After acquiring it from its previous developer last year, Tripwire showed off what it’s been up to with shark role-playing game Maneater at the 2019 PC Gaming Show. There was a story-based trailer revealed at the show, but we’ve had the chance to see a private demonstration at E3, and this unusual idea for a game looks on track to deliver something fresh for people who enjoy third-person RPGs.
The setting is the various kinds of waters found around the Gulf Coast, including bayous, the open ocean, beach resorts and industrial ports. Within these areas are the local wildlife, who are not only delicious snacks for sharks, but are also the source of the different resources you need to improve your character. This includes “evolutions,,” which takes your shark beyond what nature intended, such as growing bone armor plating, or electric powers, in turn giving your beast greater attack or stealth power.
You’ll recognise a lot of tropes from the average land-based open-world game. There are unique locations to find underneath the waves (one example being a criminal gang’s dumping ground for bodies), a day-night cycle which changes which NPCs can be found and what they’re doing, and wanted levels (‘hunter bounties’ in the game’s own language) which draw ever more dangerous enemies who want to claim your head for their den wall.
But you can fight back, mainly in the form of your many sharp teeth. You can gobble up fish in a single bite, whereas people require a bit of chewing to consume. Eating things gives you health back as well as a small amount of the nutrient resources. They don’t just have to be in the water either, as one of your upgradeable skills is the ability to jump onto land or a boat and slip around snapping at whoever’s nearby.
You have a few other moves though. You’re able to breach out of the water like a dolphin, letting you dodge obstacles or come crashing down on a hapless enemy. You can also use your tail to whip shot enemies around, perhaps if you’re not feeling hunger but rather like seeing some humans fly far into the air.
The demo I watched featured the”‘adult” shark, the third of five stages of shark development, coming after baby shark and teen shark but before elder shark and megashark. These life stages are part of the game’s story, which involves taking on the main villain, shark hunter Scaly Pete, and also are moments where your power as a water-borne hunter drastically increases. To get there however, you’ll need to defeat some bosses. Each area has an apex predator at the top of the food chain. They’re dormant by default, but as you start eating more and more in their area, they will start to come after you. If you feel brave, you can take them on then and there, or you could escape and return later with some improved stats and fresh upgrades.
The game’s framing is really smart. The most prominent form of media involving sharks, aside from the Jaws-style movie formula which Maneater also leans into, is the bloodthirsty nature documentary you’ve likely seen while channel surfing. You are regularly commented on by an enthusiastic unseen narrator, voiced by Archer and Rick and Morty voice actor Chris Parnell, admiring your fearsome activities.
If you consider a series like Grand Theft Auto to define the open-world archetype, then Maneater falls into line with the later Saints Row titles. The game has many ridiculous qualities, but it’s delivered with such conviction you can’t help but admire it. And while I can’t speak for how the game controls, I am keen to see more gameplay and try it for myself based entirely on the uniqueness of the premise.
There’s currently no set release date, although we know it will appear on the Epic Store for PC players. Hopefully there will be publicly released gameplay trailer to watch soon, so everyone else can see how an eight-foot 300-pound sea monster can replace a gun-toting criminal with surprising efficacy.
Be sure to follow our E3 2019 news hub all week long for the biggest reveals and impressions out of Los Angeles.