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Safe House: Progress Log #1

I’ve played something like an hour of Safe House—which I find myself unerringly inclined to call Spy House for some reason—and there are some really nice things about it, just as there are a few things that I find a bit awkward and frustrating. To start with, the atmosphere is on point, with the music really capturing that surreptitious-spy vibe. Visually, things are pretty simplistic, which makes it disappointing that I’m encountering performance problems despite ostensibly being well above the minimum specs. That can be worked around somewhat with settings tweaks, of course, but I really didn’t expect doing so to be necessary.

My awkward first steps

You start the game running a safe house in the fictional Kazataire City, and are quickly introduced to using codewords to differentiate between people you should approve and those you shouldn’t. I totally misunderstood how this worked at first, and in doing so, discovered that quitting out and selecting “continue” from the menu allows you to start the day over again. Very helpful for learning. Basically, someone shows up and says something, and you have to check the words they used against a series of code words. If they used one of them, you respond with the appropriate code word and check that their response lines up. The issue I had was that I assumed the second phase required running their words against the first word of the list to find the corresponding word like in the first phase, whereas you’re actually supposed to check your response word and make sure they use the right followup word. That took a little getting used to, but the confusion was admittedly my fault.

Before long, you start to receive packages in a different part of the building, and this plays out similarly; each package has a code attached to it, and you have to check a list of approved codes and deny any that don’t match up. When you successfully accept and deny the correct people and packages, you earn money. When you turn away or let in the wrong people, you lose money (to your enemies, which makes them harder to take on). That’s a pretty interesting way of handling things.

Then you build a cryptology office for decoding words, and this is where things start to get out of hand. Words are encrypted with a Caesar cipher that requires shifting the letters up or down in the alphabet a certain number of steps, and this isn’t something I’ve ever been remotely capable of doing for some reason. It became frustrating running through the alphabet song (don’t judge) at least twice per letter, trying to desperately figure out these words while time elapsed in the background. Eventually frustration led me to pull up a website decoder that made this much easier for a time, but I soon realized that it only shifted letters in one direction. Using a laptop on the side while also having to use my gaming computer’s keyboard to write in response words got to be a bit awkward anyway, so I ended up downloading a phone app that can shift letters in both directions without too much hassle.

I don’t know what I did wrong here

Needless to say, things went from nice and breezy to totally out of control without any warning. I can’t find any information about how many people can casually transpose letters up and down the alphabet, though, so it’s hard to know if this will end up being a problem for a significant number of people. Moving on, some new rooms ended up being built that allowed me to heal wounded agents (which requires giving them the right blood bag, medication type, and ensuring that the medicine has no ingredients that they’re allergic to) and recruit agents for field missions. There were some minor frustrations such as when I misspelled a response word because the cipher app left me with one hand, but the part at 13:12 is where things got really annoying. The agent needed O+ blood, which I provided, as well as anti-poison medication. I found an anti-poison medication called Imodex with active ingredients that the agent wasn’t allergic to, and yet I lost money like that was the wrong choice. How can one learn from their mistakes if it’s not obvious what those mistakes are?

I’ve gone over the footage a dozen times and can’t figure out what happened. If losing money was the only penalty here, that would be one thing, but having the enemy strengthened makes this kind of thing practically game-breaking, and it’s hard to want to spend more time playing knowing that things like this could snowball.

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Safe House: Progress Log #1

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