Following a game which had such success as Thomas Was Alone did would be a hard task for any development company, let alone for just one guy, but Mike Bithell came up with a stellar idea in the form of Volume. Volume is a modern take on Robin Hood, which sees you infiltrate various establishments and pick up the various goodies that lie inside, while doing your best to avoid the sentries dotted around the map.
Not only was the idea a great one, the execution of it was impeccable too. You’re thrust into a world where you only know how to do two things – sneak around and steal things. Assisted by a friendly artificial intelligence, named Alan, you are plopped into dozens of different buildings and each time the difficulty is slightly increased and the size of your surroundings seems to grow too. It gives the game a fantastic difficulty curve and makes it so enjoyable to play, as you never feel like it’s a struggle.
The game is presented in such a fantastic way as well, even if it is a little simple. The interface is clean and clear, with little boxes popping up as and when necessary, to minimise the amount of clutter on the “HUD” that is all too common on games these days. This is a risky idea for a developer, however, as it is on them to ensure their game is intuitive and not reliant on information on the screen aiding users in any way, but, well, Mike Bithell isn’t just any developer. The game is so easy to play that anyone can pick it up and play it without it getting too frustrating or encountering any part of the game that stymies them too much.
The overall feel of the game is pretty impressive, despite the graphics being relatively simplistic. They still manage to conjure up feelings of unease and fear of being caught, but it never feels overwhelming. You’re able to see everything that you need as you traverse the map, including the guards’ cone of vision, meaning you’re able to see every pitfall that lies ahead of you, and the best ways to avoid detection. This really lets players plan their moves precisely and strategically to gather up the valuable loot in the shortest and most efficient way possible, and with the global leader board taking your times into account, it’s really important for the competitive player to move through the level as quickly as possible.
Every game has its downsides, and Volume is no different in that regard. There were a few features that let the game down a little, and for me, the worst offender was the voice acting. While Danny Wallace and Andy Serkis performed well, I found the protagonist, voiced by famed YouTuber Charlie McDonnell, underwhelming and definitely not of the same calibre as his colleagues. It could certainly be argued that as this was his first role in a video game that it’s forgivable, but he lacked any real believability which really shook the immersive value of the game. I can see why Bithell took the risk on the well-known vlogger, but I think it did more harm than good, with McDonnell’s amateurish display detracting from the game as a whole.
I’m also not overly fond of the AI in the game, or perhaps just their vision. They seem a little dopey – but maybe that’s the point – however their eyesight seems to be a little faulty. It seemed to be that as long as I was crouched against a wall, they wouldn’t be able to see me. Even if that wall was facing them, making it at times a little too easy to sneak passed them.
Overall, the game is very good and Bithell can certainly feel proud of his work. Following up such a fantastic game in Thomas Was Alone with Volume is an amazing achievement. It was slightly let down by the voice acting, but on the whole, Volume is a brilliant stealth adventure game that leaves me eagerly anticipating the next game from this excellent developer.