Is there life on other planets? That is a question most of us have asked to ourselves while living our day-to-day lives. Surely, in a universe so vast, there has to be another civilization just as intellectual and advanced as the human race. Yet, no conclusive evidence has been obtained on extraterrestrial life and its existence. Lifeless Planet: Premier Edition explores the possibilities of the existence of extraterrestrial life and the events that would transpire upon visiting their planet. This action adventure game is brimming with story as you travel the “lifeless” planet, but monotonous gameplay and performance issues hinder the game’s potential.
Lifeless Planet puts you in control of an unnamed American astronaut as he crash lands on a planet blooming with life… or so he was told by his superiors. Instead of the lush green paradise that was described to him, he finds himself stuck on a desolate sphere of sand and death with no indication of his crew’s location, save for some footsteps alongside the destroyed ship. Following the footsteps lead you to a surprising discovery: a small deserted town that once housed a colony of Russians and a log describing an alien material known as “green fire”. As you continue your journey, every question you can possibly ask about the planets previous inhabitants, the mystery material, and your crew is answered in genuinely interesting and thought provoking ways. The writer’s use of metaphors to describe the disastrous state of affairs on the once verdant planet and the player’s psychosis is especially exceptional.
Atmosphere is a key component to the Lifeless Planet: Premier Edition‘s 5 hour experience. While the game provides a great atmosphere with a decent soundtrack and incredibly vast environments that truly give you the feeling of loneliness and desperation, the environment’s aesthetic are incredibly flat. With the exception of a few environments, the landscapes are generally large rock formations or flat plains of gravel that lack any sort of detail or uniqueness. Traversing the environment becomes tedious as you run and jump across it.
Minor performance issues also affect the gameplay. I found myself repositioning the camera due to dramatic changes in the camera positioning when exploring the world. I believe this is caused by the camera’s proximity to the physical environment. Occasional dips in frame rate, especially in the game’s final sequence, were also found throughout the entirety of my time with the game. For an edition that boasts its updated game engine, it’s hard to imagine the severity of the game’s technical performance and its graphical output.
The gameplay is as thrilling as the game’s aesthetically dull environments. As you traverse the planet’s uninhabited towns and landscapes, you’ll find yourself running and jumping to collect audio logs, mission data, and scientific data of the planet’s surface. The environments are deceptive as their vastness invite you to explore the terrain to collect more data about the mission. However, most of the collectibles pertaining to the game’s story can be found or seen while taking the clearly drawn path the game recommends to you. What could have been an incredibly exploratory and engaging experience is taken away by the incredibly linear platforming and puzzle solving.
The environmental puzzles that are scattered throughout the game provide some variety to the tedious platforming sections, but the puzzles themselves lack variety. To design a game in which its various puzzle elements derive from an introductory version of that puzzle is a design choice to allow players to be familiar with that particular puzzles mechanics. However, to have the same exact puzzles throughout the entire game is, in my opinion, lazy and unacceptable. The majority of the puzzles required the player to place a stone into an alien generator directly or with the use of a mechanical arm. Others used the environment to clear a path. There was never a moment I questioned myself as I effortlessly completed each and every puzzle.
Although Lifeless Planet: Premier Edition‘s mundane gameplay isn’t gratifying, its combination of story and atmosphere is incredibly satisfying. The metaphorical storytelling provides familiarity to the game’s bizarre setting. The sense of loneliness can legitimately be felt as you unfold the tale of Russia’s inevitable downfall on the mysteriously desolate planet. Minor performance issues and repetitive gameplay slightly hinder the game’s potential, but doesn’t affect the overall enjoyment I had solving the planet’s ecological dilemma.