Upcoming horror strategy game The Fabulous Fear Machine puts a pulp horror spin on the classic strategy game formula to make something wholly unique and deeply enjoyable. Originally announced late last year, The Fabulous Fear Machine combines comic book style and mechanics of games like the Civilization series and Plague Inc. for a new take on conquering the world. The title comes from AMC Games, the indie gaming division of the AMC network, and developer Fictiorama Studios, who previously worked on simulation title Do Not Feed The Monkeys and point-and-click adventure Dead Synchronicity: Tomorrow Comes Today.
The core premise of The Fabulous Fear Machine centers around the eponymous Fear Machine, a contraption reminiscent of a Zoltar Fortune Teller which helps people achieve their goals through fear. It’s a narratively-driven game that focuses on different characters and their experiences utilizing the Fear Machine to their advantage. The demo of the game centers on Jen, a pharmaceutical researcher who wants to use fear to keep the world buying her company’s drugs.
The Fabulous Fear Machine feels like a playable comic book game through and through, with a distinct style inspired by 1950s pulp horror. The game, which is nominated for the IndieCade award for best visuals, seamlessly incorporates the unique design into every facet of the game. As Jen’s story progresses, so do the pages of a comic based on her life that link the results of each level together, and the game’s maps and mechanics all have a vintage, graphic-novel feel to them.
Each of The Fabulous Fear Machine‘s missions begins with a set of messages that need to be transmitted across a map that are advantageous for the protagonist – in Jen’s case, these are messages like “Generic drugs should be outlawed.” In order to transmit these messages effectively, players must build up certain levels of Fear in each country’s Psychic Center in a manner similar to how one wins Plague Inc. Evolved through spreading disease. This is done through the use of Legends, each of which corresponds to one of four categories: The Power, The Form, The Passions, or The Occult. The full game will boast over 80 Legends, which span everything from cryptids like the Black Dog to conspiracy theories about chemtrails.
Over time, Legends will be able to evolve if given their corresponding Essence, materials that can be extracted by Agents – levelable lackeys that do the protagonist’s bidding – after they explore new cities. Players must also work hard to keep a steady supply of Oleum, which is needed to fuel the creation of new Legends as well as during some in-game events. Oleum pumps can be set up in new cities to bring in set amounts of Oleum each 28-day cycle once Fear has encroached enough upon the new area. Once players plant their initial Fear Seed – similar to picking a starting position in Civilization – they will need to build both general Fear levels and specific types of Fear, like that of murder or medicine, in order to spread their messages effectively in The Fabulous Fear Machine.
Players will be deterred throughout their missions by Rivals who wish to see the protagonist fail – either for the good of humanity or their own selfish motives – that will need to be thwarted by sending Agents on infiltration missions to dig up dirt on the competition. If Rivals are allowed to progress in The Fabulous Fear Machine, they will begin to spread their own influence, impacting the player’s ability to transmit their messages. These Rivals both progress the story and serve as an added layer of challenge alongside extracting Essences and growing Fear on each map.
The Fabulous Fear Machine is shaping up to be a great game for fans of titles like Civilization as well as for those with a passion for vintage horror comics. The game has an impeccable visual style and does an excellent job of making strategy game tropes feel unique and engaging. Although there’s no set release date yet, players can look forward to a one-of-a-kind strategic experience with The Fabulous Fear Machine sometime in 2023.
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The Fabulous Fear Machine is slated for PC release some time in 2023. Screen Rant was provided with a PC code for the purpose of this preview.
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