You’re one in a crew of scientists sent to investigate another planet 15 light years away. It’s thought to be full of life, however a crash landing leaves you stranded on what appears to be a barren wasteland. Was your mission a hoax? As you begin your search for the rest of your crew, you stumble upon an abandoned Soviet research base in the middle of nowhere. Not only does the planet seem devoid of all life, but what in the hell were the Soviets doing here?
Lifeless Planet was created and developed by David Board (yes, one person), debuting on PC about a year ago before arriving on the Xbox One earlier this May. It’s a sci-fi themed, 3D exploration platformer with a balanced attention to both core mechanics. However, the game also delivers a very strong narrative through its audio logs, text documents, and spoken dialogue from the protagonist himself. The Premier Edition on the Xbox One also has a more fleshed out story than its PC counterpart, thanks to the inclusion of more found documentation.
“I never lost my desire to explore the unknown…”
Aside from exploring the game’s otherworldly environments and soaking in the ever changing atmospheres, you’ll uncover the mystery of the planet and the missing Soviets in a way that feels like a well written episode of The Twilight Zone. Mysteries unravel at such an excellent pace that the experience never felt stagnant, and I never lost my desire to explore the unknown to get as much out of the story as possible. It’s worth repeating, however, that this game is rather heavy on exploration, discovery, and platforming–there isn’t much in the way of action, and there’s no combat involved. Just you, mostly alone on this cryptic journey, exploring the planet and uncovering the truth.
As the nameless scientist, I surveyed the desolate world and found myself disoriented early on as I wasn’t entirely sure where to start. That’s good though, as the game relies on exploration and instinct as a way to lead you along in the early going. What appears to be a massive open world eventually narrows itself down a bit, but still requires a little finesse when traversing its diverse set of environments. Each boime is packed with platforming opportunities, which were pretty exciting thanks to your jet pack; initially giving you a double-jump, and eventually upgrading in to an octo-jump of sorts.
The jetpack is a fun tool in Lifeless Planet, especially during some of the more intense segments where I could tell a lot of TLC went in to the platform placement. There were a couple of times I’d see a ledge or a cliff off in the distance and assume it was unreachable, but the jetpack’s octo-jump not only made it doable, but really fun to pull off.
You’re also equipped with a robotic arm that can be used to pick up and move objects far beyond your personal limitations. This came off as a little gimmicky at first, and although it controlled fine, I’m glad it wasn’t overused during the course of my 4 to 5 hour playthrough. There were also these weird moments when I’d run out of oxygen at certain points in the story, but I was disappointed to discover they were all just scripted events. They felt out of place; being prompted to refill my supply just so I could run to a conveniently placed container a short distance away. On one hand I’m glad there isn’t a more complex oxygen management system in place to take away from the story, but I also don’t feel the scripted events really added anything worthwhile to the overall experience.
“…THERE ISN’T MUCH IN THE WAY OF ACTION, AND THERE’S NO COMBAT INVOLVED. JUST YOU, MOSTLY ALONE ON THIS CRYPTIC JOURNEY, EXPLORING THE PLANET AND UNCOVERING THE TRUTH.”
I was a fan of Lifeless Planet when I reviewed the PC version for our website last June, and I was genuinely excited to replay the game on Xbox One. I had a lot of fun adventuring and uncovering its mystery a year ago, and the improved visuals and additional narrative found in the Premier Edition definitely intensified that. It also features an awesome soundtrack by composer Rich Douglass, with exclusive new tracks included in the Xbox version. There’s a lot of great audio queues and the overall composition always seemed to perfectly set the mood for whatever was going on at that exact moment in time. I highly recommend playing through the game using a set of headphones if you can.
Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed investigating each diverse new area, discovering answers, and piecing together its terrific mystery. It has some obvious flaws, I’ll admit. The character models are a bit dated, there’s some slight frame-rate issues and texture pop-in at times, and there isn’t much in the way of replay value unless you’re an achievement hunter, but Lifeless Planet is one of the most atmospheric and well-written adventures I’ve had the pleasure of playing on the Xbox One.
Recommended for fans of: Sci-fi games, or video games with a heavy focus on exploration and narrative, rather than the usual shooty shooty bang bang affairs.
*This review is based on the Premier Edition of Lifeless Planet for the Xbox One, which is also scheduled to release on PC at some point in the future. The game retails for $19.99 and can be purchased here.
Bradley Keene is the Executive Editor here at What’s Your Tag?, generally handling reviews, public relations, and our social media communications on Facebook and Twitter. He’s no stranger to sinking an absurd amount of time in to an MMO, but also has a deep seeded love for quirky indie games, pro wrestling, horror films, and his hometown of Baltimore, MD. Get in touch with him by e-mail at the address above, or follow him on Twitter.