Infinity welcomes careful drivers.
Genre: Action, Adventure
Publisher: Apogee Entertainment
Release date: 9 Sep, 2021
I have to admit when I picked up this game for reviewing it turned out to be not quite what I expected. Now I’m not sure if that is a good or bad thing, but it was just different! I’d played a few similar games extensively and figured this was a bit of homage/clone to those with a story element tacked on, but I was a little mistaken. The robotic companion ultimately is why I wanted to give this a try (kind of reminded me of CL4P-TP).
After surviving a crash landing on a planet you and your robotic companion naturally set out to fix the ship. There isn’t much you have to do in the way of base building since the ship itself will be your home for the duration. The game holds your hand a fair amount as the tutorial progresses telling you exactly what you need to accomplish. The quest system takes over and continues to guide your progress. It’s a system that works well enough although it can sometimes be tricky to collect all the resources you need. This is especially true if you had already collected a bunch of resources before the quest was assigned. Not sure if it was a bug or not, but it didn’t seem to care that I already had multiple pieces of graphite, it made me collect the same amount as it did in my prior run.
With the mention of prior run, I feel I should talk about the early part of the game more. You get your choice between two characters at first, with another locked out one appearing on the selection screen. I decided to try the game with both characters although ultimately, they felt the same. The worlds they crashed onto were quite different, but resetting the game again with the same character generates a different planet again so the character doesn’t actually seem to impact that. There are common elements in each of the runs, but the rest seems to be somewhat randomly procedurally generated. With the planets being generated each time leads to different experiences. A planet that is bright and sunny allows you to recharge yourself easier and typically food is plentiful, however, your stamina lowers faster. A darker planet has lower stamina impact, but also has less food around.
The core gameplay revolves around you exploring the world, collecting materials, and keeping yourself alive. You have to eat, recharge your suit, rest, and various other tasks to try to survive the somewhat inhospitable world you crash landed on. As you explore deeper, you will uncover mysterious devices that you can reactivate to descend further, or unlock new crafting items, or basically expand upon the gameplay elements in a controlled fashion. The further below the surface you go, the less hospitable it gets, it’s also far easier to go down than it is to go back up again, so if you venture out unprepared, you will likely have a struggle to return back to base… unless you have a teleporter handy or at least enough resources to make ladders to get up the gaps you can’t jump out of. Should you perish, what happens depends on the game settings you chose. Permadeath is an option, but I would recommend against that until you are more familiar with the game. You can die quite easily especially if you go too far down due to the way the rest and recharge systems work. As you get tired you are slower and unable to jump as far, this will lead you to fall in gaps you were able to transverse easily before. If you have the materials required, you can make a campfire and rest. This will help you regain your lost vigor.
Another thing that can cause you to miss your jumps is the fact the controls are not overly intuitive. Typically, I would talk about this in the controls and user interface section, but now seemed like a good time. The jump and grab keys, in their default locations are quite awkward to use, so I often found myself missing my vine swings or grabs. This often led to me falling into areas I didn’t exactly want to be in and led to my first death. You can rebind the controls, so that isn’t really a negative per se, but when I review things I leave everything as the developer intended to keep the reviews from being inadvertently impacted by my influence on the control scheme. The controls in general didn’t feel all that intuitive and it took me a while to actually get the hang of them enough that things occurred closer to what I intended.
One thing that would be nice is more of a feedback system. Often you have no idea if your actions are actually having an impact until they do. There was a device covered in vines that said I needed to chop it free, I switched to my axe and started chopping. After a while I got tired of chopping due to the lack of progress and assumed I must be using the wrong tool. Later on I passed by it again and decided to try chopping with the axe again because there wasn’t much left in the area for me. This time after a few swings I had cleared the console of the vines. Not sure why my earlier efforts didn’t count, graphically my axe was making contact with the vines both times, but only the second time counted. Same thing goes when you are being attacked, swinging at the enemies with the axe doesn’t seem to hurt them. I mean, in reality, I am pretty sure an axe would hurt them, but in the game they seem to ignore it. That or it is possible I am a few pixels off so my swing is doing nothing. I’m guessing because the axe is a tool and not a weapon the game is just not coded to count it as a damage source for enemies, and that is fine, but it would be nice if the game gave some indicator that your actions were or were not doing something or maybe the robot could say something such as “Hey Buddy, maybe try the right tool for the job” or “Hey, when you get bored of being ineffectual, we have other more important tasks to complete.”
