What is Near Death?
Near Death is an indie survival adventure game that has been developed by Orthogonal Games. The game places you in Antarctica after the plane that you were traveling in has crash-landed. You are stranded and alone. Thankfully, the plane crashed near an abandoned research facility. Unfortunately, however, you have crashed in the midst of a deadly blizzard. It is blindingly dark outside and obviously frigid. In order to survive, you must explore Sutro Station.
Survival Without Fully Fledged Resource Management
There are so many survival games on Steam that rely on resource management. They have almost become a clone of one another. If you throw a different skin and setting on it a developer may assume that they have a new game. But it’s certainly not true because there is little to separate them from one another.
If I were to compare Near Death to any genre on Steam it would be the Unity engine horror games. This is strictly because of how the game plays and controls are. However, because of the genre differences and the associated quirks that come as a result the similarities end there.
Therefore, because of the lack of resource management, I feel that this may prove to be a major positive selling point for the game. That doesn’t mean you don’t need to look for tools to aid your survival. You’ll need things such as kerosene to fuel your heating device (and the heating device, of course). Consequently, your focus is not on finding X amount of an object but rather where it should be – on the adventuring itself.
Antarctica is No Walk in the Park
The game isn’t a particularly simple game to play… at least in the beginning. It certainly controls well but it is difficult. I died several times very early in the game. Your body can only sustain the Antarctic conditions for a short period of time. Consequently, you must constantly search for the next safe zone. This is a place where you can set your heater down on the floor in an enclosed area and generate warmth.
The game makes superb utilization of the realities of Antarctic conditions. If you ever wanted to understand what it was like without experiencing it yourself then this game does a very good job of simulating it. One of the highlights of the game is the dynamic weather system. It utilizes snow, wind, temperature and lighting to create a realistic setting. It feels as though you are in a genuine blizzard where there are genuine moments of calm weather interspersed with craziness.
Further, the temperature simulation takes into consideration each room and area of the map. This is an outstanding feature of the game as it realistically calculates what each area of the map you are in and what the conditions would be like.
For all of the plaudits that I can willingly throw towards the game the biggest negative is arguably its brevity. For a $14.99 game, I was expecting to be glued to my seat for a number of hours. I am not sure where players are claiming to get more than several hours out of a single playthrough. I clocked in my first playthrough at about three hours and twenty minutes. For the amount of content – albeit much of it is quality – that you are getting I would claim that the asking price is too high. As others have recommended a $9.99 price point would be more reflective of the title.
Another complaint about the game that I have is that the difficulty appears to be front-ended. The game starts out difficult and becomes easier the longer you play. I personally favor games that offer a consistent level of challenge across a game or an increased level of challenge. The problem is that the availability of life-sustaining items becomes too frequent the longer that you play. You can almost guarantee that if you survive the beginning parts of the game that you’ll be able to complete the game.
Another issue that I have with the game is that because of the way that it is programmed it doesn’t allow for an exploratory playthrough. I readily admit that it was in reading GameSpew’s Christian Mincks’ review of the game that this truly dawned on me. While I appreciate that that is not the intention of the developer having the ability to have a game in this setting that you can explore would have been nice.
Is it Steamified?
Near Death has a set of Steam trading cards and 18 Steam achievements. You’ll have to complete the game on each of the levels in order to unlock all of them. This may be a sore point for players who would like to perfect the game with only one playthrough.
I love the way in which the weather systems have been implemented. I’m never going to be able to travel to Antarctica and explore it. Therefore, I have to commend the developers on creating a game that was able to take me there as well as any documentary that I have ever watched. On that basis, I recommend the game but perhaps you would be best served to wait for a lower price point just because of the lack of content will disturb some patient gamers.