The game takes place in an alternate timeline where Nazi Germany developed the atom bomb just in time to stave off the Russian advance on the German homeland. This resulted in a 3-way cold war between Germany, the United States, and the Soviet Union, all of which had developed atomic weapons. The 3 superpowers eventually ended up starting World War III, devastating the surface of the Earth.
The player takes the role of Albert Tokaj, a survivor living in an underground vault known as "Glory". "Glory" is a vast, high-tech shelter where a large community of Polish citizens were led to take refuge from the atomic fire. Albert is the vault's psychologist, tasked with maintaining the mental well-being of the vault's population in the face of the global apocalypse and the confined living space of the vault. However, Albert himself is suffering from mental issues, including chronic insomnia, as well as a strained relationship with the vault's absolute military overseer, Colonel Potocki.
When Albert is dispatched along with a small security team to investigate reports of odd behavior on the vault's second sub-level, he discovers that a mysterious saboteur has released a mutagenic contamination into the air system, transforming the vault inhabitants into mindless, bloodthirsty psychopaths that eventually mutate into monsterous creatures. Attempting to flee the contaminated area, he discovers that he has taken the blame for the deadly sabotage, resulting in the vault's security forces attempting to gun him down as well.
The game has a heavy emphasis on melee combat, with the player being able to swing a variety of melee weapons such as pipes or fire axes to combat the insane or mutated enemies. Firearms are also present, but ammo is limited in many areas and you can only carry one weapon at a time.
An "Extended Edition" of the game was released in mid 2012 for Xbox Live, and released on Steam as part of their greenlit games project in early December 2012. The Extended Edition features more areas and a vastly improved combat system, although the plot itself is not expanded upon.
A sequel, Afterfall: Reconquest, was released on Steam under the Early Access program in 2014. Reconquest is more action-oriented than Insanity, and was planned to be released in an episodic format.
In early 2015, it was discovered that developer Nicolas Games had illegally used Unreal Engine assets to create Insanity. The resultant backlash, which included a disastrous lawsuit, ultimately led to Nicolas Games declaring bankruptcy and both Insanity and Reconquest being pulled from distributors due to its illegal engine use. Any further episodes of Reconquest are extremely unlikely to ever be released.
Tropes present in Afterfall: Insanity include:
- Adrenaline Makeover: After a few hours on the surface, Albert ditches his vault uniform for a Mad Max-style outfit taken from the surface survivors.
- Alternate History: Although it's not a major part of the immediate main story, in the backstory Nazi Germany got the atomic bomb, started a very different Cold War, and eventually triggered World War III.
- Always Night: When Albert reaches the surface, it's perpetually dark because it's actually a giant cave.
- Arc Words: The saboteur's motto, "Stress relief through violence!", is repeated multiple times throughout the game.
- Artificial Stupidity: The melee enemies in this game have dismal AI. They'll rush Albert, hit him three or four times, then back off slowly, giving him a perfect opportunity to attack. If there's multiple enemies, which there usually are, only one or two will charge in, with the rest just standing by until Albert finishes killing the first ones.
- The enemies with firearms aren't much better. They tend to stand out in the open and plink away at Albert, not bothering to find cover if Albert fires back or closes to melee range.
- If there are multiple enemies that are hostile to each other (which only happens a handful of times), enemies with firearms will ignore melee enemies to shoot at Albert, even if they're being attacked. As YouTube comments point out, even Half-Life AI could prioritize targets better.
- Asshole Victim: Remember those two guards who were supposed to help Albert with investigating the contamination? You left them behind and then you have a chance of hearing them dying. It would be easier to feel sorry for them if they hadn't brought it on themselves -especially the one who got tranquilized by Albert for killing one of the "crazies".
- Albert himself at the end, awaiting a punishment unknown to him as the Colonel has already made it to Fist and is observing his interview with Fist's security.
- Bland-Name Product: Pall Fall cigarettes.
