Written by sPINDRAFT 3/1/2014
Quiet, mellow, sort of like virtual mountain climbing in an urban setting. From the makers of such games as ‘Assassin’s Creed III and IV’, ‘Splinter Cell Blacklist’, ‘Anno 2070′ and ‘Far Cry 3′ comes something a little, well not quite sure what they were going for here. With the huge graphics productions of games like ‘Assassin’s Creed’, the action of ‘Splinter Cell’ and the adventure of ‘Anno’ we are left to wonder exactly what the somewhat half done look in ‘I Am Alive’ is all about.
Thats not to say that the game lacks artistical production its just so damn vague and incomplete in places. At times the close up details can be quite good and there are plenty of objects strewn around to investigate but the background is washed out and the minute details of objects such as coprses, vehicles and other fill material looks like the underpainting of a watercolor; absolutely void of detail.
Now I don’t want to get on a bash the graphics session here because if you look past the obvious shortcomings (I would actually call them shortcuts) you can get a real sense for the feel of the game overall. In fact, the odd approach to graphics and textures actually enhances the feeling of the total atmosphere. Below about the first three stories of the street zones is a layer of dust that really hinders your ability to see anything, or breathe, and you cannot survive down there long at all. From high up on the overhead rail lines or tall buildings you can look down into this miasma and you get a sense of dread at the thought of having to go down there for any reason.
All of the spaces have very little color, you are constantly surrounded by a gray, drab and murky world full of broken glass, no real safe shelter, crumbling buildings, broken city infrastructure and just an overall sense of despair and gloom. You occassionally come across other people who are either sick, hungry, scared or just want to beat the hell out of you and steal whatever you have for themselves.
The major play in ‘I Am Alive’ centers around your ability to navigate this broken and disfunctional city. In some ways you could say that the game is fairly linear in that there are limited paths you can choose to accomplish your goal (reach a certain destination) but in reality you can literally run around lost in the dust cloud at street level for some time or spend tens of minutes trying to figure out how to scale up or down your latest obstacle (a drain pipe, a tall building, a train tressle) all while your stamina is running on empty. So the bottom line is that even though you can generally only go one way successfully, there is room for exploration whether you are having difficulties with the above issues or just checking out the random rooms in a deserted skyscraper.
Getting back to the quiet part, there is very little noise in this place and the quiet just compounds the feeling that the entire city is a dead zone; for the most part you are alone in this broken urban scape. Aside from the lost little girl Mei, whom you help through the early portions, the pace is rather slow but this does not seem to detract from the game as you are genuinely cautious in this landscape that offers no security. The groups of survivors with malintent are spaced a fair piece apart giving you just enough time to relax somewhat before being confronted with a difficult fight.
The fight segments are cool and definetly pick up the intensity after wondering through the quiet wasteland of crumbling buildings. Since your available supplies (ie bullets, food, water, medicine and such) are very limited it is extremely important to become ace at quickly surveying everyone in the attacking group and formulating your defense in order of importance. If you do not master this strategy you will most likely be overwhelmed nearly every time and you only have so many retries available before you must start back at the beginning of that episode (last automatic save).
‘I Am Alive’ was originally started by Darkworks way back in 2003 who eventually dropped the game around 2008. Ubisoft Shanghai picked it up and released the Windows version on Sept 6, 2012, a total dev span of 9 years. What finally came out is a fun, quiet game that offers a lot of navigational issues and at times some strong fight scene strategy, don’t let the graphics and underpainting textures run you away; just play it and have fun trying to navigate a broken city.
HAG Score - 8.4