As long time visitors to the Junkyard know, I really loved Subnautica. It had the right balance of exploration with survival and there was no actual “enemy” per se. I’ve grabbed a few other games that claimed to be like it, but haven’t found that sweet spot yet. While I still haven’t found the exact match, I have found a good one in Breathedge. As titles go, it’s a bit weak, but when I watched a trailer for it, I jumped on it.
From the outset, I was laughing. That’s a blessing and a curse for the game. Unlike Subnautica, this isn’t treated seriously which, at first, was brilliant. When you find baby photos of yourself where you were called “little man”, one has to laugh at the full grown beard on the baby boy! The story opens where your spaceship explodes casting you adrift in space. You have to piece together what happened and save yourself. Your spacesuit is controlled by a computer which speaks to you to give you advice and as the game progresses, you start getting messages from “Babe” who may or may not be real. Her English is a bit broken and her advice to you is always of a very questionable nature. You carry around a chicken too; there’s a story there. And you seem to live in the shadow of life with your grandfather. It’s a quirky, funny story! Speaking of funny, there was one scene that had me laughing so hard, that I had to pause the game. You arrive at a steering wheel to launch your ship and wait for the countdown. When it launches… well, I won’t spoil it but my side ached from laughing so hard!
Now while a lot of the game had me laughing, one area that rapidly failed was the speaking spacesuit. It’s not that it’s not funny but the sheer amount of things it tells you means you’re either not going to pick up on it or you’re not moving. Imagine having to fly desperately to an airlock while your oxygen is depleting as the voice reads War and Peace at you. You can’t help but miss some of the things being spoken. And it was hard to know when it would just be silly stuff and when it was important. For instance, one quest asks you to build “crap imposed by the developer”. Huh? For real? It was almost like the developer, RedRuins Software, setup a quest in their development mode to make sure something worked, then forgot to take it out of the game.
That all said, the game pays a massive homage to Mass Effect including having a Captain Shepard, a ship called Normandy, posters for what looks like Krogan and plenty of other items to make me wonder how they got away with it. I guess, imitation is the highest form of flattery and hey, Mass Effect is pretty damned awesome! That’s not the only homage paid to SF in the game. There’s a great Subnautica moment in the game, references to 2001: A Space Odyssey, Rick and Morty, and Star Wars, to name a few. The opening scene has you interrogated by a coffin that looks like Walter White and his partner is R2D3. Oh, yeah, sorry, that must have seemed like a weird thing to say. The extent of combat is against coffins – yes, actual space age coffins with bodies inside them, but the bodies are dead and the coffins are your enemy. They are your only enemy but that doesn’t stop you finding a bunch of other dead crewmen all killed in horrifying ways!
Now, you’re probably wondering how this affects my views on violence in video games. This game has the result of violence but rarely is the violence from the player to the world at large. The game is so socially aware, that you get a censorship option – your choice is to actually say yay to censorship – by making the Walter White looking coffin smoke a carrot instead of a cigarette. Being somewhat anti-smoking myself, this was delightful and I fully embraced the censorship. This allowed me to then find packs of carrots instead of cigarettes throughout the game.
The game currently retails for $25. I actually pulled in about 27 hours with the game so my personal dollar to hour ratio is maintained. The game is funny, and there were more than a few needed screenshots I snagged. The graphics are sharp too. The game is broken into 6 chapters where a few are super fast, while some are very slow. And that was one of the only real issues I had with the game: the speed of getting around. I mean, we all know space is big. Anyone who has hitchhiked the galaxy knows that. But you spend chapter one floating about on your own volition. This is like walking across England; it’s not fast. You do get something faster a little later on, but it’s not more than motorcycle fast – again, traveling cross country in a day isn’t happening. Especially while you are running out of air. On top of that, there seems to be a huge number of things to find based on the awards you can get in game, but did I mention: space is big? To find them all, you’d probably put 3 times as much effort into the game! And the base building sadly is a very transient affair. In Subnautica, that was a massive part of my enjoyment and I actually took in-game footage of the base, so vast and exciting was it. This game will help you build one that has a specific set of needs after which you leave it behind when going from one chapter to another. A bit of a let-down!
Oh, and writing this, I realized that the little floating brain beings I encountered have no function. If the talking space suit told me what they were for, I missed it. I now feel like I need to go back just to learn what they were about! Luckily, I didn’t uninstall the game yet! Overall, it’s a solid, fun game. It’s not Subnautica, but it’s a funny replacement. Probably won’t win any major awards, but it will provide many laughs.
Check out the trailer, below. ML
The space-age balance between exploration and survival, from the soft SF of Star Trek to the hard SF of Alien, is an enduringly popular genre. Perhaps video games can bring back the best impacts that may have felt somewhat lost today in TV and films, even with Dr. Who and Star Trek. But the adventurousness is naturally still appreciable enough as the Junkyard can remind us. Thanks, ML.
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