If a game is genuinely good or interesting in some way and consequently worth featuring, that should be just as true in the time after its release as ever.
Of course, the video game industry as a whole is predicated on hype. It's all about building anticipation for games to a fever pitch and then either delivering on that promise or crashing and burning in a spectacular fashion.
As regular readers will note, I typically aspire to something better than that here. I do my best to remove hype from the equation when writing about games and simply assess them based on my experiences with them.
As I see it, my purpose here is to tell you what I think and why– to convey my point of view so that you can easily determine whether or not you share it and whether or not these games, which I found interesting enough to write about are right for you.
The difference between these "My Thoughts on" posts and the "Shout Outs" I often do is a simple matter of advocacy. In a "Shout Out," I explicitly encourage the purchase and consumption of a game for a variety of reasons. Most often, this is motivated by a game not getting the attention I think it deserves. With games that are well known, I generally don't feel compelled to advocate on their behalf unless it's to correct what I consider to be commonly-held misconceptions about them.
"I Am Alive" is a tricky game to talk about in those terms because it is both not as bad as many seem to think yet also not as good as I'd like it to be.
It's a classic example of a game that has a lot of really great ideas and moments that struggle to fill an otherwise incomplete whole.
On one hand, there are compelling gameplay mechanics such as the stamina system used when traversing dangerous areas, and the combat scenarios that force players to engage enemies with limited resources in a puzzle-like fashion.
On the other, there are numerous aesthetic, narrative and gameplay elements– some of which tied directly to the otherwise positive aspects, that feel rushed, unfinished or otherwise absent.
The result is an uneven experience that is likely to only be appreciated by the most determined and patient of gaming enthusiasts.
When "I Am Alive" works and all the pieces of it come together fully, which occurs several times throughout the span of the game in my experience, it feels like a great game. Unfortunately, those moments of greatness often cause the less-than-ideal portions to stand out more than they otherwise would.
For example, the combat often feels tense, meaningful and evocative of a survival situation; however, the controls sometimes get in the way and make it more difficult than I suspect was intended to perform critical gameplay tasks. There is also a frustratingly-limited level of choice and interaction in most encounters. There are so many missed opportunities for situations to be resolved without bloodshed or for violence to have meaningful consequences beyond the expenditure of limited resources that it's hard to not lament their absence even as the game provides some genuine thrills and surprises.
If "I Am Alive" were a truly great game, I could recommend it to you unconditionally but that's not what it is. It is instead a mediocre game with some interesting, engaging and creative aspects that are often underdeveloped and underutilized.
I suspect that "I Am Alive" is one of those games that will be remembered fondly by "hardcore" gamers (myself included) as a catalyst for games that draw inspiration from it in the future. It's not quite good enough to stand on its own but it could well end up being important in the historical landscape of gaming.
If "I Am Alive" were a more even or average game, it would be completely forgettable but there is something to it. It has moments of brilliance, outstanding elements hinting at something just beyond its scope. These in my view make it worth experiencing for those interested in doing so despite its flaws.
Knowing a bit about the development history of "I Am Alive," I can't help but wonder what could have been had it spent more time in development and not been targeted as a small-scale, timed "XBOX Live Arcade" release. To me, it feels like a square peg crammed into a round hole and I can easily see how many of the issues with it could be a result of business decisions as opposed to a lack of vision or prowess on the part of its creators.
I Am Alive (via Steam)