I’ve been eagerly anticipating Alone With You for quite awhile, especially after thoroughly enjoying developer Benjamin Rivers’ last game, the atmospheric story-focused title ‘Home’. Whilst ‘Home’ told a mysterious horror story, Alone With You offers a sci-fi focused tale as you fight for survival on a planet in the middle of a destructive rift.
Alone With You’s story begins with very little context, with the unnamed astronaut protagonist staring across an odd, alien-like planet. It’s not long before you’re interacting with an AI module though and your objective is revealed. After fifteen years of work attempting to colonise the planet Epsilon Eridani B, a series of rifts had hit and caused unrelenting destruction to the small human settlement that had been set up. With no other survivors left, you’re given three weeks to escape before the planet becomes inhabitable and you meet your demise.
It’s a fairly standard set up, though Alone With You introduces a unique plot point that I’ve never seen utilised so well before: researchers that had previously worked on the planet will help you escape, but they’ll only appear in a holographic form. Your interactions are based upon their personalities and memories though, so they’ll have a real human element to them – something that is explored in-game.
You can see that a lot of work has gone into creating Alone With You’s fantastic world, especially on the scientific side of things. Whilst I’ll be the first to admit that a lot of the scientific jargon went over my head, everything in the game seemed to make sense and actually made me feel like I was interacting with researchers who were experts in their field of work.
The same in-depth treatment has been given to the game’s NPCs and their relationships with each other. Whether it’s the interactions with the holographic researchers or even discovering notes and photos of the other researchers who met their tragic end within the colony, you can really embrace the sense of solitude they felt and how they dealt with it. I couldn’t help but to sympathise with the dire situation they found themselves in.
As was the case in ‘Home’, the script in Alone With You is incredibly well written – especially the AI that tries to relate to human nature and even attempts to adapt by using slang when speaking to you, even if it is used in the wrong context. As you progress through the game the AI will actively ask you questions, something that I didn’t pay too much attention to throughout the game but contributed greatly to the conclusion. Alone With You has multiple endings that each wrap up the tale nicely and I was certainly impressed with the game’s finale.
Alone With You plays out in the style of a visual novel mixed with a point and click adventure, the player making a series of different choices in conversations as you progress through the game. The choices didn’t seem to affect the story as much as they would in a Telltales Game style production, but they’d still affect how later conversations in the game play out.
As you progress through the game you’re given a set of missions across a variety of different locations with the player choosing what order to tackle them. The missions generally consist of finding particular items to help the hologram researchers improve your ship. Whilst the mission goals may have differed, the objectives were never that enthralling. One mission in particular just saw me scanning plant life over and over again – it didn’t feel invigorating and actually bored me a little, even if I did learn a bit of botany along the way.
You’ll visit each location of the game three times, though it’s always a different section of the environment you get to explore. As you search through each level you’ll uncover documents that tell you more about the planet, the characters you meet in the holo-chamber, their relationships with other researchers, and how the planet ended up in the situation it is in. You’re constantly learning new things and unravelling the mysteries of the game.
There are minor puzzles to solve too, though they generally consist of finding an item and using it. Whilst the game looks like a point a click adventure, the puzzle solving element of the game never felt that way – you won’t find yourself inundated with items and nor will you find yourself particularly perplexed by any of the game’s enigmas. I did find that a few puzzles later in the game did require you to either remember or write down some information though, but the solutions always felt fairly obvious.
Another mission required the use of particular numbers as a password, though those numbers were randomly placed and didn’t seem to have any relation to the door I was meant to be opening. Sure, it was obvious what I had to, but it felt so illogical in design, especially when a lot of thought has clearly gone into every other facet of the game. It’s not really a criticism of Alone With You though; the game’s main goal is to tell a story, so the simple puzzles at least provide an extra bit of interactivity you might not normally find in this style of game.
Whenever you finish exploring a location and head back to the home colony, you’ll get to make a nightly visit to the holo-chamber and speak to the character whose mission you completed that day. You not only get to speak to them about the things you discovered on the mission, but about themselves too – they’ll also ask you personal questions which you’re able to answer how you please.
