Video game reviews: New games from Eastern European developers dwell in dystopia

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      Earlier this year, two games were released that immerse players in strange futures.

      Metro Exodus, developed by 4A Games, based in the Ukraine, is the third game in the first-person shooter franchise based on the novels of Russian writer Dmitry Glukhovsky. This Russia is a place where citizens are struggling to survive a nuclear apocalypse. In the first two games, much of the activity takes place in the subway tunnels of Moscow, which are deep under the surface, therefore providing an environment safe from fallout.

      In Exodus, the setting shifts outside, giving us a glimpse of what a nuclear winter looks like. The narrative is structured around pulling apart the story constructed in the first games. It’s a clever trick to inject something new to the games while keeping them familiar, and it serves to force players who have played those earlier games to reconsider exactly what they thought happened.

      Along with battling bizarre, mutated monsters, you will be managing your meagre resources and scavenging and crafting. This is a postapocalyptic setting, after all.

      Metro Exodus, available for PS4, Windows, and Xbox One, is a standard shooter experience that is distinguished by its setting.

      Observer was developed by Polish studio Bloober Team back in 2017 (for PS4, Windows, and Xbox One) and has ported to the Nintendo Switch. The game features Rutger Hauer as Daniel Lazarski, a detective of sorts who has the ability to see the world around him through different augmentation filters and to hack into not just machines but minds.

      The cyberpunk atmosphere is well suited to the plot, which centres around the uncontrolled power of corporations in a future in which nationalism has collapsed after a “digital plague” ravishes society.

      There’s no combat here but plenty to think about. As Lazarski, you collect information and evidence from the environment, piecing together a story as you go. The bleak tone is very Blade Runner and Hauer instills his character with a palpable weariness.

      Although the controls of Observer are, at times, frustrating, and the experience a bit uneven, the exploration and hacking provide a different kind of game to play on the Switch.