A glitched trap

Metroid Dread was probably my most anticipated game of 2021, and it absolutely delivered. It was exciting and fun from start to finish, and very immaculately polished. A truly excellent video game.

To contrast, Five Nights at Freddy’s: Security Breach would have been my second-most anticipated game of the year, and it was… well, it was botched. While I did have a great time playing it, and I think there’s a good game in there, it is so broken and bugged that I wouldn’t fault you for calling it unplayable.

As much as a developer should be lambasted for releasing a product in this state, this is becoming an increasingly regular thing for modern video games. Just look at games like Cyberpunk 2077 or Subnautica or Pokémon Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl. Developers are perfectly willing to push out buggy, broken games at full price these days, They may or may not address their broken-ass games with patches. It’s a sorry state of affairs, and I can’t believe that we, the consumers, continue to put up with it.

That’s not to say that any of the games I listed above are bad. Subnautica, in fact, was one of the most transcendent video game experiences that I’ve had in years despite how absolutely busted it is. But I don’t think that’s any excuse for Unknown Worlds to have given up on fixing it and moved onto making a sequel instead.

But I actually came here to write specifically about Security Breach. The FNAF games have, up until this point, largely been developed entirely by one man. They were 2D games that relied on atmosphere and storytelling to make their mark, and were largely successful at that. Security Breach is the first game in series that is a “real” video game, being a fully, 3D first-person explore-’em-up, developed by a small indie studio.

I want to say that Steel Wool Studios set their sights a little too high, but when you sit down to think about it, they did a pretty darn good job! The world of Security Breach is beautiful and packed with details. It looks great, it sounds great, and there was clearly plenty of care put into this project. Generally speaking, it’s a fairly solid product… when it works as intended. It’s just that maaaaybe they rushed it out for holiday release when it would have benefitted from another couple weeks of bug testing and squashing.

To that point: a week after release, a patch came out with a number of major improvements. If the game had come out one week later with those fixes already implemented, I might be writing a very different post right now.

First, and most importantly: the patch fixed an error that kept players on Playstation consoles from completing the game. Admittedly, I make that sound harsher than it actually was. There are six endings in Security Breach, and five of them were achieveable from the get-go. However, to reach the sixth ending -the true ending, at that- you need to play some arcade games hidden within the game world. Problem was, Steel Wool may have forgotten to implement controls for said arcade games in the Playstation version, rendering them impossible to play, which in turn made that final ending unreachable. Kind of a big oversight, there.

Some other notable problems were fixed as well. Like a very specific interaction that sometimes just wouldn’t happen and would cause a soft lock. Some collectible items that had been placed in unreachable areas were moved. An exploit that allowed players to repeat the same mission over and over, which also resulted in a semi-soft lock, was removed. You know, “little” things like that.

But a host of other issues remain! While it took me a (very leisurely) 10 hours to complete the game, the speedrun is around five minutes because of a glitch that allows players to completely unload the world’s geometry and go straight to the end. Performance is generally stable on PS5, but from what I’ve seen the game is very poorly optimized for PC, with constant micro-freezes and frame drops. The inventory menu screen absolutely does not work as intended, and it seemed to be broken in a different way every time I accessed it. In one of the security room challenges, Freddy is supposed to save you by removing a grate from below, and sometimes he just doesn’t show up, and you die. The final boss fight sometimes bugs out in a way that renders it (nearly) impossible to win. Those are the big ones that spring to mind, and I would probably be here all day if I tried to make a comprehensive list.

Glitches aside, there are two major design decisions that I strongly dislike about Security Breach and hope are addressed at some point. First up is the decision to remove save points for the final leg of the game. This baffles me, as there is a good hour of gameplay left in that section, and this is a game where you are always killed in one hit and enemies can teleport directly behind you. It’s an absolutely brutal decision, and one that I’m wholeheartedly calling shenanigans on. In the game’s current state, you can glitch it in a way that restores your ability to save, but doing that breaks the game in other ways, so neither way is really ideal.

The second thing I really want to see changed is the in-game map. To be frank: it’s garbage. Yes, it is in fact a map of the game world, with your position and direction marked on it, but that’s about it. Areas are neither named or colour-coded. Items on the legend don’t actually exist on the map. Some markers only show up when you’re close to them. You can’t zoom in. And while I get that giving too much away on the map might reduce the overall difficulty of the game, it’s almost completely useless at this point. It needs to be either overhauled or removed completely, because the way it is now, it’s just a source of frustration.

Oh, and the Mazercise puzzle sucks. But that’s an entire other essay.

The irony of it all is that the Five Night’s at Freddy’s lore is all about glitches. Robots that don’t work as intended. Mini-games that the player needs to bug out to win. Serial killers that are reborn as computer viruses. You know, that kind of stuff. Luckily, Steel Wool Studios has stated that they are committed to fixing Security Breach before they move on to any other projects. The speed at which they released the first patch inspires hope, but only time will tell if they actually deliver on that commitment.

To reiterate, I don’t think that Security Breach is a bad game at it’s core, it’s just brought down by all the technical issues. I also don’t think it’s a game that will really be appreciated by those outside the existing FNAF fandom, but I mostly enjoyed playing it. I look forward to playing it again a month or two down the road when it will presumably be in a more stable state. It’ll be exciting to see what the game is like when it’s not struggling to stay in one piece!

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