GDC 2018 Preview: Kaet Must Die!

Credit: Strength In Numbers Studio
Credit: Strength In Numbers Studio /

The Kaet Must Die! development team wants to see you die over and over again on streaming platforms. 

The world of indie game development can be cruel. Platforms fail, timing is wrong, and game tastes change. These are just some of the external factors that can hurt small teams working on making a modest living as indie game developers. One minute people love MOBAs, next we get a battle royale phase. The Kaet Must Die! developers, Strength in Numbers, are living by their name and using assets from a shelved game to make a very intriguing first-person horror puzzle game.

Previously, Strength In Numbers worked on creating the MOBA game Tubor, a game that was in Steam Early Access for two years. Despite looking pretty good and having some good reviews, Tubor could not get a community going. The team had put in a lot of work and had even developed strong back stories for the characters. The assets of Tubor and backstory of one of its characters has led to the development of Kaet Must Die! 

Taking on the role of Kaetheran, you wake up alone and powerless in a dark sewer. The story goes that your rival, the blood witch Annalinnia has taken your psionic powers and dropped you into a puzzling gauntlet of death. Annalinnia has a lot in common in her approach with the X-Men villain, Arcade. The CEO of Strength In Numbers, Scott Reschke, also has a very similar sinister approach. During my hands-on demo I could hear him waiting for me to get into a jump scare situation and he spent much of the time enjoying the reaction to the various traps players encountered. As he morbidly put it, “We were looking forward to seeing lots of games journalists die and die again when we decided to show off the game at this year’s GDC.”

In fact, the video content the team sent me was full of jump scares he had collected from streamers who played Kaet Must Die!  in early access. The game is looking to build on the audience streamers have gotten from playing games like Amnesia and Slender: The Arrival. While it has enough jump scares to get a few good reactions, the game defines itself by its difficulty. Scott was very pleased to tell me that no one had yet to beat the first level of the game during GDC.

During my first playthrough, I actually got far walking around in the dark and reading the clues on the walls that reveal details of the puzzle. I had not yet figured out how to fully use the light orbs that you use to scare away the demonic creatures and light your way. Then my first death came and I damn near threw my headset off. A creepy demon kid-like thing just popped right in front of me and I died. Yes, this game features one hit kills.

Credit: Strength In Numbers Studio
Credit: Strength In Numbers Studio /

When I finally started using the light orbs, I realized I had gotten lucky in my first run and did not run into the horrors that I could now see. Oh, and those one hit kills? They take you back to the start of the level! In the stage I played you had to solve a pentagram like puzzle by adding five skulls to it. Well, even if had four skulls, one hit and it’s back to the start for you, Kaet. A game like this can test someone’s sanity, and funny enough, the game has a sanity meter in it as well. Staying in the dark too much affects your sanity and can cause the blood witch to appear.

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Kaet Must Die! can be very frustrating for some but we live in a post Dark Souls world where being a gaming masochist is a badge of honor. The horror genre is one of the most saturated genres in gaming, but Strength In Numbers is taking an interesting approach developing a game with streamers and speed runners in mind within its core loop. Being an indie dev is hard, but Kaet Must Die! keeps the vision and previous work of Strength In Numbers alive. Alive enough to see you die over and over and over again in this hard as heck game.

Next: GDC 2018 preview: The Messenger

Kaet Must Die! will be available April 5th on PC with Switch, Xbox One, and VR versions will follow soon.