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Monolith Releases To Critical Acclaim

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From Achshav magazine

Heralded as the first triple-A title from a Mevraqi game developer, the science fiction action game Monolith has been warmly reviewed by critics across the globe.

Set in a spacefaring future, Monolith centers around archaeologist Kayla Reed (voiced by Amana Shourez) as she explores a massive structure on an alien wurld. Soon after arriving, she is attacked by the Hivers, a band of both humans and aliens infested and mutated by a malevolent parasite. With only a subspace link to mission control, Reed must uncover the secrets of the Monolith if she wants to survive.

Monolith is developed by Red Anchor, a game design cooperative based in Sayf Maksur. While Red Anchor produced one prior title - the post-apocalyptic survival game Last Breath - most of its employees worked at foreign developers before coming back to Mevraq to establish Red Anchor. "We were all burned out by working under capitalism," Red Anchor general secretary Gina Orel told Achshav. "Long hours, ridiculous deadlines, no job security, and no real share in the profits. We'd all left Mevraq because there wasn't really a gaming industry there. So we decided to start our own."

The developers sought to challenge the industry in areas other than politics. While Monolith is theoretically a shooter, it is next to impossible to win through sheer violence. Reed is not a soldier and carries only a few tools that can be used as improvised weapons. The player's advantage is that the Hivers, while intelligent, are not particularly bright and have little understanding of the Monolith's systems. The player mostly achieves wins by manipulating the environment to create traps and lure the enemy to their deaths, making Monolith more of a puzzle game than an action game. "We wanted players to feel pride after every fight, feeling like they'd actually defeated a more powerful enemy rather than easily slaughtered another dozen faceless goons," explained senior designer Erez Cohn. A teaser trailer from January, which went viral, highlighted the numerous ways you can kill Hivers - releasing plasma from vents, crushing them with massive objects, activating automated defenses, and even retracting a bridge while several Hivers are on it, sending them plummeting to their deaths.

What has surprised many is the emotional side of a simple survival story. Your only ally comes in the form of Arika Cole (voiced by singer Isha Jamal), who is not only Reed's mission control, but also her lover. With the Hivers preferring to communicate through bullets and claws, most of the dialogue is between Reed and Cole, often in the form of Cole reassuring Reed and keeping her grounded. As Jamal herself put it, "It's a love story, but one told without the people involved touching or even seeing each other. You don't even see Arika's face for most of the story, but she's a constant presence."

"I think that at some point, Reed isn't fighting to survive," suggested Shourez. "She's fighting to get back to Cole."

Monolith releases on October 14 on all major platforms.

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