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Resident Evil, Nier Automata, and Persona collide in new sci-fi game

The upcoming 1000xRESIST is a dialogue-driven clone dystopia in which a deadly alien virus has wiped out humanity and god is a teenage girl.

1000xResist preview: Watcher stares on in wide-eyed horror directly at the viewer as a twist unfolds in front of her.

Mystery and intrigue often propel the best narrative games, so 1000xRESIST kicks off with matricide – or rather, deicide. An angry young woman drives a blade through the back of her stilettoed mother-god, a vivid spray of blood paints the matte grey floor, and 1000xRESIST flatlines to the title card. I have no idea what’s happening, but developer Sunset Visitor has my attention.

Publisher Fellow Traveller has made a name for itself as a haven for intelligent story games that test the boundaries of gameplay convention, and it’s already clear from my five-hour preview that 1000xRESIST is a perfect addition to this niche portfolio. I went in completely oblivious to what I was getting myself into – and while I want to tell you that’s probably the best way to experience it, this would make for a painfully short preview. So, I’ll swerve the spoilers and keep to the broad strokes.

1000xResist preview: Watcher glares down at the ALLMOTHER after delivering a fatal blow.

Humanity has dissolved in a pandemic of literal tears and is succeeded by an esoteric clone sorority, whose cultural identity is in devoted service to their progenitor: the ALLMOTHER. Our central protagonist, Watcher, is the angry young godkiller from before – though she’s a far cry from it as 1000xRESIST segues into chapter one. This Watcher is wide-eyed and solemn behind her round glasses, stoic in both word and deed as she begins her first Communion with the ALLMOTHER. However, this sacred ritual is interrupted by her closest sister, Fixer, who imparts knowledge that challenges everything she knows about the ALLMOTHER’s omnibenevolence.

This all proves too much for the devoted Watcher, who runs straight to Principal – eldest sister and de facto leader – to disclose Fixer’s disobedience. Concerned by these events yet satisfied with Watcher’s loyalty, Principal instates mandated Communions between Watcher and her sisters to root out any lingering dissenters and bring them to justice. These marching orders also amount to the core pillars of the narrative game genre: explore my surroundings and make conversation.

1000xResist preview: A dark landscape shot of a dark rooftop, illuminated by a red figure that towers overhead, rendering Watcher a small speck in the environment.

1000xRESIST’s chapters alternate between free-form exploration of the Orchard clone facility and the linearity of the Communions, lending it an episodic structure that complements the narrative density of each chapter. The central mechanic of the simulated Communions is a time skip that Watcher initiates with just a click of her fingers (and for me, the press of a button). There’s an echo of the best visual novels as I flip between the unfolding tableaux of the past. The multimedia talent of Sunset Visitor lends each Communion a filmic quality, and even dialogue boxes are placed with purpose.

The ALLMOTHER’s daughters are a sisterhood of colors and functions, a kaleidoscope of jumpsuits all wearing the same face. This clone society is so steeped in idiomatic expression that even language itself feels remote, as obedience, loyalty, and love are transcribed through abstract phrases like “hair to hair,” “red to blue,” and “six to one”. However, their meanings coalesce as I’m assimilated into their society through Watcher, and I begin to pick out the implications of every call-and-response from their tone and cadence. The cast of Asian-Canadian actors gives voice to the nuance of fraught relationships between mothers, daughters, and sisters.

1000xResist preview: Watcher responds to Fixer's claims with a set of dialogue options: 'stop,' 'this,' and 'now.'

Thankfully, Sunset Visitor forgoes the impulse to inject dialogue options with any kind of moral imperative, and there’s no suggestion that my choices will significantly alter the narrative trajectory at any point. Instead, I’m granted insight into a character’s interiority or the cultural machinations of the world itself. While the dialogue choice on offer is more constrictive than other narrative games, I find this approach far more intriguing than any moral quandary. I never need to angst over whether I’m making the ‘right’ choice, or whether a character will ‘remember’ it – instead, I’m afforded the simple freedom of listening to what they have to say.

Optional interludes in the Orchard clone facility allow me to interact with the other clones in the facility. These interactions are invaluable for puzzling out the doctrine that holds Watcher and her kin to account, as well as the politicking that bubbles under the surface. I become attached to the ‘shells’ – juvenile backup clones, indistinct from one another and almost childlike as they vie for the chance to step into a sister’s vacant shoes. Each interlude in the Orchard advances their storylines, and while they’re largely inconsequential to the plot, I become strangely protective of them and their little idiosyncrasies.

