Despite the fact that the survival game genre seems to have slowly started to wither for a few years now, there are still a few games popping up here and there that have seemingly come out of nowhere, and Breathedge is certainly one of those, at least for me.
The game takes place in 2073, in the far reaches of the universe, during the aftermath of some sort of accident involving a massive hearse spaceship that you were using to transport your beloved deceased grandfather. Now, you and an immortal chicken that has been passed from generation to generation within your family, have to find your grandfather’s missing body and hopefully be rescued or make your way back home. Besides that, currently there is not much else in the game that helps to portray a bigger picture of what is really going on, but the game certainly seems to take place in a close future where space exploration has experienced exponential growth.
In spite of the initial impressions that make you believe that the game is focused on storytelling, it really is not, Breathedge is still a survival game at its core, it just happens to be one that is extremely captivating. The vast majority of dialogue, or rather, the texts, that you get from your spacesuit AI are fully voice-acted, and they’re quite well done. The game is flooded with tongue in cheek humor and all sorts of references that will most likely make you giggle.
Currently, there is only one mode available, which according to the developers will end up being the best game mode to play since it’s a moderate one, but there are 3 other different modes that will supposedly be making their way into the game during the Early Access period. In the final release version, there should be a mode focusing on the storyline alone; a hardcore mode with permanent death; and another one where the story aspects are disabled but everything else is available to you, which I assume to be some sort of sandbox/god mode.
Right now, the only thing that is in the game is the first chapter, which amounts to about 4 hours worth of content, but I have seen people beating it in less than an hour in some cases, but you have to know what you’re doing. On your first time, you will most likely take a lot longer than that, and the first hour can be particularly tedious if you are not very keen on the usual survival games’ tropes.
While the main spaceship that you were in was shattered into all sorts of debris during whatever incident occurred, you managed to stay alive inside your own shuttle, which serves as your main base of operations at the moment. It is here where you can save your game, craft, rest, and replenish oxygen, all things that are deeply tied to the game’s core mechanics. Right from the very start, you can see that Breathedge has a highly repetitive gameplay loop. You exit your shuttle and look for resources, explore new areas that might potentially have new blueprints of things that you can craft or new resources, and then go back to the nearest oxygen supply so that you don’t suffocate to death, rinse and repeat. Luckily enough you can learn how to craft your own oxygen charging stations, which you can place in strategic points so that you can explore further away from your shuttle without running out of air.
Resource gathering and exploration is the core of Breathedge, and the developers even mock themselves for it, which is not something that you see every day and I appreciate that. There are tools that you need to craft to gather specific resources, and these tools can break after a certain amount of uses. Personally I was never a big fan of this durability system in survival games, and in this case especially, since the most basic tools that you need to harvest resources have very low durability and the only place where you can craft new ones is back at your shuttle, you have to plan in advance before you head out on a resource gathering expedition or you risk breaking your tool and having to go back to craft a new one.
Finding the right resources in the right places can often be quite an exhausting task in games, but luckily enough the game features an Encyclopedia that gives you a general idea as to where you can find specific resource items and resources. Unlike more sandbox titles, you’ll often get messages from your suit’s AI or from your “babe”, which lets you know about any interesting locations on your immediate vicinity. Besides oxygen, you also have to manage your food and water supply, as you’d expect, which also has to be done in your ship. On top of that, as far as I’m aware, there isn’t any way to currently regain health other than to sleep, which will make you hungrier and thirstier.
Visually the game looks stunning, mostly due to its characteristic aesthetic that evokes a retro sci-fi feeling and thanks to the use of the Unreal 4 Engine. Nonetheless, while the game has plenty of different graphical settings that you can change (Texture quality, shadows, anti-aliasing, etc), they are labeled in generic terms, they do not specify what kind of anti-aliasing method is used for example, nor the approximate VRAM that is needed for things such as different levels of texture fidelity and whatnot. This is not really that big of an issue, as you can always try to find a sweet spot for your configuration by trial and error, but in the future, it would certainly be nice to see what each option does. Besides all that, there is also the fact that the game is locked at 60 frames per second, and at the moment the only way to get past that is through the game’s console. Still, even though my system is lower than the recommended specs, I had no trouble having my framerate above 60 with everything cranked up all the way to the max.
Overall, while the game is certainly short at the moment, it clearly shows a lot of promise. The basic gameplay systems seem to be in place, and I believe that with some tweaking and balancing, things could be better. Other than that, the premise is not entirely new, but the game itself is absolutely brilliant and extremely funny in the way that it exposes the player to the game’s narrative. However, despite the fact that is an exceptionally charismatic game, at the end of the day it’s still a survival game, so if you’re not really into those, this one shouldn’t be any different.
On the other hand, if you have a soft spot for survival games, especially ones from the likes of Subnautica and The Forest, the dark comedy here should be more than enough to please you. Breathedge perfectly combines the core elements of the survival genre with a truly captivating universe, I only hope that it manages to keep the quality in the next story chapters.
REVIEW CODE: A complimentary PC code was provided to Bonus Stage for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org.