We as South Africans go wild when we see our country in movies and TV. It is just natural as we love our home and want to show it off to the world. Well, how about a video game that is set in the awesome Johannesburg, or Johazardburg as the game says? Not only does Organosphere show off the centre of Joburg, but it also has so much local flavour that it is hard to not love it.
While the developers of the game, Robert Rumney and Shari Banhegyi, did not spill much detail on the game's story, they did tell me that some strange apocalyptic phenomenon has taken place which has caused the city of Johannesburg to receive non-stop rain for two months in a row. Not only is it raining throughout the day and night in the game, but it has also caused plants and trees to take over the city and grow at a rapid rate. Buildings are completely taken over by nature, and insects and plants come to life and fight back as you try and make your way through the city.
To make it even worse, these plants and insects are larger than ever with Park Town Prawns, and Dung Beetles being as large as cars, and the trees come to life and can walk around the city itself. The army has also been sent into the concrete jungle to fight off these enemies, but they too see you as a threat, so you are alone in the world to fend for yourself.
While the build I played did not have a character creator, the devs say that they are working on it so that you can create your own person and set forth on the adventure. Weapons like guns and pans can be used to defend yourself, and there are various things around the city you can use to fight off these creatures and aggro mercs.
But it is the local love that I fell for when playing the game. Searching items throughout the game will let you discover things like boerewors, Rizzla, and other locally-known items which you will use to survive. Health, stamina, hunger, and other stats are all important to the game and they all contribute to giving it its awesome survival feature.
Night time comes and you have to find shelter to sleep, be it under the bridge near Ponty tower or in a tent which has been set up by the army. There are also buildings which have been fully modelled inside
The best part about the game is its environment and the developers have worked extremely hard to make sure that it is on point to the city of Joburg. Everything from the street signs to the metro police cars that lay abandoned on the streets has been modelled by hand, if not by the devs, outsourced to other local 3D makers in SA. It was the little things like shooting an ATM and seeing R5 coins flying out of it, and the Mandos sign, which is the game's answer to Nandos. It sort of feels like GTA with its hidden innuendos and I could not wait to turn the next corner to see what else was hidden there for me to see.
My concern going into my studio visit was how well the game played and I was pleasantly surprised to see that it felt extremely polished. While the game is not even in alpha, it ran like a dream and felt and sounded like something I would throw R400 at. The game is now fully playable from start to finish with a few bugs here and there, but so is game development right?
There is an end to the game too, so those of you worried about just running around and killing things can rest assured that there is an end to the mysterious story which you are thrown into. What you do in between it all is all up to you and the city and all the local flavour is waiting for you to explore it.
Organosphere is a perfect example of how a team of passionate SA game makers can create something driven by the love of gaming and the excitement of their home country. I truly hope that the game gets the attention it deserves. The team has been working on it for over five years and it is important to highlight how great the game really is.
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