Someone probably once said that life is a game and we’re all just players making decisions and moving our pieces in a flimsy allegory for existence. If they didn’t then they should have! It’s Daniel here at Opposable Games once again ready to blog your face off. Think you can handle it? Those with an awesome rating of less than 5.2 should probably quit reading now… Let’s do it!
A game needs gameplay to exist otherwise it’s just arbitrary pieces on a board or floating in cyberspace. Gameplay comes to define a game, gives it meaning, whether it’s noughts and crosses or Skyrim. It sets the boundaries of what is possible and creates an enclosed, but unique, gaming space; you could argue that gameplay is a game’s truest identity ahead of art or story.
Salvaged (you’ve heard of it, right?) features two main gameplay designs that interact with each other: the command room and the contracts. Here we’ll discuss in depth their roles within the game.
The command room gameplay occurs in first person as the Player assumes the role of Alex Pieterson. In this mode the Player is confined to the physical command room with its various different screens. Each screen has a different function which can be put under the umbrella term ‘housekeeping’. The command room is where the player acquires new agents, more powerful weapons and better armour. It’s where the Player can upgrade each agent with new stats and unlock improvements for their ship. It’s also where the story of the game plays out and the Player catches momentary glimpses of the world beyond their walls. Realism is a key factor in the gameplay of the command room; the Player is in their chair as a commander and can interact with each screen at any time – even when a contract is in progress. From a thematic perspective this gameplay enhances the Player’s experience of being a commander alone in their starship.
From the command room the Player can access the contracts gameplay. Once agents have been acquired and equipment bought, the Player sends their agents out to a wrecked starship to recover an objective item. This is where the contracts gameplay develops further.
Progress through the wreck is broken into three phases: Recon, Breach and Explore with each phase having a different gameplay experience.
Recon is the most involved of all the phases and where the player has most control over the game. The purpose of Recon is to set up a strategy for the agents to follow when they encounter any hostiles in the adjacent room. The Player gives instructions to their agents by tracing a line from each agent into an adjacent room via a series of ‘nodes’. This line will be the path the agent follows into the room during the Breach Phase allowing for strategic movement by the agents. The Player can also set which items they will use such as grenades, traps and scanners to reveal more information about the hostiles or hit them with a sick status effect. Once the Player’s plan is ready the game enters Breach phase.
During Breach the agents storm the room like a SWAT team, encountering the hostiles according to the Player’s plan. It’s a tense moment – will my plan work or will it fail? The Player has minimal control at this point; they’re able to modify whether an agent is aggressive or defensive and make slight adjustments to their positioning but other than that the agent’s outcome rests in the hands of the Player’s strategy. A saving grace exists in a ‘retreat’ function that’ll pull the agents out of the room if they’re being overwhelmed.
If the Breach proves to be successful the game enters Explore phase. This brief phase in where the Player receives their rewards for clearing a room in the form of salvage. Different salvage items have different weight and value, meaning the Player has to choose which salvage to claim and carry. This phase acts as a moment of respite for the Player. Once done, the game automatically returns to the Recon phase for the next round in order to maintain the pace of the game.
In many ways the gameplay structure of Salvaged’s contracts is similar to that of a board game with set turns or phases within a round. The Player makes decisions and the game reacts accordingly. The gameplay is designed to be fast paced, methodical and tense with a huge sense of reward following a successful strategy.
Will it pay off? Of course it will! Don’t be such a negative Nelly.