Speaking of tasks, I have to say that this game feels a bit like an Early Access title despite being complete. The task system does push you to go further and do more, but it doesn’t really feel all that rewarding after a while. Often when playing a review game I have to force myself to stop playing it and write the review before the editor yells at me for being late. This game I didn’t really have that problem with. Sure, the exploration was interesting and discovering new things was fun, but the fetch quest nature of it eventually grew tiresome. To aid you in your quest, you do get tools which can mine for you and your scanner does help you find the resources you need, but some of them are far less common than others. A very early quest had you hunt down a fair number of a resources that only had one real location on my map to find them (other than the random bits scattered around). And that source was fairly deep underground in an area that was not overly friendly or easy to access. The vine swinging needed to get over to it was quite frustrating (due to the aforementioned control issues I was having). Eventually I got to it and it had almost enough for me to complete my quest. I then had to hunt randomly for the last piece I needed, which took a very long time. Once I cleared that quest I was able to progress a little more when I was met with basically the same task with different elements needed. So slightly further down I go! Rinse and repeat.
As you find new items you unlock new tech to go with them, it’s a good system although the nanobots needed are a bit of an issue until you can craft more of them. The recommendation I have for anyone starting out is to use your nanobots sparingly until you have the recipe to make more, otherwise you might run yourself too short and potentially block your advancement. As you explore deeper into the planet, puzzles/challenges present themselves, solving them usually gives you the technology you need to progress further. It’s a good way to slow progression of overly keen players who might inadvertently progress too fast and overwhelm themselves.
The last bit I want to talk about before wrapping up is something I debated including. The spaceship at the start of the game wasn’t the only thing to crash. I found the game to be a little unstable. At first, I wasn’t quite sure if it was an issue with my computer, and being unable to test the game on another left me feeling it may be unfair to talk about crashes, however, looking online it seems to be a fairly common problem. The developer is actively working on the game still, releasing a fair number of patches since its initial launch, so I feel like this is a temporary issue. It’s also why I said the game feels kind of like an Early Access title, simply because of how much development for the game is still going on.
The game isn’t one that worries about highly detailed characters or locations. It is all 2D pixel based. It works quite well for this genre. The areas you can explore vary enough to keep repeat playthroughs interesting. The fact the layout and design changes each time helps keep it interesting. The graphics could also be the source of the issue where it looks like the player should be interacting with something but actually isn’t.
The game has an almost minimalist approach with its subtle sound effects and background music that actually works quite well for it. The robot companion is certainly quite enjoyable with his enthusiastic but snarky personality. The sound effects while repeated, for example, the crunch of the dirt under your feet, doesn’t get tiresome like it sometimes does in other titles.
Controls and User Interface
I briefly mentioned the controllers earlier, they are not very intuitive as indicated above. Being rebindable though helps me from being overly critical about them. The fact I left them at their defaults is partially on me, but I do argue the developer could have had the defaults be more intuitive or at least easier/forgiving to use. The user interface itself is simple enough although interacting with objects can be a bit hit or miss, sometimes requiring you to wiggle your character a bit to ensure you are able to interact properly.
So, should you pick up Residual? That depends on what you are hoping to get out of it. If you think it looks like Terraria and hope to have a similar experience, you may be a bit disappointed. Residual might share the appearance, but the gameplay is different. You can’t really reshape the world in Residual, sure you can harvest some blocks, but what you can damage/change is pretty limited in comparison to games like Terraria. There is no real base building either, although Residual doesn’t really need it. The food/energy system while an interesting concept, gets in the way often and diminishes the experience, especially when your robotic friend starts reminding you repeatedly that you need to eat/recharge/etc. I do like the system, don’t get me wrong, having to worry about your survival in a survival game should be more than just ensuring you don’t get eaten by the wildlife. It’s just the way it is handled that took some getting used to. The lethargy that sets in doesn’t have much of a warning, at first I thought it was the game lagging, before I realized it was because I had not paid enough attention to my character’s needs. I actually managed to trap myself once because of it too, the low energy caused me to miss an easy jump putting me in a deep hole with no way to escape but go down further. This led me to have to deal with vine jumps… which do not work well in the best of times for me, which led me to fall even further down into a hole that I could not jump out of or climb out of in any way (you can grab a ledge and haul yourself up if it is close enough). Not having the resources to build a ladder, and having no food or wood, and not being near my teleporter (and not apparently being able to construct one in my hole), I was stuck there until my character died. Fortunately, permanent death wasn’t on, and I didn’t seem to lose anything or at least nothing that I noticed… all in all, this game is one that is enjoyable enough, but one that I will save for later.