“The end is near. I hear a noise at the door, as if some immense slippery body lumbering against it. It shall not find me! A shadow at the window! Was that a tentacle??”
The previous Lovecraftian inspired quote may very well have come from Devolver’s newest creation, Carrion. In it, you play as a rather swiftly moving, super metabolizing mass of teeth and tentacles that’s bent on escaping the research facility where it was conceived and ultimately brought into being.
Your earliest memories will involve shattering the glass receptacle that served as your ancestral home and making your way through pipes and grates of military junkyards, research facilities and hazardous waste plants, terrorizing and eventually consuming any poor humans who dare to get in your way.
As you consume these fleshy, handgun wielding meals on two legs, you’ll grow in mass (and later on, ability). This means you’ll have exponentially more teeth and tentacles at your disposal. More teeth means you’ll be a more terrifying eating machine and more tentacles means you can swing and grab and pick up things lying around like human corpses, office supplies, toilets, etc.
You can also grab and pull switches to open hatches, doors and other room blocking structures. As you progress through the variety of facilities, you’ll gain an impressive array of abilities, such as Echolocation, which will allow you to more easily find nests that you can save and spread your biomass into, simultaneously giving you a new point of entry to invade the current area from and the more you spread into each facility, the greater you infect the place, turning it from a human filled productive lab into a scarlet, tentacle laden ooze nest of alien envy. There really is no place like home.
You’ll also get the ability to fire cobweb streams, and can use these to flip distant switches as well as trap unwary humans (you can also kill humans outright with a rapid fire cobweb barrage). In addition, your massive form will gain the ability to break down wooden blockades with a rushing attack that can also knock down humans.
This creates an interesting delicate balance of sorts, wherein you might need to use your smaller form for cobweb switch flipping acrobatics or your massive form for finding accessible paths. Thankfully switching forms is fairly painless, as your larger self can “shed” a hefty portion of its biomass by finding a pool of liquid with just the right pH balance and chlorine level. Just try to remember where you parked your large glowing egg sac, you may need to come back for it later.
Those pesky humans won’t just stand there and get eaten, sadly, and will start off packing Grand Theft Auto-esque heat in the form of handguns, but will eventually upgrade to throwing actual heat at you in the form of flamethrowers. You’ll also need to deal with tentacle-throwing sized security drones and Warmech-like walking robots which you can crack open like fortune cookies and feast upon the delicate humans within. Mmm…resistance…
Visually, everything looks quite nice. The various environments have their own highlights, and unique touches. Research facilities have lots of grates and the junkyards have a lot of metal junk piled up in corners of rooms. The reef facility is mostly underwater and features lots of pipes and watery mazes to ooze through. Where the visual design really shines is in the little details, however. Blood will linger and glisten on metal structures, shadows from swinging lightbulbs will sway in the background, and half devoured human corpses teetering on the edge of a precipice will drip precious bodily fluids. It’s all wonderfully rich and atmospheric.
Comparatively, the soundtrack does a great job at maintaining the creepy, tension filled narrative of your poignant journey as a classic carnivorous flesh devouring anti hero, woefully misunderstood by the human race, just seeking to survive, thrive, spread a little love (and a few hundred thousand eggs) and dismantle the corporate elite and capitalist structures that have kept grotesque cannibalistic creatures dehumanized for so long.
But we can agree to disagree on the narrative.
Whatever your interpretation, the narrative gets filled in from flashbacks of the research team making their way into the facility and searching for evidence of the mysterious goings on. In these episodic trips into the past, you control a group of humans (gross, right??) and do some light puzzle solving while exploring your surroundings for small clues to try and figure out just what’s going on.
There’s an interesting stealth element that comes into play here as well. Rather than mercilessly barging in on humans (which soon becomes dangerous, anyway), you can elect to be a more stealth oriented meat sack craving pile of blood dripping tendrils surrounded by teeth. Lurking in dark corners and yanking screaming humans up into your waiting jaws is really the way to go here. You can even do this extremely slowly, prolonging their terror even more. It makes their eventual squishy demise all the more satisfying, and stylish. You can rip hanging lightbulbs from their fixtures and eventually become invisible as well, reminding humans that the only thing to fear, is fear itself.
Well, fear and a massive swirl of blood tinged calamari with a large overbite and an inferiority complex, plus a healthy hatred of humans.
In the end, Carrion is less about your blood soaked rampage through human filled hallways than it is about rampant, persistent, perpetual fear. The lingering fear that permeates many of the areas in the game is almost tangible and it is your greatest weapon against the humans that stand in your way. Peering out from darkened alcoves in corners or silently picking your moments from watery depths, as the humans above pace nervously, knowing their lives are yours for the taking, is when Carrion is at its best.
Perhaps Lovecraft said it best, after all, “The oldest and strongest emotion of mankind is fear, and the oldest and strongest kind of fear is fear of the unknown.”