Stuck on an alien planet that wants nothing more than to kill you, well it’s time to break out old Mr Stubbs and…what do you mean I’m not playing Osiris? What do you mean I don’t have a gun? So I’m just supposed to survive on my own wits, then I know three colonists that are in a lot of trouble.
Symmetry is a survival resource management rouge-like game in a 2D environment. The objective is to gather the supplies needed to repair your shuttle to allow you to escape. In the meantime, you must balance your characters’ needs with your base needs to ensure a rough balance.
First I need to comment on the way that the game tells the story. I’m not talking about the intro story, which doesn’t really make a lot of sense, but I’ll mark that as potentially a language barrier issue. While playing the game, the characters will comment on the situation. Some of them will be mindless chatter or complaints on the cold, but every once in awhile they’ll comment on the figment of a memory that couldn’t have happened to them. Almost as though something is bleeding into their memories, just as glitches begin to appear in the surroundings. Strange images of death, destruction and a pick up truck will begin to plague you as the player as the story slowly builds. I didn’t get far enough, mostlybecause I was trying to beat the game, but the parts I caught captivated me. Something that’s admittedly hard to do through this style of story telling.
The challenge in this game is three-fold, first is the weather. As you’ll notice the temperature starts in the negative and doesn’t get much warmer from there. The cold will sap the health from your colonist, dealing more damage the colder it is. The only relatively safe place is your base…at least until your heater runs out of wood or either the main unit or the vents break down. The most perilous times are when the warning for extremely cold weather appears and as the colonist must travel farther to gather resources. Meaning early recoverable mistakes are actually multiplied and made worse as your resources that once came in easily, slow to trickle. Doubly so as your colonist need to travel farther and farther from the base in order to retrieve supplies. Increasing their exposure time and the amount of health damage they take just making a single trip forces them to stay in the healing tanks longer to retrieve more.
Second, the game has two time limits, a soft limit and a hard limit. The soft limit is dependent on the number of colonists you still have living. The more colonists you have the easier it is to juggle your late game resource management. This goes back to what I mentioned earlier where your colonists spend increasing times recovering from supply runs, having two colonist gathering the same resource allows for a steady stream of supplies. While missing even one is noticeable when one resources begins to lag behind your needs. The hard limit comes after the 30 day marker, when an event occurs that increases how often your components breakdown. While it is possible to survive through, the difficulty certainly gets ratcheted to the nth degree. And since this was the second time I had played and the farthest I’d gotten I was understandably unprepared for it and had to restart.
Third, and most distressing, is the user interface of the game. There is no warning to let you know when one of your colonists is in danger of dying. There are plenty of times where I’ve sent a colonist to chop wood to keep the rest of my colonist from freezing to death, only to realize the heater has shut off because the colonist died on the way back with the precious wood. With the game already actively killing your colonist with no real way to slow or stop the depletion of their health, despite them being in protective suits, is by far the most annoying aspect of the game. At least having the ability to set parameters so that when a colonist gets to a certain health level, or if it gets too cold, they’d turn back so they could stay alive would be a major asset. It doesn’t make sense for a character in a survival game to have no sense of self preservation.
I absolutely wanted to like this game, and while there are certain parts that I liked, the way the story is told is definitely new and refreshing for me. But at some point where you’re struggling just to survive you really stop caring about the story. And unfortunately it feels like that’s where a lot of the planning for the game went was the story rather than the gameplay design. So while I wouldn’t call this a successful game, it does count as a good proof of concept. A little more spit and polish can make this a good game. GG, everyone!
- Interesting story telling element
- Simple mechanics for survival
- Steep learning curve in diffculty
- Too much micromanagement, needs some automation
- Story becomes meaningless the longer the game goes
- Short game if a player blitzes through it