1000xResist preview: Healer, one of Watcher's sisters, stares down at a brutally destroyed shell in the Orchard's infirmary.

1000xRESIST’s abundance of placid characters and sterile environments render the occasional abrupt flashes of violence even more explosive and shocking. While there are no ‘jumpscares’ to tip 1000xRESIST into a full-blown horror, it can often be unsettling. The Communions themselves are surreal sequences of fragmented memories, and the stark contrast of pitch-dark shadows and vivid red lighting casts my mind back to fellow indie game Signalis. However, the most arresting moment occurs within the first hour of playtime. A sequence of children’s drawings said to depict a recreation of Watcher confronting Fixer culminates in a haunting sketch of her renegade sister’s execution, reduced to half-immolated skeletal remains.

The shock of this moment leaves a lasting impression, and sets the stakes for every conversation thereafter, as Watcher’s surreptitious investigation becomes laced with betrayal. The naïve shells are none the wiser, commemorating the moment that Watcher refuses Fixer in an amateur propaganda play. Meanwhile, the sisters themselves are by turns cagey and evasive, and in some cases even revulsed by Watcher’s overcommitment to their absent matriarch. Their dialogue is charged, weighed heavy by implication, the true meaning kept just out of reach.

1000xResist preview: A first-person perspective of Iris looking over her traditional Chinese fruit sponge birthday cake in one of the Communions.

This play of perspective is mirrored in 1000xRESIST’s visual presentation. While my exploration of the Orchard is strictly held in a third-person perspective, the Communions are more free-form and experimental. In one Communion, I explore an abandoned school from fixed camera angles that evoke survival horror games like Resident Evil. In another, I meander along a residential street in a 2D side-scrolling format. I even assume a first-person perspective as the ALLMOTHER – and on one memorable occasion, as a towering otherworldly entity in pursuit of a fleeing schoolgirl.

The ALLMOTHER herself may be the genetic source and de facto god of her clone society, but she’s also Iris: a teenage girl caught between her authoritarian mother and placative father as a second-generation child in the Chinese diaspora. The Communions are a window into her life before her ascension to godhood: desperate to fit in at school, caught between two cultures, and subject to her mother’s constant disapproval. She is also by turns embarrassed and resentful of her classmate, Jiao, whose recent emigration from mainland China leaves her secure in her cultural identity and able to connect with Iris’s mother.

1000xResist preview: Iris lambasts Jiao for her English comprehension in one of the fragmented memories of her school days.

This god is jealous, bitter, angry, and so deeply human. Many of these early sequences depict her isolated in her bedroom, looking out from within or barricaded inside to escape her mother’s wrath: a portrait of aching loneliness wrapped in teenage spite. Her escalating violence as she comes into her godhood is shocking, but she paints such a tragic figure that it’s impossible to condemn her as a force of evil.

Alongside this interplay of good and evil weighed against the human and divine, 1000xRESIST is replete with Christian iconography. As Watcher picks her way through the hollowed-out shell of Iris’ school, she encounters a crucifix. “There were multiple gods in this time,” Secretary explains, a concept so alien to a clone daughter who has only ever known the matriarchal deification of her progenitor. Iris herself is always depicted with a halo, until the moment Watcher’s killing blow renders her mortal. On the face of it, 1000xRESIST’s analog to Christianity may seem incongruous in this brutalist sci-fi dystopia, though it resonates deeply with Hong Kong’s colonial history and the religious assimilation of the Chinese diaspora.

1000xResist preview: Iris' mother bids farewell to her own mother as her as she flees China with her husband in a surreal, static shot of planes flying overhead.

1000xRESIST’s narrative shoulders a slew of highly complex and sensitive themes – identity, intergenerational trauma, motherhood, sisterhood, religion, even language – and while the result is an extraordinarily dense script in which every word is suffused with meaning, it manages to thread that needle with minimal effort. At its heights, it achieves the cerebral complexity I expect from the likes of Hideo Kojima or Yoko Taro – though it’s also liable to lose anyone who can’t follow every thread in the tapestry it weaves.

1000xRESIST has already scooped up three nominations at the Indie Games Festival Awards alongside Venba, Cocoon, and A Highland Song, placing it in outstanding company ahead of its release this year. It currently has a demo available on Steam if you’re in the mood for a spot of godkilling.