EA SCOUT the last line of defense for buying on Steam's Early Access
by Dan Lenois
previewed on PC
What an excellent day for an exorcism
Developed by Vaulted Sky Games and published by Coffee Stain Publishing, Midnight Ghost Hunt is a 5v5 player-vs-player game, pitting a team of ghosts against a team of, shall we say, people who bust ghosts. The ghosts will attempt to blend in with their surroundings by taking the form of various objects around the map. However, by necessity, ghosts have to frequently change form and move around the map, as ghosts that remain stationary too long build up spectral radiation that will make it easy for any of the hunters to find and eliminate them. This, combined with the hunters’ own unique abilities, creates an ongoing game of cat-and-mouse between the two teams. While ghosts are vulnerable at this time, they can work together to eliminate an individual hunter or two if the opportunity arrives. However, for the ghosts, the real fun doesn’t start until midnight, when the tables turn, and the ghosts begin hunting the living.
I see dead people. Quite a lot of them, actually…
Due to the heightened mobility and versatility of ghosts compared to hunters, hunting one or more ghosts here in Midnight Ghost Hunt requires much in the way of team coordination and cooperation. Luckily, the game has you covered in this regard. While participating in voice chat will always be the preferred methodology, the game supplies you with another alternative, in the form of the in-game ping system. Using a pop up circular wheel of options, you can, with only one or two button clicks, have your character call out certain automatic voice lines. The most useful of these is the "Ghost spotted" one, where, if you see a ghost, even if they're disguised as a prop while running away from you, you can ping them, which will cause an on-screen marker to appear on the screen of all players on your team, allowing them to potentially aid you in closing in on and eliminating said ghost. This marker will disappear after a few seconds, so time, as ever, is ticking. By a simple combination of utilizing both text chat and the ping system, even players without a microphone can make meaningful contributions to their team.
It's close to midnight, and something evil's lurking in the dark
If you’re playing as a ghost, midnight is where the real fun begins. While hiding as a prop and watching the hunters flail about trying desperately to find you brings with it a certain degree of petty vindictive amusement, it’s not until midnight that you’re able to get your revenge. As long as at least one ghost is still alive after the hunters' 5-minute-long search duration ends, every other ghost is brought back into the game. At this point, the match devolves into a merciless unrestrained brawl between the two teams. The hunters have their energy guns, and you and your fellow ghosts have fairly strong melee attacks. Both teams are fairly balanced for this encounter, and there’s generally no telling which team is likely to survive this chaotic free-for-all.
Some of you may die, but that is a sacrifice I am willing to make
The maps featured in Midnight Ghost Hunt are incredibly diverse in terms of both layout and the types of props that ghosts can take the form of. The art design behind these maps are nothing short of fantastic, although the lighting at times does leave a little to be desired. However, as the matches are fairly short, with a maximum time limit of ten minutes, consisting of two consecutive five-minute-long rounds, you’ll find yourself being thrown into different matches on different maps quite frequently. In a single hour of play, it’s not uncommon to find yourself completing eight or nine matches, assuming the matchmaking process doesn’t take too long. The problem here is that, currently, there are not enough maps to offset the speed of each match, and due to this small number of maps available in the current map pool, you’ll often find yourself replaying the same maps again and again ad nauseum. As this is an Early Access game, meaning it’s incomplete by design, functioning essentially as an ongoing beta, this is completely understandable. However, unless the developers go out of their way to address this concern over the coming months, there is the distinct ever-growing likelihood that the player base will not share the dev’s patience, and burnout may lead the majority of players to seek out other newer titles instead. Players are like a swarm of locusts in this regard. They’ll stay only as long as there’s something fresh for them to consume, then they’ll leave. As an indie dev team with naturally-limited resources and manpower, this will likely prove the greatest challenge for this small team of talented individuals.
Something wicked this way comes
Midnight Ghost Hunt is a game I’ve been following since the initial debut of its first trailer during E3 2019. There’s no denying the game has come a long way in the almost three years it’s been since that time, but it still has an equally long way to go, namely in regards to providing additional content and refining existing mechanics and other components, before Midnight Ghost Hunt can honestly launch out of early access as a complete game. And I look forward to seeing them inch their way across the finish line, with the careful calculating attitude of a prop waiting to murder an unsuspecting hunter.
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The game has potential, but we're not ready to jump in with both feet. If the game interests you, look, but don't touch - yet.