- Averted by several fictional brands (Stork supermarkets, soda machines bearing the legend "Frudo: Lord of the Drinks", etc.)
- Also averted by Archer Arms, a Polish weapons manufacturer taken over by Americans after the war, which was originally called Łucznik ("archer") - actually a real Polish company known for its weapons and sewing machines.
- Bolivian Army Ending: The final cinematic ends with Albert held in a quarantine room in the Fist, with Colonel Potocki and the Fist security detail watching the recordings of the various murders Albert committed. It's pretty clear that things don't look good for him.
- Boring, but Practical: The humble Firefighter's Axe is one of the most reliable melee weapons in the game. A little slow but plenty of power, defence and reach.
- Boss in Mook's Clothing: The welder you fight shortly after escaping from the second sublevel is just a normal dude, but for some reason takes an insane amount of damage to kill, way more than any other non-boss enemy in the game. He's a unique NPC (you won't encounter another at any point in the game), and it's unclear if he's affected by the Hate Plague, or if he's completely sane and only attacking you because you're a disheveled stranger running at him with a fire axe.
- Clear My Name: Albert ends up taking the blame for the sabotage that results in the vault's devastation; however, he quickly goes from "clear my name" to "kill every authority figure in the vault to save my ass", an early hint that he's secretly a much darker individual than it initially appears.
- Crapsack World: Earth has been devestated by Nuclear war and Humans are holed up in two fallout shelters, Under one of them is a Replica of the Surface where currently cannibals inhabit.
- Day Hurts Dark-Adjusted Eyes: When Albert finally reaches the real surface, the sunlight is so blinding that you have to avoid direct sunlight or else the screen will completely white out. The sunlight also seems to cause Albert's insanity to going into complete overdrive, as he starts hallucinating being attacked by ghostly skeletal angels for most of the rest of the game.
- Dodge the Bullet: In the final boss fights, the saboteur has the inexplicable ability to perfectly dodge all gunfire. The final, final battle has Puzzle Boss elements in that you need to find a way to stun him before you can shoot him.
- The Dreaded: Albert is a mild example (either that, or an acknowledged Jerkass). One of the notes scattered around the shelter mentions that the author will not dare to tell anyone he heard children in the tunnels... because that would land him in therapy with Tokaj.
- Driven to Suicide: During the escape from Glory, Albert barges into Marcin's room, only to see Marcin blow his brains out. Except that wasn't what happened. Saboteur!Albert shot him in the face.
- Everybody's Dead, Dave: The contamination quickly spreads to the rest of the vault; almost everyone is turned into an insane maniac except Albert, Karolina, and the Colonel and some of his men. The Colonel outright blames Albert for wiping out most of what's left of the human race. On the plus side, it turns out there is at least one other vault out there, "Fist", and the surface is also occupied by survivors as well (albeit not particularly hospitable ones).
- Fake Town: The entire city on the "surface" turns out to be an even larger underground vault, built as a testing ground.
- Foreshadowing: At the beginning of the game, Albert gets chewed out by the Colonel for being shiftless, chronically late, and with an overall bad work attitude. At first it just seems like an unreasonable, totalitarian authority figure picking on our overworked, underappreciated hero. This is reinforced later when the Colonel accuses Albert of sabotaging the vault, and Albert concludes that the Colonel is trying to frame him. It turns out Albert really is an angry little man who hates and resents his life in the vault and the absolute authority of the Colonel, and manifested these suppressed emotions as a murderous split-personality that sabotaged and destroyed the vault.
- Hand Cannon: The .454 'Raging Bull' revolver. It's also the saboteur's Weapon of Choice.
- I Ate WHAT?!: When Albert meets the friendly surface dwellers, they offer him some food. While he's gorging himself, he notices a hand hidden on the table, and a butchered corpse in the next room.
- Informed Attribute: Albert's supposed to be a brilliant, compassionate doctor, but he constantly says that the mutated, murderous humans menacing him are just people suffering "confinement syndrome", and he's obnoxiously confrontational.
