It does not surprise me that the number one game heading into the COVID pandemic and lockdown life was Nintendo’s blissfully joyous Animal Crossing, and the number one game 6 months later while still grappling with a worldwide pandemic, is a sci-fi themed whodunnit full of murder, betrayal and lies.
Among Us is an online multiplayer social deduction game, developed and published by American game studio InnerSloth. Available on mobile and PC, it came out in 2018, but has seen a meteoric rise in popularity throughout 2020.
If you have ever played the boardgames One Night Ultimate Werewolf or Resistance, then you know the deal. You join a team of up to 10 Crewmates, who are given a set of tasks that they need to complete. In amongst the Crewmates lurk Imposters, whose job is to sabotage the equipment and murder the Crewmates.
Crewmates win by either completing tasks or voting the Imposters out. Imposters win by murdering enough crewmates to have majority, or successfully sabotaging equipment. There are three maps to choose from, each with their own set of tasks, equipment and quirks: the Skeld Spaceship, the Mira HQ Skyskrapers and the volcanic surface of the planet Polus. Crewmates can report dead bodies, or hold emergency meetings, where everyone can discuss possible suspects (by either typed chat or voice via third party services, such as Discord), try to throw blame around and hope they don’t get voted out, Survivor style, into the cold unforgiving expanse of space.
Honestly, it is a heck of a lot fun! The animation is simplistic perfection. You can pick a colour, hat and even a pet for your character, allowing you to insert your own personality. I found myself growing very attached to these little spacemen, and even more so after I purchased the little Crewmate Pet, which has disastrous consequences when/if you get murdered (poor little guy).
The murder sequences are detailed and gruesome, yet still hilarious. Nothing scared me more than trying to fulfil a task and failing to swipe my ID card in Admin, and then suddenly seeing my spaceman’s neck unceremoniously broken, gross sound effect and all.
There’s a tension carried through every moment of the game. Is the person following me around trying to kill me? Do I have time to do this download task before an Imposter pops out of the vent and murders me? Did we vote out an Imposter, or make a huge mistake and vote out a fellow Crewmate? And whenever I was the Imposter, my heart would be pounding the whole time, as I cautiously determined whether or not now was a good time to hit that kill button.
I have only played Among Us on PC, where you have two options for the controls: Mouse or Mouse & Keyboard. I would highly recommend that you immediately change to mouse and keyboard, as it becomes a lot easier to multitask for both roles as Crewmate and Imposter. You move around the map with arrows letting you know which way to go to get your tasks done. You can hit the tab button to check out the map, and you’ll need to memorise the room names quickly, or you’ll look very suss when you inevitably get interrogated on your location during team meetings.
The tasks are all little mini games that can take anywhere from 5 seconds to 1 minute to complete (and each second you wait, you inch closer to possible murder). The stress is heightened by the fact that the minigames take up almost the whole screen, blocking your view of potential Imposter appearances. The Imposters do not complete tasks, however they are provided fake tasks so they appear normal and trustworthy. Imposters can also lock doors, turn off the lights and sabotage communications.
Another great thing about this game, is that it doesn’t end when you die. You become a ghost; privy to everyone’s conversations, and you can chat amongst fellow ghosts bemoaning your fate. You also must continue to complete your tasks to help your living Crewmates succeed. Imposters that get ‘ghosted’ can still sabotage equipment in order to help their side win.
The team meetings can be cool, calm and collected or absolute CHAOS. I have not played public games, but I have heard there are problems with toxic behaviour, and people leaving the game immediately if they’re not given the Imposter role. I personally stick mainly to private games with friends, so I have not experienced any of these issues, which honestly sounds like the same typical issues that plague every other online multiplayer game, with private group games with your friends to be be the best way of experiencing Among Us.
So all in all, Among Us is a great game. It is simple, effective, fun, frustrating, cute, gruesome and tense all at the same time. In terms of any negative thoughts about the game, they are few and far between. Innersloth are a small team of three developers, having to wade through hundreds of thousands of players jumping into their servers. Do games crash? Sure. Do the servers fill up a little too quickly at peak times? Of course they do. But I’m willing to let these things go, as the gameplay itself makes up for it. There are a few quality of life changes that I would like to see, such as being able to change the number of Imposters and the map after you’ve opened a lobby. But these are minor things.
I’m excited to see what Innersloth do with the game moving forward. They were previously planning to move into Among Us 2, however, due to the popularity of the original, they’ve scrapped that idea and are instead putting all their resources into improving their gorgeous little-game-that-could.
Among Us is available now on PC via Steam and mobile.