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COATS


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Rating: 4.3/5 (21 votes)
Comments (8) | Views (7,618)

COATS

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In Epidemic Games' free indie horror game COATS, you're Randal, the Chief of Staff at one of the last surviving research centers in the country, working with scientists to try to develop a cure for the creatures everyone calls "Skins". The center is filled with the best technology and is supposed to be entirely self-sufficient... which is a good thing since things have taken a turn for the worse outside, and now all you can do is try to keep your people alive and research a cure. With multiple endings and choices, each day is up to you as you decide how to manage your people and your supplies, sending out scavengers or trying to bring back "test subjects" to experiment on.

COATSCOATS controls are fairly basic, and the game will walk you through facility operations. [Arrow] keys for movement, [spacebar] to interact, left [shift] to sprint, and [ESC] to save your game. Each day, you'll need to figure out how to direct the people in your facility by speaking to the staff in charge of various areas, such as rations, security, research, and more. Each area can only perform one task per day, though depending on how they're feeling, some people might be temporarily unable to work. (If you're the unscrupulous sort, it's fairly easy to cheat by just saying before Randal goes to bed and reloading if the results of the day's activities aren't optimal.) In addition to the obvious matter of research, which requires capturing subjects and finding samples, you need to worry about your overall security, ammunition, and food. These things fluctuate daily based on your actions... sending someone to scavenge might bring more supplies, for instance, but if they get followed back to the base, things will get more dangerous. When you get access to them after a few days, slipping into your civvies with [S] will let you talk to your people about something other than work, allowing you the chance to get to know them and advance their stories, or even just get bonuses to things like your security or research. As time passes, special events can pop up for you to deal with, and you choices with them, as well as how you run your facility, will determine your outcome.

COATSThe biggest problem with COATS is the feeling of repetition that sets in early on. I mean, it's about a small group of people trapped in a small bunker who are all essentially stuck at work. Though there are events that happen on certain days, of course, and plenty of opportunities to get to know each person in the bunker with Randal, though sadly there's no option to backhand someone when they complain that they're "too sad" or otherwise put off to do their job for the day. COATS is a long game for a freeware title, and it's clear there's been a lot of effort put into expanding and polishing up both the presentation and the premise, which is, repetitive or not, actually exactly the sort of psychological stuff classic zombies used to feature more often. While more modern zombie games and movies are about things smashing through windows and devouring people in the goriest ways possible, iconic films like Night of the Living Dead and Dawn of the Dead focus more on the way humanity reacts to isolation and the apparent degradation of society. In this, COATS cyclical gameplay serves the narrative it's trying to build well, though the characters may take a while longer to develop because your interactions with them are limited to a few lines of chit-chat a day.

COATSIt takes a little while for COATS to start developing beyond the routine you fall into almost immediately, but though there will be plenty of days where you're just going through the motions, there's still a few surprising twists ahead. It's still a little frustrating that the game can randomly decide to incapacitate other characters for really silly reasons, largely because it's all up to chance. Still, COATS offers a surprising amount of depth and a lot of content, perfect for players who like a game that's more of a slow boil, and hey, if you want to get a little flirty with your stoic sergeant, lab assistant, or someone else, well, who knows where it'll lead? While it might have some issues with pacing and offer a few typos, COATS is still a remarkable feat from its talented development team and well worth playing who anyone who likes a zombie game that's more brains than bullets.

WindowsWindows:
Get the free full version

Mac OS XMac OS X:
Not available.
Try Boot Camp or Parallels or CrossOver Games.

8 Comments

For such a good game, I'm disappointed there are no other reviews so far. It's a solid 8h+ of gameplay, and that's if you only play once; replaying to unlock other characters/scenes can be quite rewarding, especially when some choices turn out to have unforeseen consequences. It has a lot of characters, but they're all great, three-dimensional individuals, they don't feel "added there in an afterthought".
Seriously, this game would also deserve the "visual novel" tag, the story and the details are so well polished it would put your average free visual novel to shame. A typical visual novel focuses on 3-5 characters, has a main conflict of sorts, conflict gets solved, the story is over. Not the case here.
This game not only has a wide cast of characters, each with their own interesting backstory, but really focuses on world-building. A lot of effort went into building the fictional world: when other games might have just thrown you a lazy "you made progress" message, this game actually rewards your efforts with a meaningful experience.
To underline the strength of the writing, all the main character's choices feel "right" and "justified" (from a characterization, as well as moral point of view).
Read below if you've played through everything at least once:

It's worthwhile to try keeping Corey around/dismissing him, as well as sending him into exile. As for Shreya, experiment with killing/sparing her. Also try human testing/no human testing to see the differences.
The three research paths have more of an impact on how the characters relate to you rather than anything else (Sache and Kendel will appreciate the military approach, while Shreya will not kill you if your line of thinking is similar to hers).
When the old gang rejoins you, some of the girls will not do so depending on your approach, unless they are your love interest. There is no way to convince all of them to join.
I don't think you have to explore all the romantic routes, but you should try at least one of them, then the solitary route as well. You will be pleasantly surprised.