- It's Up to You: Albert is almost immedietely separated from the two security officers sent to accompany him. Several chapters later, by the time he manages to locate another security team, they already have orders to shoot him on sight for causing the whole mess.
- Jerkass: Albert Tokaj himself, being rude, smug, and thoroughly unpleasant. Early on, you find a note written by a man who's afraid of the auditory hallucinations he's suffering from...not because it means he's going crazy, but because it might land him in therapy with Tokaj.
- Left Hanging: The game hints that something much larger is going on what with the mysterious research notes about "combat testing" the vault inhabitants, and the revelation that the city on the "surface" is actually a testing ground built inside an even larger vault, but never fully explains it.
- Made of Iron: Albert, to a frankly absurd degree.
- Mêlée à Trois: Mutants and hostile humans will fight each other as well as the player, although there are only a few places in the game where the two can be found in the same area.
- MST: Done by the Retsupurae duo.
- Multi-Mook Melee: An arcade-like "survival mode" is unlocked upon finishing the game, which consists of fighting waves of various enemies in an arena. This arena mode is also available as a stand-alone game by itself on Steam.
- Mushroom Samba: Like in Dead Space, our hero is not entirely alright upstairs, and experiences disturbing hallucinations throughout the game.
- Nerd Action Hero: Albert is supposedly a psychotherapist and a pharmacologist, so you'd expect him to be either a Science Hero or, at most, a Badass Bookworm. Instead, his more "brainy" skills end up mostly as an Informed Ability, while he spends most of his time beating the crap out of crazies, mutants, shelter guards and surface dwellers without breaking a sweat. This includes taking down elite "hussar" guards (and you can beat them with improvised melee weapons against their assault rifles!).
- No Celebrities Were Harmed: The Colonel looks like a clone of Józef Piłsudski, the authoritarian Polish head of state from the Interbellum period.
- Regenerating Health: It's slow enough that it won't help in combat, but it does get you back to full health between major fights. It seems the game was originally going to use a traditional survival horror health management system (pain pills are mentioned in one of the tutorial messages), but ultimately it wasn't implemented.
- Sanity Slippage: Albert is overworked and passes out in his own client sessions, after being thrown into the chaos of the Infection he starts calm and quickly decides taking out everyone suffering from the madness is the only solution and when Security steps in to stop him he decides they are a threat too. He only gets worse when he visits the surface and then the real surface...
- Straw Nihilist: The saboteur and his reasons for starting the outbreak definitely have this vibe.
- Obvious Beta/Obvious Rule Patch: The game had quite a few technical issues and problems with the combat system, which were supposedly ironed out in the Extended Edition release.
- The Resenter: It turns out Albert himself was this, although he buried it in his subconciousness, with ultimately disasterous results.
- Tomato in the Mirror: Although Albert never manages to fully realize it, it turns out that he was the villain responsible for destroying "Glory"; the saboteur was a Fight Club-style hallucination/split-personality he created inside his head that was indulging in his own darkest impulses, namely his resentment of the confined vault lifestyle as well as the absolute authority of the Colonel.
- The Unfought: Colonel Potocki.
- The Virus: Albert's notes suggest that the "contamination" is actually some sort of mutagenic Hate Plague.
- What Happened to the Mouse?: Albert's love interest, Karolina, successfully escapes the vault and eventually runs into Albert on the surface, but the two are separated and she never shows up again.
- You do find a note saying that Karolina will meet you at Fist. But then the final cinematic shows Albert himself writing the note and throwing it down. Considering he's not all there to begin with, it just raises more questions about whether Karolina is alive, dead, or even ever existed.
- Arek vanishes sometime between communicating with Albert in Marcin's room and Albert reaching his office. Unlike Karolina, the game more or less forgets about him after Albert leaves his office.
- You ALL Look Familiar: They don't even try to hide it. It's especially noticeable when Albert gets thrown into the cannibals' arena; you can see about a half-dozen cannibals that look exactly identical.