- Great visuals;
- Satisfying resource and crafting grind;
- Subnautica in space;
- And you know – space!
- The humor;
- The humor;
- Seriously the humor is really bad.
Space: the perfect environment for a survival game. The absolute badassery of astronauts never ceases to amaze me. If you think about it, going to space is probably the most extreme thing you can do outside of tweeting an unpopular opinion. Your spaceship could explode, you could be thrown into the infinite abyss to drift forever in vacuum, or an alien could come along and figure your face would make a nice handbag.
Space is not a safe place. And Breathedge leans into that to the hilt. There are hostile robots, laser turrets, and good, old-fashioned asphyxiation to assure that your trip among the stars will likely be your last.
The game begins with your ship exploding (because of course) and leaving you stranded in a debris field of wreckage and asteroids. You’ll have to find a way out of this mess and uncover the mysterious circumstances of your ship’s demise.
Breathedge is, for all intents and purposes, a Subnautica in space. The grind for resources is exactly the same, likewise the crafting and upgrading, and the gradual expansion of your abilities allowing you to even your odds of survival bit by bit.
If you haven’t played that very excellent underwater survival game the gameplay breaks down like this: you start with next to nothing and have to scrounge for the basics. You’ll use some basic tools to make better tools and resources come in a few different flavors – some you’ll be able to use straight after harvesting and some need to be combined for more complex recipes.
Not being a big survival game aficionado, but having played Subnautica, I could see the forest out of the trees this time around. You get just enough resources around the starting point to enable you to stretch just a bit further and from there, you’ll grow and expand until you’re either a master of the environment, or until you perish.
The satisfaction of crafting a new piece of gear, or just making it back to base before running out of oxygen, is very real. Every bit of progress you make feels like a real accomplishment, at the same time rendering your struggle just a little more manageable.
For instance, the first six hours of the game, or so, you’ll be using your own propulsion to navigate and explore. Words cannot describe the satisfaction of finally finding a vehicle. While it perhaps should have come an hour or two sooner, it’s a relief when you finally do get to move faster than at the speed of floating that the first portion of the game allows.
Graphically, Breathedge is on par with any AAA game. The world is gorgeously rendered and all of the assets are custom-made. Drifting through an asteroid belt, casting your eye to the stars, and exploring the wreckage of your crashed ship is a feast for the senses.
Now, there have been many, many games about space. The overall tone is melancholic whether it’s Adr1ft, Outer Wilds, or even Dead Space; there’s something very foreboding about the great expanse beyond our planet. While drifting through the heavens you can’t help but feel a certain sense of awe and terror at our universe. But this is where Breathedge departs thematically from space games as a genre and goes full force in a completely different direction.
You see, Breathedge is a comedy game. Yes, the developers figured they’d balance a tightly designed and crafted survival sim with dick jokes and humor that would reduce a middle school student to uncontrollable fits of laughter. While some of Breathedge’s jokes hit the mark, most of it unfortunately falls flat and quickly wears out its welcome.
Some moments genuinely succeed and make pithy commentary about the current state of video games, but others are seriously cringeworthy. Where the game goes wrong is relentlessly telling jokes at warp speed. Your spacesuit is the main culprit as its AI is quick to crack wise and comment on your surroundings and discoveries. It quickly becomes very, very tiresome.
Games that blend humor successfully into their final product do so by managing it in appropriate doses. Think Portal. Breathedge, though, throws absolutely everything it can at the wall with not much sticking. The game begins with a disclaimer that people easily offended should lighten up but that’s no excuse for how haphazardly the humor of the game ends up being handled.
It’s fair to say there’s a bit of an epidemic of over-sensitivity going around these days. The edgy humor of internet trolls is being conflated with literal violence, and for most people, there’s a prevailing sense that everything just needs to calm down. But Breathedge’s counter-punch to the accelerationism of radical sensitivity ends up being just as stifling and contrived as the cultural critics that take issue with every little aspect of western media.
Breathedge ends up between a rock and a hard place. There have been many, many somber games about space and not very many that lean towards humor. The final product tries to have moments of awe and grace, but ultimately gets dragged back down to earth with heavy-handed humor and not much to speak of in terms of a plot.
Is Breathedge worth your time? Sure, if you wished Subnautica was set in space. Just be forewarned you’re going to endure quite a bit of groan-worthy humor. If you can get past that though there’s a very satisfying resource, crafting, and exploration grind to enjoy.
Alexander Eriksen | Gamepressure.com