In the future, we may find a planet that is not only capable of, but actively supports complex lifeforms. But what happens then? Lifeless Planet: Premier Edition attempts to tell one possible result of humanity reaching across the galaxy in the hopes of colonizing a distant world. We played this indie sci-fi game, and have our review ready for you below.
Setting the Stage
We exist in a cosmos filled with mostly empty space. Yet, that empty space is occasionally occupied by, among other things, matter. This matter tends to clump together, and it mostly forms the stars we see in the night sky. In a universe filled with countless trillions of stars, many of which harbor at least a handful of planets and protoplanets in nearly perpetual orbit, we were bound to find at least one planet full of life – and that’s exactly what we did in the story of Lifeless Planet. A new space race began, and you were destined to be among the first humans to step foot onto this newly-discovered world. But once you arrive, you quickly realize that other people beat you to the punch, and that a cataclysmic event took place which appears to have wiped out most life, stripping the planet of its lush, bountiful biomes.
The story of Lifeless Planet is definitely one of its strong points, at least in theory. While the high-level concept of being a pioneer who is stranded in a hostile new land is easy to grasp, the rest of the story feels rather uninspired – the Russians beat you to the new planet, through a portal of some sort. How convenient. Unraveling the mystery is mostly done through picking up these recordings left behind by explorers before you who have long since moved on/likely died, and flashbacks/delusions experienced by the main character. The ending is a little too vague for its own good, and will likely leave many who only passively paid attention to the story scratching their heads.
The result of a mostly one-man shop, Lifeless Planet was developed in Unity. So while graphics are serviceable, it mostly looks like a scaled-up mobile game. Textures are a bit on the rough side, but environments are varied. The control scheme is simple enough that I bet it would port over to Android and iOS nicely. In fact, you move with the left stick, pan the camera with the right, jump with X, interact with a few objects using square, turn on your flashlight with R1, and walk slowly with L1. Controls feel very rigid in Lifeless Planet, and you have a jetpack which only allows you to get a quick puff of air a few times in order to lengthen your jump.
The soundtrack in Lifeless Planet is also a highlight. The soundscape is particularly moody, composed by Rich Douglas. The game is also fully voiced, with a mostly solo performance of the main character, talking to himself, but is pretty well done for an indie game. However, sound effects are pretty generic, with the occasional falling rock or creaking wood to attempt to startle you.
There is some light puzzling in Lifeless Planet, but most of these puzzles consist of moving an object or two into place, and are very easy to solve. The game’s goal is to tell a story more than anything, and so you shouldn’t expect many game elements to get in your way. You get to witness one man’s slow descent into madness as he grapples with the situation in which he currently finds himself. You could easily picture yourself in a similar situation, wondering just how well you’d do given the circumstances. It’s a short trip, however – most players should complete the campaign in six hours or less.
Lifeless Planet PS4 Review - Metaphorical Jetpack
Kickstarted Space Adventure
Lifeless Planet is another game that was birthed at Kickstarter. A campaign originally launched in September 2011 for $8,500 ended up raising over $17,000. But in a story that is all-too-common for that platform, the game did not release in any official capacity until March 2014, via Steam’s Early Access program. The current asking price on the PSN is $19.99, or $15.99 for PS Plus subscribers. At that price point, given the game’s short playtime, this game is recommended for sci-fi fans only, and hardcore ones at that.
With No Man’s Sky looming on the horizon, all other sci-fi games are about to lose a lot of relevancy. Lifeless Planet released at a time when the game has the biggest chance to make a name for itself. It’s just a shame the end result feels more like a prototype than a fully fleshed-out game. There is fun to be had, however, and if you’d like to support an indie developer and are in the mood for a short sci-fi story you can finish in a sitting or two, then give Lifeless Planet a try.
Lifeless Planet: Premier Edition review code provided by publisher. For more information on scoring please see our Review Policy here.