoned scientific research facility, and along the way you have to make harsh decisions that will lead to your success… or doom.

Platforms: PC
Publisher: Alawar Entertainment
Developer: Cheerdealers
Genre: Top-Down Sci-Fi Survival
Release Date: August 23, 2017
ESRB Rating: Not Rated

Distrust was developed by Cheerdealers, an indie studio from Russia, and it’s a top-down sci-fi survival game that takes heavy inspiration from the classic John Carpenter film The Thing. You have to manage your survivor’s level of Warmth, Stamina, and Satiety, as well as deal with the mysterious anomalies that appear throughout the game. While Distrust starts off simply enough, supplies becomes more and more scarce, and your sanity will start affecting the environment around you.

The gameplay has very simply point-and-click movement and not much else to it. Each zone has its buildings randomly generated and there are four different endings which adds to the game’s replayability, but the real game to be played is managing your survivor’s Health, Warmth, Stamina, and Satiety. Every time you are outside of a building your survivor’s Warmth bar will start dropping considerably, so be sure to run from building to building as fast as you can. Once inside a building there will be a furnace that will provide the Warmth you need to build that bar back up.

Most of the buildings in the earlier zones have the furnaces always lit upon entering, but as you get farther and farther into the game you will come across buildings that have windows open, broken doors that are letting the cold in, un-fueled furnaces which you will need to feed coal or wooden planks, into or even totally broken furnaces which you will need to first repair then light with even more wood or coal. If you find yourself in a real tight spot with no working furnace and no supplies to start one up there are a few other items that your survivors can consume to give them a temporary boost to warm up, such as hot coffee or soup, as well as wearing heavy jackets to slow down the creeping frost.

Next, you must keep an eye on your Stamina. Every action whether opening doors or just walking through a building requires the use of Stamina and the main way to stave off sleep deprivation is to well… sleep. You will need to find a building with either a bed or a couch to crash on and regain your Stamina, but beware, because sleep is also where your survivors are at their most vulnerable.

During sleep is when the anomalies manifest themselves. They appear outside the building you are sleeping in and try to make their way towards the victim. Encounter them and they will drain your health FAST! Keeping the lights on in the building and the furnace lit is the best way to stave them off and keep them outside but if your generator runs out of gas and the lights go out, the only other option to get rid of them is to shoot them so you better hope you come across a gun and some bullets. Sleeping is also the only way to get rid of sanity effects. If you are sleep deprived for too long your character can start to go mad in various ways. Sometimes you go color blind, other times you start singing uncontrollably and your decent into madness could even lead to uncontrollable rage and a plethora of other psychological conditions.

Finally, you have to worry about Satiety or how hungry your character gets. You do find food along the way but it is mostly frozen or spoiled and you can only gain the full benefits from certain foods if you cook them. So, you will need to traverse from building to building until you find a stove to cook all your food which is not a guarantee that you will find in each zone. There are small things like candy or protein bars which don’t require a stove but they are extremely scarce and don’t provide nearly as much energy as a fully cooked meal.

All of these statuses together keep your character alive and moving. Throughout the game you will come across many more obstacles that will require tools and supplies to progress but you will always be a slave to your character’s own limitations. Before each game starts however, you are able to choose your survivors. In all there are 15 but you only start with three to choose from and unlock more as you progress through the game. Each survivor has special abilities such as cold resistance or hunger resistance in which they will lose Warmth or Satiety slower and many other perks that are beneficial to your survival.

The graphics are pretty standard when it comes to top-down games. There was nothing really special about the graphical design in Distrust other than it does work with the setting wonderfully and the muted colors add more to the sense of isolation. The sound design is very cool and well thought out. The droning soundtrack is very unsettling and the change that comes when an anomaly appears really cuts through and adds the sense of panic to the game.

Distrust could have benefited a bit more from a more interactive mechanical design where you can have players do things other than just pointing and clicking but it is understandable coming from such a small indie developer. Where the game lacks in mechanics it definitely makes up for that in other areas. Distrust does a really good job at immersing the player in the environment. I was on the edge of my seat in the later zones trying to keep my survivors alive just a little bit longer so that I may have a slight chance of making it to the end.

As The Thing is one of my favorite movies of all time, being able to play this game with that idea in my mind really added the experience. So as the fall and winter seasons approach, go bundle up in a comfy hoodie, go put on a pot of coffee and go grab Distrust and slowly descend into madness as you try to make it out alive.

Review Disclosure: A review copy of Distrust was provided by Alawar Entertainment for the purposes of this review.

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Dan Hartnack is an old school gamer since the early 90s. He has been writing and doing reviews as a games journalist for three years.

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