My idea of the perfect day is face-planting in the snow and dying a slow and painful death. I’m not joking. Nothing tickles this fancy like a hardcore survival game. We’ve had some fantastic examples of this genre on PS4 so far and now Sleepless Clinic are adding a new one to the list. After following a mysterious signal through space, a crew of explorers crash lands on an alien planet. It’s a race against time and a battle against the elements to gather supplies and repair the ship. Unforgiving and relentless, it’s a battle that won’t easily be won.
The game begins with characters all with various skills which are vital to your survival. For example you’ll need someone to gather lumber for the furnace, someone to produce food and someone to gather electrical scrap from the crash to fix and upgrade the failing life support. You can also train the crew to get better at what they already do or gain a new skill or two. Success in Symmetry relies heavily on your people being the best at what they do. When there’s a storm on the way, you’ll need every bit of lumber you can chop down in as few trips as possible.
Symmetry is a survival management game and it doesn’t pull its punches. One single bad decision can ultimately kill everyone. When a storm is coming but you need scrap to fix your food production facility and feed a starving crew member you’ll need to balance risk versus reward. Could your collector just make it back alive? Well, if he dies out there in the cold you could always chop him up and put him in the freezer instead.
Symmetry has an initially steep learning curve. You’ll be given a few early pointers on how to control your crew and fix and upgrade your ship and bunker, but from there you’re on your own. You can expect to die a lot in the first hour or two while you acclimatise to your surroundings. It can all seem a little daunting at first, but once you find a method and rhythm things begin to click and you’ll soon discover that Symmetry has a rather clever simplicity that’s both easy as pie and bastard hard.
Staying on the ball in Symmetry is key to your survival. It’s very easy to get complacent later on in the game when you’ve got healthy supplies, a full crew and only one module left to repair, and it’s here that everything can fall apart in spectacular fashion. If you’re not keeping an eye on someone’s hunger or life support or even the current weather, it can be very easy to lose someone very quickly, and one person down is a crisis of devastating proportions. Unless you’re close to finishing your repairs, just one dead crew member can mean the game is very difficult to complete. As the game has progressed your supplies are further and further away and it takes longer to gather them and requires more people to both fix your broken modules and stay on top of your bunker’s increasing need for repairs.
The game autosaves and you can exit and continue whenever you like, but you cannot re-load after a death. It’s a case of get it right or start again. It’s not a long game and you can potentially complete it in a few hours, but you’ll still need to put the time in failing and learning before you can get to that point.
Symmetry has an intriguing story. All is not as straightforward as a simple crash. The story is revealed as you progress through the days and begin fixing your ship. While the gameplay is repetitive (not in a bad way) and rhythmic, the story helps to keep things feeling fresh with an alluring mix of mystery, conspiracy and despair.
Minimalist vector graphics compliment the game’s core simplicity beautifully. They’re uncomplicated and strangely serene. The text is a little too small for comfortable reading at a distance so if you’re sitting more than a few feet from your TV like I do, you’ll need to scoot closer if you want to read the pop up warnings. More than once I mistook a warning for dangerously cold inside for dangerously cold outside. Three hours into a playthrough and someone drops dead because you’ve misread the warning is not funny. This seems like a simple fix however, and I would dearly like to see this sorted in a patch for console users.
Tough and unforgiving, Symmetry is a hardcore survival management game with addictive gameplay and an intriguing story. You’re going to die a lot, you might even swear a bit, but you’re going to love it a whole load.
S J Hollis Rating – 8/10
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