You wash up on the beach of a mysterious resort island. There’s nobody else there. It’s unbearably hot, and the sun is huge in the sky, but the only thing to do is look around. Upon entering the building, you encounter three middle-aged people arguing loudly, who turn their attention upon you. They scream at you to bring them food, fix the elevator, get their bags, and make them comfortable. You ask where you are, what’s going on, and what’s the deal with the huge sun in the sky, but none of them are willing to answer these questions. They’re important guests, see, and as far as they’re concerned, you’re the help.
This is the absolutely deranged beginning to the tale of Roman Sands RE:Build, an ambitious upcoming title from developer Arbitrary Metric and publisher Serenity Forge. You, the player, control a character in a world so dripping with Y2K colors and pointless, indulgent UI elements that I’m inclined to call it “Dreamcast-punk,” but this world is on the brink of annihilation by the expanding sun in the sky.
I was sold basically immediately just by watching the previous person in line wandering through this world as completion percentages appeared at random and slick dialogue boxes presented conversations with the most entitled, irritable characters I’ve seen in my whole life. Every element of Roman Sands is right up in your face, making sure you know it’s there, in a maximalist spectacle that drew me in as I completed daily tasks to keep these angry boomers distracted away from the existential crisis at hand.
Time passes, and the days repeat, refreshing all of the tasks and creating a Deathloop-like gameplay cycle where you figure out the most efficient method to complete quests and earn points. The points lead to levels, and the levels unlock items that expand the world of the game. I got into a rhythm, earned enough points to get a mechanic’s kit and fix the elevator…and the demo pivoted to the other significant aspect of the game.
I awoke again, but this time, in a darkened scientific facility. It feels pitch-black in comparison to the bright lavender of the resort, and all of the on-the-nose UI elements are gone. The end has already happened here, and my character’s goal is to keep the facility running, guided by a voice from a walkie-talkie system.
If the resort felt mysterious, this part of the game felt alien in comparison. It’s an exciting juxtaposition that only makes both parts more interesting and leads the mind to try to connect them together. It was short in comparison to the first part, which is most likely just because this part of the game wasn’t as ready to be shown off as the other, but its brevity just left me wanting to know more.
We’re probably over a year out from seeing the full experience, but I can confidently say I’ll be thinking about Roman Sands RE:Build basically every day until I can return to this doomed world and dig deep into every secret it has to offer.
Roman Sands RE:Build is coming to all platforms in 2024.
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