Also On: PC
Publisher: 505 Games
Developer: Three One Zero
Space, it’s the final frontier, the place where no one can hear you scream, the battleground for wars amongst the stars and a whole host of other pop culture icons. It is also the setting for ADR1FT, a beautifully designed but ultimately flawed game from Three One Zero games. Please keep in mind, this was a game built around VR with that kind of experience in mind, and my time with the game was on PS4 without VR (Eds. Note: which has yet to be confirmed by the developer). It is truly less of a “game” and more of an “experience”, a space simulator gone wrong.
The opening of the game is breathtaking; your first few minutes will be spent just staring out into the vastness of space, looking down at the earth then back out into the vacuum of nothingness beyond. The visuals are stunning, truly the best representation of space I have yet seen in a video game. This feeling creeps up on you throughout the game several times, something catching your eye and pulling you away from the task at hand to just marvel at the beauty and majesty of your surroundings. This is truly ADR1FT’s largest asset and one that is ultimately overshadowed by drawn out gameplay, lack of real narrative and repetitive fetch missions.
You are the sole survivor of a catastrophic space station failure. That much you know, but beyond that is all left up to you to discover. Certain games are incredibly effective at weaving a rich narrative and astoundingly deep lore with little to no story spoon fed to you (i.e. Dark Souls), but others attempt to capture the same effect with little success. ADR1FT unfortunately falls into the latter category. Everything that you are able to learn about what happened to you and what you are experiencing is learned through audio logs and emails from old crew on your space station. Even these leave a lot to be desired with very basic voice acting and execution. Any questions that they answer give rise to two more and so on, with no real resolution ever being reached throughout the 5+ hours of game time.
ADR1FT lacks combat, enemies or any real danger aside from lack of oxygen. This mechanic is used early on as a means to introduce the player to the controls and how to navigate through space, but continues on throughout the game with little to no gratifying effect. Oxygen canisters are a dime a dozen and quickly become just a nuisance to worry about gathering in the middle of the “fix it” missions you go on. Your deaths are unsettling if you run out however, with your character slowly suffocating inside the space suit as the universe fades to black. Sound design is one aspect that succeeds, with effective use of muted sounds to convey the inside of the suit and the things that you are doing. The sound of your own breathing is a constant reminder that you are alive and trapped on your own further from help than anyone has ever been.
ADR1FT is truly a great simulation experience and a frightening look at what can happen when things go wrong in space, but it could have released as a 30 minute playable VR demo and I would have thoroughly enjoyed it. As it stands now, with 5+ hours of aimlessly floating around doing the same tasks over and over, and without the VR aspect to really drive some of the visuals home it is a miss. Even once it is able to really take advantage of the technology it was designed for, the game very much overstays its welcome. This goes to prove that you cannot build a successful game on beautiful graphics and sweeping camera shots alone, and walking simulators with no walking tend to fall short of their mark.