The survival sim is a genre that houses robust inspiration. From the Tim Burton-esque stylings of Don’t Starve to the dark depths of Subnautica‘s oceans, you’re able to test your mettle in nearly any environment. Breathedge by RedRuins Softworks takes the genre to space to create the sense that the cosmos is forever. This also comes with a ton of hazards such as surging electrical wires, radiation poisoning, rapidly falling temperatures, and even the occasional anti-asteroid turret for you to maneuver around. Thankfully, you have a chicken.
You’re The Man, a run-of-the-mill guy transporting his grandfather’s remains to a funeral in space. After an unexpected crash, you must find your way across the wreckage towards the evacuation point given to you by your suit’s wise-cracking AI. With a bit of a concussion and zero technical know-how, you search the ruins for junk and debris to create what you need to move on. This lack of knowledge (and possibly related brain trauma) won’t stop you from making some rather high-tech stuff, however.
With an immortal chicken serving as your means of disabling hazards, the game allows a great deal of freedom while floating through space. You’ll grab scraps of metal, hunks of ice, globules of nutritious goo and more to create everything you need, from tools to food and water. Floating chunks of metal create nearly everything. Food and water is plentiful as ice chunks, honey and goo are everywhere and all you need to make a nutritious meal. This makes the survival aspect easily manageable, but you’ll always want to stop for a moment to gather all the items you find. In the zero-gravity environment, a simple nudge could send objects flying through space.
The technological wonders you can create are juxtaposed with sillier items, such as an air balloon created with a repurposed condom or a rocket-powered vacuum cleaner. This all serves to give the game its slapstick charm that, while a bit grating at first, when combined with its tough-as-nails survival elements, grows on you during your lonely journey through the corpses of spaceships and people alike.
The humor hits you right from the beginning, with your suit’s AI producing fast-talking word vomit to guide you through the first steps of the game. It will identify new items and locations you come across, often describing their usefulness and regular application outside of this destructive event. The AI guide is accompanied by a mysterious entity named “Babe” who sends conspicuous texts to the Man that aren’t what they appear. These elements combine with some well-timed, fourth-wall-breaking jokes you can’t help but chuckle at. These small details give you the sense that the universe is lived in despite your interstellar solitude. While a bit abrasive at first, the snappy quips of your AI will grow on you in your journey throughout the stars.
The vast emptiness of space is breathtaking. From the moment you step outside what’s left of your ship, the pull of exploration sets in as you begin to float among the stars. There is a ton of space to traverse in Breathedge, with the zero-gravity environment offering unique angles to explore wreckages and asteroids. It’s easy to lose track of time and float around to see everything. This may result in death, however, since oxygen is not unlimited and you’ll need to replenish it.
It drains whenever you’re in open space, giving you a sense of urgency that can be fleeting until it reminds you when you’re running low. The soundtrack changes to a grim one and if you fall to zero, you begin to lose health at the same rate. Oxygen becomes a far less dangerous thing later in the game, however, due to the various upgrades that increase your maximum capacity t and the various ways to replenish it while travelling through space become plentiful. It is ultimately the tether to the bases you find and the impermanent bases you’ll set up with various deployable oxygen sources.
The bases serve as checkpoints and will often be the remnants of engineering stations to open up crafting possibilities. While you’re able to craft a ton of cosmetic items to customize the bases you find, this element falls a bit flat unless you’re actively moving all of your items with you from base to base. You’ll explore strange locales, such as freezing asteroids and ruined mayonnaise freighters, in your search for a rescue team. Each area also offers a plethora of objectives and quests, fuelling exploration and making each adventure out into space a focused one, rewarding well-made plans in the face of rapid discovery.
While Breathedge’s vast emptiness of space has a surprising amount of life and fun in it, there are a few issues that eat away at the experience. The start of the game is slow due to the limited amount of resources, which makes round trips to conserve oxygen constant and irritating until you find upgrades.
It’s also tedious to transfer your stash of useful items from one base to the next since items found at the beginning of the game continue to be useful throughout. Since you can only carry empty containers, you need to get it there first before setting up anything. Some items are also far rarer than others, making experimentation with the tech tree dangerous if you don’t know what you’re doing. Abrupt stops in progression due to strange prerequisites such as not having a certain achievement are also jarring and take away from the immersion of the survival experience.
Breathedge is a survival sim like no other. It doubles down on immersive exploration with cinematic locales and backs it up with a crude sense of humor that grows on you as you play. It gives the game a unique and bright personality that keeps you engaged as you discover new things and experience the wacky story beats. While item management can be punishing and backtracking can grow tedious, Breathedge makes up for it with grin-inducing charm, engaging gameplay and fantastic visuals.
Steam key provided by PR for the purposes of this review.
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While not perfect, Breathedge is a fun spin on the survival formula with engaging gameplay and fantastic visuals that doesn't take itself too seriously.
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