There are few games which I’ve played that I can describe as genuinely inexplicable. Without looking at any of the marketing material for Alien Life Simulator, the name suggests it to be a simulator of some sort—one in which you, presumably, help along life that is alien to ours. I’m not being pedantic without reason: Alien Life Simulator doesn’t do a great job letting you know what it is, or what to expect from it. Even after I read its store page and then played some of the game for this preview, I’m baffled.
Alien Life Simulator is a rogue-lite, action adventure game with some open world survival game elements. Your goal is to explore the environment to uncover their secrets, while fighting hostile alien life forms. Find the key to activate portals, go through them, and discover what’s on the other side. This is usually the part of the review or preview where I say who your character is, and why they’re doing what they’re doing, but the thing about Alien Life Simulator is that it’s a bit inexplicable. You’re not really told who you are, nor are you told why or even what you’re doing. That’s okay if there’s a compelling reason to keep going, but Alien Life Simulator offers no such motivation. Your character wakes up, half naked, in a town of aliens that look just like you. And you’re holding a gun. Without tutorial or pomp, you’re unleashed to figure out the game’s systems. The question I kept asking myself was, “what am I doing, and why?”
I don’t want to criticize Alien Life Simulator harshly. It’s an Early Access game, and my philosophy is to give these games a wide berth in terms of concrete criticism. They’re games that are in development, and even though they’re charging money for access, the consumer is well informed of this fact. You shouldn’t expect a finished game, and while some Early Access titles are more finished than others, Alien Life Simulator feels like a tech demo more than a game.
Alien Life Simulator is a rogue-lite. Each time you die, the game restarts with a new configuration to explore. There is no between death progression system, however. You die, there’s the title screen. Start over? It also has elements of a survival game—hunger system, open world, day/night cycle. It even has an interesting emotion system that allows you to buff yourself—but also hinder yourself, depending on the situation. What are those situations? I’m not sure: the game’s store page doesn’t elucidate, and there isn’t much information in the game itself.
Visually, Alien Life Simulator is compelling. It uses an almost pastel watercolor palette, and has a pretty rockin’, distortion heavy soundtrack. But Alien Life Simulator is missing a lot of elements of polish that you would expect it to have once it leaves Early Access. Sound effects seem to be missing or strangely quiet compared to the blaring soundtrack. When I went to turn down the soundtrack, I couldn’t get the slider to move again. There are definitely some technical issues.
Alien Life Simulator is an Early Access game, and it shows. According to its Steam store page, developer J6 games intends to keep it in Early Access for three to six months. They plan to include more biomes, enemies, weapons, and more non-combat activities.
I’m so incredibly baffled by what Alien Life Simulator is trying to achieve. But it’s going in an interesting direction. The developer seems interested in community feedback, but I’m not sure the game is at a state where I’d recommend picking it up. This one needs to have a little bit more development. I’m definitely excited to see what direction it takes when it nears completion though, so this is one I’ll definitely keep my eye on.
Alien Life Simulator is available now via Early Access on Steam.
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