If a certain mini-game is giving you trouble, even with all the instructions, here's my strategy for it:

Aim, Low Blow, Aim, Body Shot, Aim Body Shot...Aim, Body Shot/High Fire. Anything else got me prematurely pulverized, especially by myself.

Minor...pet peeves?

I would have wanted to read Tanya's reaction to Mitchells getting killed (it was bugged). Also, Corey got killed (her newly-wed husband), Wilma said "oh Corey..." once, then continued to talk to me about a classmate of hers. I understands that was how the gameplay had been designed there, it just felt a bit...jarring.

Reply
EllaClass1 May 17, 2015 7:18 PM

I'm really enjoying this game, but I'm stuck on one of the minigames:

I can't figure out how to take photographs in the topside laboratory. I can make my character stand in the blinking squares and press the space bar to "take" a picture, but it always says that my photos add 0% data to my research. I've tried pushing the Skins so they are next to the square, but can't seem to do that in such a way that my character is then facing them while standing in the square. Is that the issue?

Any advice would be greatly appreciated! Being unable to use that minigame effectively slows your research to gaining 1% data every other day, making me effectively stuck in Phase 1 of the game. I've made it up to about 76% research that way but then I die. I think if I could use the other minigame I could move past that point in the game. Thanks!

Reply

Hey everyone, I'm Dennis, the creator of "COATS". I'm so glad to see it finally getting some notice. Me and my illustrator worked on this as a two-person project, and I thought I'd just give some feedback and response!

First of all, you're spot on about the pacing. It was an intentional design, and even though it can get a bit stale, it is necessary in order for the "action" parts of the game to feel meaningful. It is a matter of taste and preference, and while some may not appreciate it, I'm sure some do.
Second of all, yeah, there are typos. I don't have much to say about it. English not being my first language is a poor excuse, but the biggest issue I faced was just the daunting amount of text. I'm not exaggerating when I'm saying that COATS has thousands of dialogues. Literally thousands. For one writer, you can get a bit word blind. Sorry.

The randomness factor was also a design decision. I figured that, just like in real life, shit happens. It's not fair, it can be frustrating - but it is also what makes it interesting. And there are ways to make sure people don't get "sick" quite as easily, like improving rations and finding a proper physician.

A fair review, and I hope you don't mind me linking to it on the main COATS facebook page!

Some responses to other posters:
@Qt: Man, you have no idea how refreshing it is to see such feedback on a game that I've put so much love into. Thank you so much. The recent upswing in attention for COATS has really made me step up my interest for future game projects (and yes, there are more on the way). You really seem to grasp the idea I had about the story and the characters, and it makes me glad to see my efforts weren't in vain. Sorry about the bugs ;)

@EllaClass1: Sorry you're having trouble with it, it can be a bit tricky. The thing is, it's pretty much exactly like the shooting minigame. You gotta predict where they're going, not where they're standing. If you still get, like, no research points at all - make sure that no other kind of research has been unlocked. The game is built to unlock one minigame after another, and if one just doesn't give you any points, chances are something else has replaced it! Have a look around, talk to people, and secure that perimeter :D

Anyway, feel free to contact me personally or through our Facebook page if you want - it's always fun to see what the players are up to.

Stay safe! Secure that perimeter! :D

Reply

No problem, I completely understand. It is a very fair review, and although we don't have a massive amount of fans on our Facebook, I put up a link
I'm really glad you picked up on the influences of classic zombie movies. I'm a huge Romero fan, and the classic trilogy is my main inspiration point. Just like the way Robert Kirkman reasoned when he developed the script for the Walking Dead comic, it was basically the idea of what would happen if the movies continued.

So thanks for the review and bringing some attention to my game. It hasn't been all that popular, but every now and then a review or Let's Play pops up, and it just makes my day :)

Reply

I haven't actually finished the game yet (about 7.5 hours in) but it has kept me thoroughly engrossed thus far. I completely agree with previous comments about the characters - I love that I have the opportunity to find out more and more about each new person as they appear...

...except when I'm forced to make horrible decisions about the lives of said characters. That's just mean.

I've never played a free game with so much content. I thought I was close to the end when

I finished the initial research and got out of the facility

But I'm still going hours later! It's awesome. I'm not usually a fan of zombie-style games, but I've loved this one. Can't wait to see more from the creator. Now I just need to finish it - I must know how this all ends!!

Reply

I have to say, it was an incredibly interesting, and rewarding, experience to reach what I had honestly taken for the end of the game, only to find out I wasn't even halfway through. There is a LOT of content for a little independent project like this! While it could definitely use some polish (some de-stocking of assets and debugging and such), this is one heck of an ambitious project.

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