Released: February 2018
Formats: PS4, PC (tested), XBO
Survival games have quickly become a promising and sometimes bewildering genre of games, that can try your patience and often feel unfair. Symmetry is the latest entry in the genre which pitches your space crew onto an alien planet and has some interesting elements at play both in story and gameplay.
Your game area is about 4 screens long and filled with wood for fuel, smashed up metal for tech parts and your spaceship in either rooms or parts. The idea is to use your crew to put back your spaceship together for take-off whilst keeping your crew alive and warm with food, sleep and heat. Every action is very slowly carried out and the hours tick by fast in the in-game day/night cycle. You’ll be watching the rest and food gauges and deciding when to bring your crew in. As you clear more wood and tech out the way, your crew will need to walk further to get to the goods they need and you’ll need to balance their stats more effectively and upgrade them by learning skills at a PC for them to survive.
Key to Symmetry is the weather system. You have an upgradable weather vane that tells you when the next ice storm will arrive and these days see your stats decrease much faster and death is a quick reality. You can choose to bury your fallen team members or eat them as food, which reminded me of Tharsis although here it affects the story outcomes rather than the stats immediately and feels less relevant. To survive, things aren’t actually too bad now that the game as a “normal” mode as the initial release was simply deemed too hard for most. The game does seem to keep you on a strict time limit though as from around day 30 onwards, the games storms are nearly daily and your equipment keeps failing at a faster rate, meaning you spend your tech repairing items instead of putting your thrusters on to escape.
Symmetry’s story takes place over several beats and unveils as spoken dialogue thoughts and graphic glitch outs on screen. How much story you get will depend on your actions and how quickly you escape and because it’s overlaid on the screen whilst a ticking clock is ongoing, I have to say the story was intriguing but it didn’t demand I read and get into it much. As a result, I found it fell quite flat even when the twists and turns emerge. I wasn’t engaged in the characters I had, nor did I appreciate them.
Less forgiving for a player though are two main issues. The first is how slow the characters move versus how quickly time goes. This is made more acutely a problem by the fact that giving one person a new task means they stop their current one even if it is 99% finished – so timing actions is key to survival. It really needs a task queue button that allows you to start something immediately or after a current haul for wood or tech is completed. The second issue is graphical. For what is initially a low poly 4 screen game, that you can zoom in and out of at two views – how there can be so much slow down is beyond me. As the game continues, you realise there’s more going on to the graphics than meets the eye, but it’s still a shame to have slow down on an essentially blocky screen.
Ultimately though, Symmetry isn’t as engaging as I’d like. The plot needed more, the planet needs way more expanding, and that would allow characters to move at a decent rate and feel like there’s progression, and once you realise that tech is really what matters over anything else – you’ll realise most playthroughs can funnel into the same journey.
A video preview is available from Higher Plain Games below:
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