I got the chance to try out the Alpha version of The Kingsport Cases this weekend. It’s a first-person horror game that takes place at a dinner party. The demo has you play as a detective, arriving at the party, exploring the environment, talking to guests, and pick up clues.

Unfortunately the demo left me with more questions than answers. Machines in Motion promises puzzles, complex NPCs, a procedurally generated story, and some sort of enemy creature you’ll need to protect yourself (or run!) from. It sounds like a great concept that would be a ton of fun to play. However, the Alpha demo doesn’t showcase many of those aforementioned gameplay promises.

The Kingsport Cases ss3 1024x640 The Kingsport Cases: Ambitiously Alpha

The Kingsport Cases is in very early stages with placeholder geometry and character designs. There are about 4 or 5 static NPCs to talk to in the demo containing basic dialog trees. The search around the mansion is also very dull and ultimately leads nowhere. You walk down long hallways to pick up some keys and find some clues – there are no enemies or puzzles at all, and once I had explored the entire demo area I didn’t know quite what to do.

Upon restarting the demo you’ll notice the NPCs placed differently with slightly altered dialog, and the level layout slightly altered.

The Kingsport Cases ss2 1024x640 The Kingsport Cases: Ambitiously Alpha

A couple of genuinely cool moments showed me the potential for Kingsport’s core concept. The first was when I was snooping around a back office. A party member instantly appeared behind me asking why I was there. The camera whips around 180 degrees and I actually felt like I was caught in the act.

The second moment was in the front room, talking to the party guests after finding some clues. You have the option to tell them there is a nearby cult, quite abruptly. It all inevitably just leads to more dialog trees, but it’s a good demonstration of the potential for dynamic NPC relationships. I hope, in the final build, this affects the actual gameplay and story.

The big question is if Machines in Motion can pull it off. It all feels very early, and it’s hard to tell how engaging the final game will actually be. Are the party guests going to actually move and interact with each other? What types of puzzles/combat should I expect? Why do I have the ability to jump? How will the social dynamics and procedurally-generated story affect the gameplay?

The Kingsport Cases ss4 1024x640 The Kingsport Cases: Ambitiously Alpha

Albeit some neat room designs, the demo currently feels very rudimentary with lots of placeholder graphics and lacking any character animation whatsoever. With four promised levels, randomly generated levels, complex NPCs, interactive puzzles, and some type of enemy creature – it’s kind of hard to believe this project will be ready in 9 months.

Machines in Motion just reached their Kickstarter goal so I imagine they are excited to continue development. Kingsport Cases promises some big ideas and I’ll be keeping a cautious eye on it as it develops.

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