Posted: December 22
I'm a sucker for the post-apocalypse genre - the grittier, the better - and thus this game looked really promising. Unfortunately, I ended up being severely disappointed.
At first, the setting and mood was excellent, kinda like The Road (although thankfully not THAT harsh). I actually liked the stamina mechanism, too. In most games, your character is apparently a machine who can run/climb/fight/whine for hours without breaking a sweat, so such a nod to realism also got things started on the right foot. Graphics I didn't have much problem with, either. Hell, I grew up in the NES era, so I can forgive a lot on that score.
Unfortunately, I Am Alive went downhill pretty quickly from there. It's funny that I mentioned the NES, because this game actually reminded me of the old NES games... in all the worst ways.
It LOOKS like a GTA/Fallout-style open world at first, but looks are deceiving. I Am Alive is actually a linear game with constant barriers to keep you moving more or less along the one path. It's bitter that such an open-looking 3D world would offer so little room for exploration or experimentation.
Looking at the map for the first time (before I became aware of this game's true nature), I actually wondered which streets I should take to the apartment. I thought "Okay, let's try those back streets, maybe less chance of being spotted by hostiles..." I soon learned that this game isn't big on exploration (or choices). That linear nature extended to the encounters, too. All too often, it felt like there was only one method or sequence to resolve things, with any other approach being punished brutally.
That latter issue is made exponentially worse by the SAVE POINT SYSTEM. Even better, with limited retries! This is what nailed this game's coffin shut for me, the realization that this game came out in 2012 and oh wow, game designers STILL hadn't learned better than this idiocy.
NO. This is no longer 1984 where you have to fit your entire game in 4 megabytes and I'm still a kid with enough free time to waste hours replaying the same fricking map over and over. If you want to encourage players to get through the game in less than X lives in one sitting, then hey, great. Make an achievement or a score bonus or a "hardcore mode" or whatever for it. But don't punish those of us who aren't masochists with nothing more interesting to do.
You might think I'm a little hypocritical here, because I love roguelikes, which usually have permadeath and make you start over with a new character if you die. But the better ones (DCSS, DoomRL, ADOM, Sword of the Stars: The Pit) have random dungeons and classes that are very different from each other, so at least you can try something new if you die, with tons of room for exploration or just going some other way. I Am Alive should have borrowed more from that playbook if it wanted to be so harsh.
TL;DR: This game is frustrating, stupidly linear, and has save points. Avoid.