Following a helicopter crash at a seemingly abandoned research facility located within the frost and snow covered Arctic circle, a group of survivors find themselves freezing, hungry and exhausted. The facility is sectioned off into six different zones and players must guide their crew of survivors through each individual zone, scouring the available buildings for useful materials that can help them unlock the doors in the fencing between each zone. It’s not as simple as playing hide and go seek with some explosive ingredients, however, as we’re not only faced with the task of getting out but with survival itself. Players need to locate useful materials such as heavy jackets, food, and tools if they want to survive the cold, unforgiving night.
Each character’s primary survival needs are represented in the top right corner of the HUD. There are different ways to attend to the needs. Warmth drains when characters are subjected to the brutal elements of the Arctic, so finding warmer jackets, going inside of buildings with fires, and closing or repairing windows can help keep the bar full. Likewise, hunger drains the Satiety bar, and players can find various foods like instant noodles, canned soup, and frozen vegetables. These foods can be consumed in their raw state for an immediate bump to satiety, or players can seek out a stove and cook them for a boost to effectiveness. Likewise there are other foods like candy and coffee beans can help stave off hunger in a pinch, but spoiled food risks doing more harm than good to the survivor that dares consume it. Completing tasks necessary for survival like busting up crates for wood planks, shoveling out doorways, and searching for food drains stamina. While stamina is boosted by the aforementioned coffee beans, but the only real way to overcome exhaustion and fatigue is for your characters to sleep in a bed or on a couch.
Even if players manage to seal up a building, close all of the windows, light up a warm fire, turn on a generator for electricity, eat a warm meal, and find a place to rest their head there are still dangers lurking in the frostbit shadows. Sleeping draws the ire of the ever present “anomalies”, alien creatures that haunt the base. There are ways to dispatch these anomalies, with early incantations of them being dissuaded from attacking your players simply by having lights actively powered by a generator. Later anomalies can be lured into warm buildings and destroyed by the heat of a furnace, but this comes at the cost of hard to come by materials typically used for fuel such as coal or wood planks. If you think you can avoid interacting with anomalies simply by refusing to sleep and just attempting to run through each zone as quickly as possible, you’ll quickly discover that Distrust has one more trick up its sleeve.
Attempting to survive a stressful situation with limited resources for even the most basic of human needs can have a devastating effect on the human psyche. Distrust amplifies this by introducing multiple variations of psychosis that can affect your character and dampen your chances of survival. Some of these mental breakdowns can seem mundane, like when your character feels the urge to randomly recite the works of Shakespeare in the middle of chopping up a crate. Others are more damning, such as the hallucinations that can plague a character and make them suspect their fellow survivors are really horrible beasts lurking in the next room. Couple terrifying hallucinations with a character that is equipped with a gun and the risk of injury – or even death – for fellow survivors is increased exponentially.
Distrust is a roguelike survival experience, and thus death is permanent. Each attempt to survive the game creates a randomly generated scenario. Thanks to a plethora of potential plot twists, ailments, and pop up quests there’s plenty of replay value to keep you coming back and tackling the brutal world over and over again. Completing an actual scenario can take about an hour, and you’re going to want to do it more than once if you hope to unlock all fifteen available characters. Early gameplay can feel a little stilted as only three characters are available to start with and of those three you can only begin with two active characters. They each have their own pros and cons for gameplay and survival purposes, but it would have been nice if more of the available playable characters were available at the start for the sake of variety.
One of the most difficult aspects of bringing a game like survival management game like Distrust from PC to console is sorting out porting keyboard and mouse inputs to a controller. Distrust manages to overcome this obstacle fairly well, but there are some bumps in the road. Switching between active characters is as simple as using the left and right trigger, however the camera does not pan to the active character when you switch views. Players must open up the map and click on an area to send the camera to that area rather than just having the camera shift to the active character when the player chooses them. This is problematic and frustrating during more tense sequences when it is important to see to a character’s needs or inspect their situation before moving them.