One thing I found a little disappointing about these nightly visits was that you were often given multiple choices about what to talk about, but eventually had to actually use all options before you could progress anyway. It took away from the sense of narrative freedom, and whilst it was nice to see all possible conversation outcomes, it did make it feel like there wasn’t always any point in giving you the choice.
Some conversation responses were more significant and lasting, the corresponding characters often bringing up things you’ve said in later conversations. No choices seemed to have a massive effect on the way the story played out, but it was still neat and added to the human element of the characters you got to speak to.
One thing that’s certainly worth mentioning is that no conversation choices are allocated to the X button; I’m a sucker for hitting the X button to speed up conversations and accidentally making a choice in games like this, so it was great to see that my mashing of the button didn’t have any repercussions.
After finishing a week in the game you get to choose one of the holographic companions to have a ‘date’ with. The game calls itself a ‘Sci-Fi Romance Adventure’, but those hoping for an experience similar to the standard dating simulator formula will be left a little disappointed. It’s not quite the same set up and whilst you do get to share more intimate (not in that way!) experiences with the character you select, it never actually felt romantic. In a way it felt more fitting to the overall tone of the game, but those looking exclusively for a ‘Romance Adventure’ might be better off looking elsewhere.
Another area in which Alone With You should be commended is with its sound design, the synth soundtrack not only being fantastic to listen to but also fitting in perfectly with the sci-fi vibe of the game. It helped me engage within the futuristic atmosphere of the game, plus there was a good mixture of tunes that would always set the tone of each scene perfectly. Whilst in dire locations there were ominous tunes that made you feel a sense of uncertainty, whilst when exploring some of the more vibrant locations the soundtrack would give a sense of wonder.
Aesthetically the game is a lot more detailed than ‘Home’, but it still has an old-school look to it – it’s certainly less ‘pixely’. Everything is full to the brim with colour, with the game adopting an almost watercolour-like style.
The style reminded me a lot of classic point and click adventure games; ‘Space Quest’ in particular rung a few bells, though Alone With You’s visuals certainly excel against it. I loved how the game’s locations each had a sense of depth too; as you moved to the front and back of locations the protagonist’s sprite would get bigger and smaller, in turn offering a real sense of scale to the massive facilities you’re exploring. It’s not always possible to offer an impressive sense of scale in a 2D environment, but Alone With You does it well.
Each environment looks fantastic though and is never devoid of detail. The graphic designers have done a good job of capturing the ruin that the colony is in, whether it’s the destroyed communications towers, the crumbled labs full of rubble, or even the plethora of corpses littered around each location. There’s a real B-Movie vibe to the visuals too, with the protagonist looking like your stereotypical Spaceman (with a scarf though, of course) and the escape ship looking like it has come straight out of a classic sci-fi movie. It’s charming and brings a welcome change to the calamitous feeling of the environments.
There is the odd graphical glitch to be found in the game, with the main character clipping through the environment and some objects oddly disappearing depending where you are in the map – it’s nothing that’ll stop you getting engrossed in the world though.
My first playthrough of the game lasted around five hours, which was surprisingly lengthy. I felt that it lasted long enough that I could really enjoy the story, but not too long that I started to get bored of doing similar things over and over. Each ending of the game was satisfying and offered a great conclusion to what was an engaging and touching story; I came across two endings which both managed to live up to the game’s title.
Alone With You isn’t exactly gameplay heavy with an extended focus on telling a story – fortunately though, that story is incredibly well written and will keep you intrigued from start to end. The fact that the game looks great and has a fantastic synth soundtrack helps too.
Those looking for a gameplay heavy experience might want to look elsewhere, but those who’d enjoy a touching sci-fi tale that’s full of mystery and intrigue will love the desperate plight of the Spaceman protagonist of Alone With You.
Developer: Benjamin Rivers Inc.
Publisher: Benjamin Rivers Inc.
Release Date: 23/08/2016
Format(s): Playstation 4 (Reviewed), Playstation Vita