Breaking the law.
If there was one crime that I could commit and get away with scot-free, it would be robbing a bank.
Not so much for the money but more for the thrill of it. I mean, who hasn’t thought about robbing a bank at one point after watching a heist movie?
Oddly enough, there aren’t too many games that allows me to live out that fantasy to my liking(not a big fan of GTA/Payday games). So when I was told there was a neat crime spree game called, “The Masterplan” where I could do exactly that, I decided to check it out.
While it did as advertised, it has a few glaring issues that makes it hard to truly enjoy.
Played: 8~ hours
The story present in “The Masterplan” is nearly nonexistent.
The playable characters don’t have any real personality as they are quite expandable. There’s a bit of world building early on and scant bits of story here and there but to call it insubstantial would be being quite generous, indeed.
Given that the trailer proudly announces, “A Crime Caper written by Tom Jubert – Talos Principle, FTL, Penumbra”, I’m quite disappointed in that regard since I quite enjoyed the story in the Penumbra games.
Initially, I thought the game might be a twin stick shooter based on the top-down perspective but I couldn’t be more wrong.
It’s a mix of puzzle, action and strategy where units are moved entirely through the use of the mouse. There was also the option to slow down time at any moment to evaluate the environment and give out orders.
Rather than using quickly aimed headshots, I had to look closely at my surroundings and slow down time often in order to give precise commands.
Pointing a shotgun at a guard to hold them up while another knocks them unconscious or infiltrating a building from two different entry points, it was fairly easy to execute most of the time.
Unfortunately, the actions available to me felt quite limited and even what I could do felt clunky at times.
Something as simple as closing a door behind me was an annoyance as the commanded unit would block the door from closing when they went over to close it almost every time.
I couldn’t hide the bodies in any kind of container and the inventory limit felt miniscule given how many things needed to be picked up in the course of a mission. Incapacitated guards/civilians also woke up quite quickly and when I thought to just kill them in their sleep to take them out for good, I learned that it wasn’t an option.
Those are simple actions available in enough modern games to make me feel like they ought to be standard and having to do without them made it felt like there was something missing.
The game is also quite difficult as well and not particularly in that “challenging but fun” kind of way. There’s no saving during a job and when a unit dies, they’re gone for good. Given how long some of the missions get near the end and how quickly you can die, the more difficult missions become quite frustrating as numerous reloads were required while figuring out exactly what needed to be done.
I’m not saying that perma-death and no saves are bad design ideas as they can be used to heighten tension and make each maneuver feel more meaningful but in a game that’s heavily based on puzzles, it’s not a good fit.
Imagine trying to solve a puzzle and knowing that it has many steps to the solution. If you’re able to pull off the first six steps out of ten with ease and get stuck figuring out what the seventh step might be, every time you failed, you would need to do first six steps again just to get to the part you’re stuck in.
It plays the same way in “The Masterplan”. I knew I had to crack the window, take out a guard here, wear a spare uniform, pick up this key here, unlock this door and while I’m trying to figure out what to do next, I would get caught and have to restart which meant doing all of that again and again.
It’s an exercise in frustration and it doesn’t do the pacing of the game any favors.
A stronger emphasis on an overarching narrative, more flexible range of actions on the field and a proper save system could have made “The Masterplan” into an excellent game. Without all that, it’s merely serviceable.
Fun Tidbit – Playing through this game made me remember another crime spree game, “Monaco” which is well worth your time if you’re in the mood for such a title.
Review copy of game provided by publisher.