Industria is no Half-Life 3, or even 2, it's about a 5...


Industria is a first-person adventure from indie developer Bleakmill, set in Berlin in 1989 just before the end of the Cold War and the fall of the Berlin Wall. You play as a woman named Nora who receives a disturbing phone call from boyfriend and colleague Walter, who informs you that a hivemind AI you co-developed called ATLAS has gone mental, and all the robots in the area have gone mental with it.

Set in East Germany the game is immediately reminiscent of Half Life 2, which was also set somewhere in Eastern Europe. Apart from the setting and the fact that it's played in first person, that's where the similarities end–there are no trans-dimensional aliens, no driveable vehicles, no shootouts with attack helicopters, drones, Antlions or Tripods either. 

The game has basic physics-based puzzles, like finding a winder wheel to crank open a door or piling crates to climb to a higher point. There's also a chemistry puzzle that has you mixing your own rust remover, but I don't think I'll be trying it IRL. Occasional visits to a nightmarishly large library intersperse the game's actual levels. Played in monochrome the library is presumably a nightmare, and seems to grow and get more complex every time you 'visit' it. You get "help" via radio contact with a man called Brent but never actually get to meet him.

Unfortunately Industria has several issues, mostly minor, but they combine to spoil what is a potentially decent adventure. The first thing you're going to want to do is go to the Gameplay options and turn the movement and  aiming sensitivity up to at least 1.5, otherwise Nora moves and turns with sloth-like speed. 'Crouch' is also not on toggle by default, so I made that so too.

You need your flashlight a lot in Industria.

Hardcore mode means you have extremely scarce ammo, and also lose the frequent autosave feature and so have to manually save, for which you have to find typewriters, Resident Evil–style. Unfortunately you can't change difficulty settings mid-game if you start to struggle (which I did), so will have to restart, and the typewriters are rarer than rocking horse poo. This means death will most likely require you to replay a large section, and makes the game feel decidedly roguelike, a game mechanic that is inexplicably popular right now. While you might miss out on an achievement/trophy playing on 'Normal', Industria is a completely different (and more pleasant) experience when played on the 'Normal' setting.

A large statue dominates a city square.

Nora's movement felt odd to me and it took me a moment to realise that the game has basic PC-like keyboard movement (forward, backwards, left, right)  with no diagonal movement possible. This is no great problem but it does feel weird at first, and makes you kind of "lurch" as you move. The game smacks of a quick PC port, which it really shouldn't be as it was released on PC in September last year. 

Your only glimpse of Brent, a man who helps you throughout the game.

Industria's damage modelling is extremely limited. You can hack parts off attacking robots, smash wooden barriers and certain loot crates but can't batter down locked doors or even smash glass. There was no splash or ripples on the first water we encountered, or when you walk through or throw something into water, or even bullet splashes–but things did improve later. You can't even shoot through the many decorative ballustrades in the city, which is disappointing given the amount of opportunities for sniping at long range (which is an absolute necessity on Hardcore mode). Most of the locations are "walled in" by tall buildings or structures, but there are a lot of invisible walls stopping you from straying too far off the beaten path too. It's a bit odd how the game encourages you to explore and search everything and everywhere, and then slaps you on the wrist and shouts "NOT THERE!" with an invisible barrier that stops you from investigating what was no doubt a really interesting bit. Interactive  objects  and pickups have a handy shine so nothing useful is easy to miss, there are various collectables that fill in pieces of the backstory, but it remained rather vague

Industria is undoubtedly an indie-developed Half-Life 2 wannabe, but it needed more work, more polish and more optimization for console play. The stuttering, sub-30fps performance of this game on Xbox One or even Xbox Series X, just doesn't make the grade months after the likes of Far Cry 6,  Halo Infinite and Dying Light 2 appeared.

A quick train ride gets you out of the city.

I completed Industria (on the 'Normal' difficulty setting) in 4-5 hours and must say I quite enjoyed the experience despite its limitations and flaws. In fact, I enjoyed it enough to try and replay it on Hardcore mode, but gave up about half way through. Industria is on a par with the toughest when played on this setting and would obviously take longer to complete, but I'm not sure what developers hope to achieve when they make games this hard. There are far too many games out there to sit grinding away like I believe most people will have to. There's nothing wrong with making a game challenging, but too many games are going over the top right now.

Thanks to Bleakmill, Headup Games and Thunderful Games for the review code