Steam's catalogue is so varied now that it's inevitable, between the shovelware and chuff, you'll find something that feels like it was snipped from the centre of your brain. That's what the Lorn's Lure is to me. It's a psychological horror first-person parkour sci-fi extravaganza (perhaps 'extravaganza' is too strong of a word, but after all those descriptors 'game' would feel a little lame), available right now as a nice chunky demo.
Lorn's Lure feels like a game designed to terrify climbers, and as a climber myself I can testify that it works bloody well. Specifically, it's designed to terrify trad climbers, the people who scramble up crags with gear and rope. You play as a robot trying to climb out of a mysterious alien structure. At some point you went in too deep, and now your only option is to press on further, a little organo-mechanical thing scratching away at the walls of an unknowably vast complex of gutters and wires and porous grey cliffs. It's the same conundrum faced by every trad climber once they properly commit to a route. Downclimbing is no longer an option. The only way out is through.
But with trad climbing you have only so much gear (limited saves, if you will), which isn't the case here. As a robot you have the ability to forecast all possible futures within a small timeframe, and the only move that's real is the one you get right. It's a very forgiving system that takes some of the frustration out of the game's gnarly little problems, which bring to mind the pleasure of a good bouldering session: precision jumps, crimpy catches, constantly draining energy. You have to be very observant, too. Take stock of the environment and plan your moves, or else risk trapping yourself in the wrong spot, or worse, flailing into the abyss.
Is trad climbing scary? Not usually. Most of the time it feels like Breath of the Wild, lovely and purposeful, big gulps of fresh air, distant traffic heard through a haze of birdsong. But there are nasty moments. Sometimes you don't realize you've overestimated yourself until it's too late to back out. You might spend an eternity dithering about on some ledge, alternating hands, sweating like a hot cheese. And there's injuries, of course. Those are inevitable. There was an afternoon on Stanage where I had to help carry a young lad on a stretcher up to a helicopter. Medicated out of his mind, he flirted cheerfully with the paramedic while the rest of us stared in horror at what gravity had done to his leg.
Human error plays a role in every accident, but there's a greater terror underneath that. It's the apathy of the natural world. Mountains will kill you without even trying; if you drown, it's not the ocean's fault. I guess that's the sense I get from Lorn's Lure. These caverns aren't hostile, just indifferent. They existed with a purpose that was wholly their own before I came along and started my desperate scrabble to freedom. Being alone in an inhuman place, carrying your fate literally in your own hands - it's terrifying and empowering in equal measure. That unlikely emotional cocktail draws me back to the crags again and again. And it draws me back to Lorn's Lure, too.
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