Replaced explores a robot-filled dystopia in an AI-powered human body

By Jess Reyes, Contributor

Replaced gives a promising impression of a tight, dystopian, side-scrolling adventure. Set in a retro-futuristic world, it grounds itself in the poverty-stricken Phoenix-City, where the protagonist R.E.A.C.H. fights against corrupt baddies while finding his place as an AI stuck in a human body. Sad Cat Studios, the Poland-based studio working on Replaced, calls it a “cinematic action-platformer,” a tagline that matches its lively setting, dramatic storytelling and fluid combat.

Epic Games got a chance to check out Replaced at Summer Game Fest in a preview split into three sections that each focused on a different part of the game: an action-packed prologue that introduces us to the story, the central town to showcase the setting and characters, and the combat.

It starts with a bang

Replaced sets the scene for its world right away with a gripping prologue. R.E.A.C.H., the AI that ultimately becomes the main character, fuses with his partner in an accident that forces it to flee from a laboratory. Long hallways of mysterious mechanical equipment, abandoned cafeterias, and more fill your head with questions as you near the exit, only to be stopped by a barricade of armed robocops. From there, it becomes a wild chase from law enforcement as you hop over logs and fences. It even introduces some stealth elements like dodging detection from patrolling officers. 

Timing was unforgiving. If you tripped even once, it meant a bullet through the skull. Missed that ledge? Dead. Each failure looped you back to the last save point but nonetheless pounded in the message that this was a high-stakes story. Even that brief 10 or so minutes served as a taste of the adventuring you could expect in the 2.5D retro-futuristic world.

Take on the future 

Another portion of the preview focused on worldbuilding. Tempest, a fellow rebel, brings R.E.A.C.H. to the main setting of Phoenix-City, a vividly colored dystopian town. Right from the start, it paints a picture of a struggling population with lines of haggard folk looking for aid and leaning against each other for warmth on the street. Just talking to NPCs and opening every door in town also seems purposeful, introducing new lore and hints at quests to come. 

Dialogue is brief and impactful, and the important characters quickly establish their personalities. Tempest is the energetic but reckless type, bringing you in and suggesting how your expertise could be the breakthrough his friends are looking for. Ironwood, cautious and stern, warns him about going too far without thinking things through. Matriarch, an aptly named leader, welcomes you to Phoenix-City with your first quest and manages their small group alongside Ironwood. 

Punch baddies

Last but not least: the combat. The Replaced team set aside one section just for combat, guiding us through various moves and types of enemies. You have a light attack, parry, heavy attack, dodge, and even a special attack that can trigger once you’ve earned enough points from parries and dodges. Replaced also implements red and yellow warnings for when to dodge and parry respectively, so that you can react accordingly without the cues fading into the dimly lit setting. 

R.E.A.C.H. covers a wide range of attacks to counter various types of enemies—like one that repeatedly dodges normal attacks, so you need to wait to deal most of your damage through parries. I quickly adapted to smacking around common grunts and dodge-rolling under bullets, but the endless stream of enemies eventually introduced smarter minions. Some need you to land parries one after the other, similar to combos you would memorize in a fighting game. I hammered shield-wielding enemies with heavy attacks, rhythmically parried attacks from enemies with choreographed combos, and so on. 

We even got a sneak peek at one of the bosses: a big, bulky guy covered in armor. These guys, like some of the shielded minions, needed heavy attacks to break through their defenses before cutting to the core. Enemy variation plays a big role in keeping combat fresh in action-focused games, so hopefully later enemies follow that same trend.

Again, these three parts of the preview were played separately rather than woven together into one demo, so it’s difficult to say how they will ultimately blend together. However, just from the 30 minutes we played, it seems like a world worth exploring for fans of detailed, gritty worlds and slick, beat ‘em up combat. 

Replaced is coming to Epic Games Store in 2024, so wishlist it now!