Lifeless Moon

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Developer: Stage 2 Studios | Released: 2023 | Genre: 3PS, Adventure

This was a spiritual sequel to Lifeless Planet which I completed in 2015. This one also had me in control of an astronaut on long treks across rocky landscapes, forests, caverns, an empty city and many other bizarre locations. It didn’t impress me all that much in the beginning. It felt a little cheap with its low resolution textures, especially just coming from Stray which looked amazing.

But the game turned out to be surprisingly varied, frequently coming up with unexpected vistas and set pieces. It even had the jet pack from the previous game for a stretch, although thankfully without having to refill it all the time. I also didn’t have to replenish my oxygen. Removing these two mechanics was a good choice in my opinion. It kept a better focus on exploration and solving puzzles.

Stray

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Developer: BlueTwelve Studio | Released: 2022 | Genre: Adventure, Third Person

Know that feeling when you think a game is going to be in a certain way, then when you finally play it, it turns out to be significantly different? Stray was like that for me. I had the impression it would be sort of a cat version of a walking simulator, barely figuring out how to traverse a city, with lots of platforming and jumping through difficult to find openings. And that would be just about it.

But it was much more than that.

The game was also an adventure game with chain-like quests, it had a floating robot called B-12 to translate text and communicate with robots, there were genuine stealth sequences, running for a while from chasing enemies, even some combat. Yes, the actual shooting kind. At the same time, the game constantly awed me by how fantastic it looked. The lighting and the amount of detail was staggering.

So many of my screenshots taken of the game could be framed and put up on the wall.

A Short Hike

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Developer: adamgryu | Released: 2019 | Genre: Adventure, Exploration

This was a charming little exploration game on an island with steep cliffs. As the blue bird Claire, I could run around, get simple quests from other people, collect coins for buying golden feathers, and float – no flying upwards! That would be cheating. Golden feathers had to be collected to be able to climb steeper cliffs. The goal was to climb to the top and receive a phone call there.

The game sported a pixelated retro look, but it was possible to change the size of the pixels. I made them as small as possible, making for a sharper look. The excellent music added to the already quite charming atmosphere. I also played with a gamepad – a lot better than using the keyboard.

It didn’t even take me two hours to get through it. However, I saw in screenshots on the internet there were locations I never found, and I also never watered the sprouts. So it does have some replayability.

Call of the Sea

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Developer: Out of the Blue | Released: 2020 | Genre: Adventure, First Person

A lovely first person adventure game made in the Unreal Engine. I was in control of Norah in 1934 looking for her lost husband Harry on an exotic island. It didn’t take long before it delved deep into an epic fantasy story with light Myst-like puzzles. Norah was carrying a notebook with her and drew important clues into it, so it was rarely necessary for me to write down my own notes. There was no inventory either.

The puzzles were not too difficult yet not a walk in the park either. The wonderful fantasy settings involving ancient alien temples and even diving under water as as sea creature kept the story intriguing all the way through. The voice actor for Norah was great, and she was commenting on everything I found. There must have been thousands of lines of dialog just for her.

If you like first person adventure games, this one is definitely recommended.

Wasteland 2: Director’s Cut

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Developer: inXile Entertainment | Released: 2015 | Genre: RPG, Turn-based

Even though I never played much of the first Wasteland game, I still backed this one. It looked really promising, but the reports of it being difficult kept me postponing it – until today. And I’m happy to say that even playing it so late to the party, I was still grabbed by it and found it really atmospheric.

At least until California.

Taking place in a post-apocalyptic world, it felt like much more of an earnest successor to Fallout 2 than the games Bethesda produced after buying the rights to the franchise.

I played with the preset party featuring Pills, Slick, Bear and Cold-Eye. It started with General Vargas giving my party their first assignment as Desert Rangers – figure out how Ace died while putting repeater units on three radio towers in the wasteland, complete his job, and optionally revenge him. I made sure to accept Angela Deth as my fifth party member, and into the wasteland we ventured.

The atmosphere was excellent. The music and the ambient sounds were spot on, and the random radio calls from someone asking for help an excellent detail. In between the settlements I was traversing a larger map and it was important that our water supply would suffice. This is also where random encounters could happen, or we had to cross nasty clouds with radiation.

In the settlements themselves, it was typical party management and turn-based combat. It felt like I was allowed to move around further each turn than in other turn-based games, which was great for reaching cover behind crates or stones. I won’t get into too much of the story here, but the dialog with NPC’s were well written and their settlements had interesting quests and tasks to do.

Sable

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Developer: Shedworks | Released: 2021 | Genre: 3PS, Adventure

This relatively fresh third person adventure game had a really stylish drawn style that reminded me a lot of European graphic novels, particularly those by Moebius.

In fact, that was the reason I got interested in it.

I controlled a teenager coming of age as she achieved the ability the float slowly downwards, which came in handy when climbing things and jumping across long distances. I was given a hover bike to navigate the big desert, looking for points of interest to explore. There was no combat of any kind, but RPG-style quests.

And it wasn’t just quests about obtaining a specific object or finishing some kind of collection quest. Some of the later quests involved the trope investigation chain and even breaking someone out of jail.