Of the many things mass media has apparently taught us about humanity, one major thing is that Earth is never enough. Eventually, we want more than just the other — or we may need something else. Either way, to space we go! Lifeless Planet, recently released on the Xbox One, gives us one such colonization situation, but is it worth the trip?
What’s It About?
Lifeless Planet follows an American astronaut who’s part of a crew sent to search a mysterious planet thought to be filled with lifeforms. Of course, it’s not without issue as their ship crashes and the crew is strewn about the surface. You, as the nameless astronaut, walk across an expansive, Mars-like setting until discovering a deserted Soviet town. The oddity of finding a Soviet town immediately evoked thoughts of Planet of the Apes. Not that I anticipated apes to come crawling out from behind some rocks (as cool as that would have been), but it was sensible to ask: did you really leave the planet?
The game offers exactly what its title says and really wants to suck you into the mystery of just how it got that way. While the premise was great, the execution wasn’t terribly exciting or all too engaging. Strip away any of the story distractions and you still end up with just a semi-interesting story with some fluff that is meant to be exciting, but ultimately falls flat.
Why Should I Care?
Lifeless Planet is put into an interesting position. Just how exciting can the game be if there’s not meant to be anything surrounding you? Take a sporting venue, for example. When a game is going on, stadium is packed with excitement. When it’s empty, there’s no inherent excitement to offer outside of the fact that you’re there. You have to fantasize situations. That’s fairly close to what Lifeless Planet offers.
The game easily accomplishes making you feel as though you’re truly on a deserted planet. The landscapes are vast and void of basically any sort of plant life; you’ll mostly see various rock formations and craters. I found that it also caused some problems, though. If you die, or don’t play close enough attention in some areas, your camera direction can easily ruin your focus, leaving you to run around in circles before getting yourself back on track. Occasionally, you’ll stumble upon the Soviet buildings and find key plot drivers, but you’ll spend much of the time getting from one end of the planet to… the other? I’m honestly not even sure. For as much as the game appears to be an open sandbox format, it’s incredibly linear yet still never gives a great sense of just where you’re at in the planet. You simply walk, jump, walk some more, perhaps die, solve a small puzzle, and keep walking.
That’s essentially it. Lifeless Planet’s storyline is diluted from just how much manual travel you need to accomplish. Sure, it creates a more authentic atmosphere. If this astronaut is stranded from his ship, all he has is his jetpack. But are you telling me that these Soviet colonizers had no vehicles? There aren’t even signs of construction vehicles. These Soviets were terrible colonizers, apparently. After you may find a clue for what happened on this planet, you’ll walk and traverse the planet for a long enough time that you may forget why you’re even doing it in the first place. You’ll get the occasional puzzle to unlock a path, but even that seems fairly pointless and nothing more than a hindrance.
I found much of Lifeless Planet’s challenges to be more annoyances. Stranded on a desolate planet, you’re resources are expectedly limited, but there’s never anything you can really do to put yourself in a bad spot. We’ve all seen games where you have to get through a level with only those 15 bullets, or just one health pack for the entire group. You’re giving some level of responsibility. Here, there is no responsibility. Oxygen tanks are meant to last about 8 hours, for which you see no clock or or meter. I could have ran around in circles for 10 real world hours without consequence as the game would have only made me find oxygen when it felt the game could use the drama. Extra boosts for your jetpack are also depleted by the game not by overuse, but just once you’re done with a particular area where you needed the juice. So you find these resources as a way to get you off course for a moment, just to give yourself something to do every so often.
Is It Worthy My Time and Money?
For what Lifeless Planet offers, it’s tough to say that it’s necessarily worth the price. Perhaps it’s unfair to expect an incredibly exciting, action-packed game when heading into a space-themed Lifeless Planet. Not all games are required to be that, as some can provide great experiences through thrills, gripping drama and other similar ways to keep you engaged. Lifeless Planet struggles to define itself. Pegged as an Action-Adventure game, it offers little, leaning more toward mystery and thrills without ever fully selling itself there either. It’ll also drum up scientific exploration sentiments without providing much of a payoff other than giving you something to do as you walk incredibly long paths.
Ultimately, I found the game most exciting when I attempted to kill my character with ridiculously long jumps. Why? Because I thought it might be interesting. That’s the general feel I got from Lifeless Planet — seemingly interesting at first, but simply not quiet enough at the end.