As we start our journey limping through a red desert, we begin to notice that Planet Alpha won’t be our usual sci-fi experience. The massive landscapes in the background show us an ever-evolving world filled with luminous flora and giant beasts roaming all over it in a slow, and steady pace. But it shouldn’t find us distracted looking at the surroundings; stunning and beautiful as this ecosystem can be, it’s in the time of day where we can find our best ally or our strongest obstacle, demanding us to be alert and act fast while encouraging us to explore bravely across the critical moments in the story.
After the initial interactions with this world, we get to see the strongest aspect in the game: the storytelling. There’s no dialogue, no voice telling us what to do; just a lonely and mute explorer unveiling the darkest and deepest secrets of an alien planet. Only through exploration and risky moves we can become the main protagonists on this sort of intimate screenplay, because as we dare to take those risks the planet responds giving us more of that story in a very organic way, not revealing too much, so it can leave us with the desire of learning more about it. What could we find? What’s the meaning of the ruins scattered around the surface?
As if they were a sole living being, all the things that surround us slowly become the narrator of this plot. We are guided into an intriguing labyrinth of natural proportions mixed with ruins of a lost civilization, interacting with pieces of technology that defies the physics so much that it seems like magic. Later, that “magic” will play a central role in our strategies to survive this experience, as the borderlines between time and space become blurry.
Another pivotal role in this story is materialized in the form of the day and night cycle. While trying to survive in a world that changes so drastically according to the time of the day can be difficult, it’s a challenge that, once obtained for our own use, will quickly become the strongest tool against any obstacle or enemy we can find, but we have to be very creative in testing its boundaries.
Paying enough attention to the details it’s vital as any related puzzle can be solved quickly, making fungus grow to step over in high peaks that could mean our demise, destroying both obstacles and enemies with giant floating rocks, and opening gates using the planets alignment in the sky; otherwise, we will probably end up in a dead end or even a fast, gruesome death.
The unnamed enemies are presented in many forms and sizes but they all share similar feats: they’re fast, strong, and deadly. We have to learn to correctly read those situations: sometimes the way to advance can be a very straightforward use of the terrain or something related to the day cycle or even a more technical approach, like evading them or hiding from their sight; in those situations the timing must be precise because we can be sure theirs will be. More than once the game demand us to to take a deep breathe and observe the whole picture, trying not to get discouraged if things go south.
While complex, each puzzle’s solution we’ll be usually waiting whenever we return with a clear mind. The urge to develop creativity in our approach to solve those puzzles becomes bigger as we dwell into the late instances of the game, and it succeeds in making the player feel rewarded after the tensest scenes.
Planet Alpha visually mixes nature and technology in the same background in a very unique way, but where it truly succeeds is in its storytelling and player immersion. As we advance further we get to see darker glimpses of this planet’s most private secrets, both literal and metaphorical; Horrible scenes of war and its consequences as well as situations of living beings struggling for survival appear before our eyes, and we can’t resist the urge to keep dwelling on those situations. Because, in the end, we are another actor in this technological and mystical screenplay.
A copy of Planet Alpha for PC was provided by the publisher for review purposes. Make sure to visit the official site for more information.