Indie Review: I Am Alive
I Am Alive finally makes its debut and tries to uphold many of the promises; does it do so successfully or should it have taken more development time to properly end the world?
- Worth The Time?Perhaps the once.
- Things LovedInteresting premise, some unique gameplay mechanics, decent visuals for a downloadable game.
- Things HatedClumsy and unforgiving control scheme, glitchy A.I. as well as gameplay, issues with retries and usable items, story loses its appeal quite quickly.
- RecommendationAt some point you need to give up on the empty promises I Am Alive leaves unfulfilled and turn your attention to a game you might actually enjoy playing.
- Name: I Am Alive
- Genre: Survival Horror
- Players: 1
- Multiplayer: None
- Platforms: Xbox 360, PS3
- Developer: Ubisoft Shanghai
- Publisher: Ubisoft
- Price: About R170
- Reviewed On: Xbox 360
Originally planned for a full retail release until it was decided that a shorter, smaller, downloadable game would be more appropriate; I Am Alive finally arrives for download. So was it worth the wait, should it have remained a full release or is this exactly what we need in a downloadable game? Well there’s certainly a lot of promise behind the premise to I Am Alive. Surviving an apocalyptic class event, appropriately named ‘The Event’, and navigating a now dystopian city, all the while trying to survive in the midst of a more ruthless, less forgiving, humanity; it certainly has its charm. It’s apparent I Am Alive was meant to walk the path less taken, and I’m not just talking about avoiding some insatiable need for every developer to add zombies, as if wiping out most of humanity isn’t enough. Instead, I Am Alive gives you control of an average Joe, a man barely able to find his way in this new world.
What I enjoyed was that instead of the usual no questions, only shooting bravado we are accustomed to in these sorts of games; I Am Alive sticks you with a man who has only managed to maintain his sanity and a thread of humanity with the thought of returning to his family. Unfortunately, it’s a narrative that lasts for about as long as it takes to traverse your first couple objects and soon reduces itself to the more tedious acts of survival; like fetch quests, random combat situations and Uncharted style climbing throughout the city.
I Am Alive tries to emulate a world’s end situation by making use of a combination of situations like limited rations, stamina and health recovery as well as making each fight a life-or-death situation. On paper it’s quite a good idea though its execution has left much to be desired. The climbing situations quickly become frustrating when quirky controls mean you stumble your climb just enough for your character to run out of stamina mid-climb and so fall to his death repeatedly. Moreover, many of the fight situations are actually trial and error and never actually allow for much variety in approach; attempting anything different usually results in your death. This is because the control scheme makes use of the same button configurations for many of your actions and is so fussy about your exact position, context and how you’re facing that many of the planned combat situations become inelegant slash fests or hoping you have enough ammo in your gun, which you won’t. This wouldn’t be so bad if the enemies dropped ammo as they are supposed to but a couple annoying bugs have meant they do not drop as often as they should. Even the bow, which is meant to provide a reusable arrow, can fall victim to glitches and you’ll find your arrow disappearing after taking out only one of a few gang members now approaching you. Finally, the interesting, and supposedly more realistic narrative, quickly simplifies itself into encountering every human as being either a ruthless thug or immobile, scared survivor. It left me cynical as to the nature of the world this game takes place in and I lost even more interest in the game’s premise.
Plot wise, and for all the good the opening cinematic and initial game sequence made, I Am Alive tapered off from its heroic and fundamentally human tale of survival to a quest monger who could do nothing but errands for other survivors. Sadly the camcorder sequences meant to deliver the story do no more than tell tad bits of your character’s journey, despite the potential for a very interesting cinematic style. Even worse is a sudden, anti-climactic, and what can be best described as wonky ending that left me completely unsatisfied. You can use the slightly more challenging survival mode as a challenge to survive rather than a told journey but the game really isn’t enjoyable enough to warrant this.
Visually, I Am Alive looks quite good for a game coming in at under 2gb and its aesthetic suits the game quite well. There are plenty particle and moving cloth effects to keep those enticed by eye candy entertained. It’s certainly not the best looking game but does brilliantly for a downloadable one. It is extremely gray though and there is very little colour to behold; though this is almost certainly the point given the dust, rubble and apocalyptic nature of the world around you. While I may empathise with the developer however, I cannot completely sympathise; it is too bland, too free of colour and only manages to insinuate the tedium in many of the games quests. If I Am Alive had a better gameplay mechanics, more refined controls and an interesting narrative worthy of the hype I’d happily accept the gray colour as homage to the struggle and dystopian nature of the world around you. Unfortunately it doesn’t, so I won’t.