It seems like I Am Alive was destined to be one of those games that took its name to a whole new level. Much like the return of Duke Nukem, Ubisoft has had this game on the burner for years. Starting off as a full retail title and switching between developers before finally getting to us, now in download form, it’s about time we get to experience it. The name ’I Am Alive’ now has two meanings: it refers to the narrative in the game, and the fact that regardless of going through development hell, this game finally gets to see the light of day.
The story of I Am Alive defines survival. You play an unnamed protagonist who is on his way back home after travelling across the country. There was a catastrophic event, and the world is in shambles. Dust covers everything, and earthquakes are systematic occurrences. Your journey is being documented with a handheld camera and being watched by someone to play out the story. It is a desolate setting, and one that really drives home the depressing feeling of being in a world alone.
This is the one area where I Am Alive excels. From the start screen to the end credits, this world is engaging and depressing. Rarely do games convey such a powerful sense of what the developers want you to feel in their created worlds. You know that everything is in ruins; you know people are suffering as you continue to move forward, vying for supplies and trying to stay alive. Over the course of the adventure, you will slowly piece together what exactly happened to create this destroyed world, as well as the fates of your family and loved ones.
As a game, you have a pretty basic third-person adventure that revolves heavily around climbing and platforming. Your character has both a health and stamina meter. As you traverse objects, your stamina slowly winds down. Let it reach the bottom, and you fall. This makes you plan out your climbs more strategically. You can pick up pitons around the game that allow you to hook off and catch your breath while climbing. Like everything else in the game, though, they are extremely limited. You can channel your inner survival skills when you are reaching the bottom of the stamina meter to give you a small boost, but it comes at the cost of losing portions of your stamina meter that require items to recover.
Like I mentioned, everything in I Am Alive is limited. You will have to scour areas for items, such as food and water that can restore your health and the aforementioned stamina bar. There are also survivors around the world that you can help by giving them first-aid items in exchange for tidbits about the events of what happened. You will also be rewarded with retries, which are imperative. You see, the game uses limited numbers of continues. Basically, you hit checkpoints and the retries allow you to continue from there. If you run out, it is time to start the entire episode over again. It really adds to the whole survival mentality, thus adding a level of care to the way you handle situations.
Climbing and falling are definitely one way to perish, but there are also plenty of people who can end your journey. You will encounter survivors who, like you, are fighting to stay alive. They will corner you and attempt to intimidate you into giving them your goods. These scenarios are tense. You can opt to surprise kill them with your machete if they get in close, or attempt to bluff them with your empty gun. It reminded me a lot of The Book of Eli, and the sheer strategy involved can be tense; especially if you are running low on retries.
Not all is good in the world of I Am Alive, though. For starters, there are plenty of issues with the engine. Players will clip through objects, and sometimes, objectives can stall game progression. It doesn’t happen often enough to become annoying, but it is there. The visuals are fitting, but also a bit disappointing at times. You feel like things could be a bit more detailed in some areas, and the constant dust feels like a trick to hide some of the engine’s shortcomings. The dust also makes travel a bit more convoluted than it needs to be. A simple directional guide, or a better sense of direction, would make your travel so much more fluid. I got turned around far more often than I would like.
I Am Alive is still a great game despite these inadequacies. The sheer sense of survival and dread at the world are unparalleled. It is definitely an emotional game, dragging out the depressing reality of a destroyed world. The actual mechanics are well done, and the encounters with survivors are intense and rewarding. If you enjoy games that force you to rely on your wits to survive, I recommend giving this game a shot. The 6-8 hour adventure is more than worth the price tag if you enjoy a solid adventure/survival game.
Review copy of game provided by publisher.