Tex Murphy developer pursues new IP in The Last Ark
Mat Van Rhoon unveils upcoming sci-fi narrative thriller and updates status of The Pandora Directive remaster
Many adventure games have hapless human heroes attempting to save the world. The star of The Last Ark, the debut adventure from former Tex Murphy developer Mat Van Rhoon and his new company Terabbit Studios, is anything but hapless. Nor is it human, or any kind of hero. In fact, instead of saving the world, here you'll be trying to destroy it – or what little is left of it, anyway.
When an enormous rogue star appears in the "not-too-distant future," its gravity violently disrupts the "orbital signatures of several planets, including Earth," sending our vulnerable blue planet spinning helplessly out of the solar system. As the world is "rapidly descending into a cold, dark, and uninhabitable orphan planet," humanity puts all its hopes for survival into nine arks that will "safely evacuate 100,000 citizens into space, where they hope to begin a journey to find a new and habitable home," while everyone else is left behind to die. Supporting this critical endeavour is you, the "most sophisticated artificial intelligence ever created" with almost total control over each ark. The fate of mankind is in your (figurative) hands... and you are determined to end it once and for all. (Whoops!)
Described as a "thriller that will deliver a new twist on consequential, choice-driven narrative gameplay," The Last Ark looks to be as ambitious as it is subversive. The presentation promises a mix of "real-time 3D environmental gameplay, scripted sequences (both real-time and pre-rendered), full-motion video [and] a detailed interactive interface and management system." The action is accompanied by an original soundtrack and full voice-overs provided by experienced actors from television and games, with credits including Preacher, Wentworth, Persona 3 Reload, The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom, System Shock and The 7th Guest VR, among many others, along with an appearance by legendary Tex Murphy writer/designer Aaron Conners. As an artificial intelligence, you'll have eyes everywhere and control over vital ship systems from a console-like interface, including CCTV feeds, crew video logs, emails, "data pipelines, code snippets, maps with real-time passenger location data" and more, even communications and life support. The more you experiment, the more you'll learn from experience and the more "extensive (and pervasive) your access becomes," potentially even allowing you to control machines with the ability to physically explore the ships.
Your goal, however, is not to protect or nurture but to destroy, which means attempting to kill or "neutralize" every last passenger. You could, for example, choose to "intercept, change, or exploit inter-ship communications, fake signals or messages, or open an airlock or two by ‘accident,’ as you sow the seeds of doubt and erode trust among the passengers." How you wreak havoc is up to you; with its "dynamic choice and consequence system," the game will respond to your actions with new paths and opportunities that force you to adapt accordingly. Whether you act directly or attempt to manipulate people into doing your bidding, the catch is to deflect blame and avoid being caught for the damage you inflict. Just as your system access will increase through successful sabotage efforts, so it will be reduced if you attract suspicion to your misdeeds. The game will offer multiple possible outcomes but only one true finale, as "the story ends when humanity does."
Before founding Terabbit (which, not suprisingly given the nature of its first game, is committed to rejecting the use of Generative AI tools in development), Mat Van Rhoon was a major contributor to The Tesla Effect: A Tex Murphy Adventure, as well as the planned Pandora Directive remaster. Now, however, having finished "remastering the full motion video from the original tapes, redesigning the game environments, remastering the sound and music, and modernizing the game design," Van Rhoon says that the next step will involve full-time commitment from the entire team, which doesn't appear imminent, effectively putting the project on hold for the time being, though he and others involved in the process so far "remain on standby" for it to resume if and when that time comes.
For now we have this promising indie debut to look forward to, though we'll have to wait until 2026 for The Last Ark to launch for PC and potentially consoles as well. To follow the game's progress in the meantime, be sure to check out the official website for ongoing details.
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