At first glance, Signs of Life looks like another shameless "blocky sandbox pickaxe terrria/minecraft ripoff" to be tossed on top of the ever growing pile of said games. Yet, while only being single player, it does a lot more than other titles trying to cash in on this theme.
This game does a fine job standing on its own in this theme, though like everything in beta, it has its own share of problems
While the game does a lot right, I feel like the game doesn't know what its doing with itself, as if its trying to be a comedy, and yet take itself seriously. I can't help but feel like the developers were trying to achieve that quirky balance borderlands 2 does so very well. The game unfortunately the game never captures this balance, and instead falls flat on its face with its story.
It however does do an outstanding job with the crafting system, and the many gadgets you can make with it.
The game has you start off landing on an unknown planet with minimal survival equipment, the clothes on your back, and an AI partner with terrible dialog. You then set off to explore the planet, looking for equipment, useful materials and as the name of the game suggests, signs of life.
The top of the world looks like Willy Wonka exploded, painting everything in bright colors: its cheery, safe, and it counteracts the rest of the game in terms of atmosphere.
Dig down, or explore one of the abandoned stations at night, and the atmosphere does a complete 180 degree turn. The atmosphere is dark, dank, empty, and devoid of all human life. As you explore deeper, the atmosphere of the game gets even more creepy, with alien tentacles raining acid on you, floating sacks of puss that explode, and large vicious looking aliens with scythes for legs. The further you go down, the more dangerous it feels, the atmosphere does a very good job of this.
Unfortunately the storyline can't seem to latch onto what the atmosphere does, and write a compelling narrative to motivate the player into finding out what happened on this planet.
Instead the storyline tries to play it silly, inside of a dark, unlit station, with human corpses strung about.
You find E-readers in these stations, with some of the articales writen in them hint at where items of interest to you can be found. However, you will mostly be reading about some doctor acting erratically (the game tells you he is afflicted with "Space Madness") and as a result, everyone around him, including his CO's, are implenting EXTREME measures to keep the space madness doctor from rifing through their property.
(minor spoiler here) One such example was the leader of the installation, She finds good doctor madness combing through her pantie drawer. Instead of sticking the guy behind bars until they can send him into the place with padded walls, she demotes his access, then processes to bury the device that promotes keycard access, several hundred meters underground, just for the hell of it.
(end of spoiler)
Your only form of story content besides the e-readers, is your partner AI, AGIS.
AGIS is suppose to be malfunctioning, and yet, he says nothing you'd think an AI would actually say. He constantly makes useless comments that help in no way, and when he does actually say something somewhat useful, you've already tuned him out. He's basically a watered down, forgettable version of claptrap attached to your wrist. Hes annoying, but you can forget about him, so that makes him slightly better than claptrap?
Where the game actually shines is the use of the M.E.G. your wrist mounted multi tool. This thing is sweet, and actually puts all the other multitools you see in other games of this theme to shame. It functions as your map, your scanner used for updating your map, an autolooter, and of course, placing and breaking objects and blocks. All of these functions can be upgraded to improve them even further, everything besides AGIS that is... Honestly, all this thing needs is a blade attachment and it'd put the omni-tool in Mass Effect to shame.
The crafting is very strong here, making use of resources constantly. In Terraria, theres a point where you stop gathering copper, because you have no more use for copper, unless you maded to make a copper castle, using copper blocks. Here, copper and most everything else constantly has a use, so your always gathering for everything.
Guns felt kind of lack luster, the game makes you jump through hoops to get your first real gun besides the 9mm pistol, and most later on enemies are resistant to your bullets. The Laser gun was my go to weapon, as it could kill anything, although waiting on your energy to recharge was a ♥♥♥♥♥, but you never truly ran dry, where as bullets actually use materials.
All in all, I enjoyed the game, even though when I played it, there was no final boss fight, or at least I couldn't find one. My only worry is that they keep rolling with the shallow storyline, and make the final events of the game lackluster, making you feel like you wasted your time, as a bad ending has that effect.
- Strong crafting system.
- Lots of interesting materials to scavange.
- The M.E.G. Tool does an outstanding job for its intended use, as a multi-tool.
- Enemies look interesting, and later ones look imposing.
- Loads of weapons to choose from.
- Certain areas of the game deliver an erie atmosphere, supporting the actual title of the game.
- Graphics, while looking the part of a flash game, actually do a pretty good job.
- The inventory system is reminiscent of the old Ultima games, which I love. The autosort works very well.
- Retrieveable arrows and bolts.
- No Multiplayer
- Weak storyline (its a bigger deal, brought by the fact of the first con, no multiplayer.)
- Gunplay doesn't feel very rewarding, since you need to scavange for both the materials to make the gun itself, and its ammo. You are more likely to use ranged weapons with retrievable ammo such as bows and crossbows, or weapons that use your energy.
- AGIS has to be some sort of spawn from claptrap
- Lack of boss fights (though it is still in beta)
- Lack of tutorial on how your M.E.G. is upgraded.
Final verdict: Would recommend, but only to those who can't get enough sandbox, blockfest, diamond pickaxe goodness.
If you are tired of these games being perpetually in beta such as *cough* Starbound *cough*, then stay away until 1.0.