[dropcap size=big]B[/dropcap]ack in 2013 an adventure game using the Adventure Game Studio (AGS) engine ran a campaign on Kickstarter to get funded. It took Crashable Studios two tries, and just barely made their $10,000 goal, but as of Friday Alum was finally released to Steam users (DRM-free copies will be sent out soon). And while I’ll admit that I had some very early skepticism that the game would be funded let alone released, I’m proud to say that I’m willing to eat those words. For a point-and-click adventure game in the same vein as Sierra or Lucasarts classics it’s an admirable addition to the genre. However, it’s nothing spectacular and in a couple areas it does fall a bit flat. Still, at the same time the story is gripping and worth playing for.
In Alum, you play as the titular hero who’s been living in Kosmos with Esther, his wife, and works as a courier for the Golden Stork delivery service. The story revolves around him trying to find a cure for the “Vague”, essentially a disease of the mind where apparently apathy starts setting in and people give into the darkness. At least, that’s what Alum has been led to believe. As with any good story there’s more to it than meets the eye. As luck would have it, he finds a clue as to someone who might have a cure. He sets off on an adventure to save humanity, whether he believes it or not.
In his journeys he’s confronted with the reality of the “Vague”, the Lurids and their master, and his own destiny. Having managed to escape the Ebots, Mr. Glym’s robotic enforcers, Alum finds himself in the care of an old man called Symmetry and is introduced to the “Unfeigned Altruist”. Apparently, the Altruist has the cure for the “Vague” contained in little crystal-like containers called “Rushlights” and by spreading his love to others will they find happiness. Not exactly a subtle approach but even if one chooses to ignore the obvious allegory there’s still a gripping tale to be had.
At its core, Alum is basically a “good versus evil” game where you have a group of freedom fighters calling themselves the “Rogations” working to overthrow the tyranny of Glym in Kosmos and to bring peace and love to the “Land of Tide”. You’ll even get to play their leader, Dashu, in a couple sections of the game. After earning their trust, Alum gains the help of this group of rebels. And some of my favorite segments are part of this, particularly the sniper sequence on one of the “heat towers” keeping Kosmos warm.
If there’s one major issue that I have with Alum it’s the voice acting. The characters typically sound inconsistent when you hear them and often it’s flat. Even if you take into account how one might sound with the “Vague” affecting them it’s still jarring. And the allegory can be a bit too “in-your-face” at times. I would have loved it to be a bit more subtle, but even so it all works in context. For a first time attempt at developing a game, and with such a low budget compared to other game Kickstarters, it’s still a worthy addition to the genre. Just nothing to write home about.