SYMMETRY is latest survival game to entice me with its pretty art style and allure of simulated suffering in a frozen wasteland. It has a unique charm and an alluring story. Unfortunately, it is too short and lacks content. Forget the $11.99 price tag for a moment. There is absolutely zero bang for your buck here. In terms of production quality, it’s an incredibly professional looking game. However, it feels like the tutorial level of a much larger story.
Its replay value, which is the saving grace of the survival genre, is crippled because there is nothing to do in this game after you beat it once. It offers no goals and no progression. It’s as though someone had the idea for a really cool story, made the first level, created the most basic mechanics, and forgot to build on that initial idea.
It doesn’t actually feel like a survival game. This is a very short and linear story with survival elements presented through mundane micromanagement. All you have to do is click the right buttons at the right times until you win. There is no room for creativity and each playthrough is almost exactly alike. The only way to lose is to stop paying attention for a minute.
Should You Buy It
No, you can skip this one. If you like the art, just stare at the screenshots. There is only one map and its appeal fades pretty quick.
Symmetry has nothing that makes the survival genre enticing. There is no base building, no exploration, and no community management. While the story is an exotic evil AI romp, it has no satisfying conclusion and matters very little to any of the actual mechanics. Which is a shame, because the story ends up stringing the player along, making you think there is some compelling reason to not simply beat the game as fast you can. It’s hard to describe how confused and disappointed I was after beating this game 3 times in a few hours, wondering if perhaps I had missed something. But no, there is nothing here to miss.
Check it out for 99¢ during a Steam sale. The game is well made, the art style is beautiful, and the story is interesting. My complaints are not because this is a lazy game. It’s a very strange case of real talent on display, but its focus is the wrong place. I’m not sure why they didn’t keep adding to the game, or why they’re selling it as though it’s a fully realized experience. In its current state, the only reason the player is needed is to tell the astronauts to do their job, go to sleep, and eat their veggies. After a short time, it is not very much fun.
A Rant on Survival Games
To be honest, I’m not sure why I’m drawn to these games. Perhaps they activate the same part of my brain that has led me to almost getting frostbite several times, or it aligns with my pattern of behavior that has left my limbs permanently ruined from skiing down mountains way beyond my skill. I also love camping deep in the Canadian wilderness, living off fish and oatmeal. Whatever the case may be, it’s certainly not because this genre is a consistent source of great games.
What I hope you all get from this review are some of the ingredients that are required to make a great survival game. My desire is that at least one of you, dear readers, will be inspired to go out and make the first game in this genre I’d actually give a 100. Read on for my sake.
The biggest problem with Symmetry is it doesn’t give the player any goals. On the surface, the game is very straightforward; you must repair your spaceship to escape the planet. However, that is where it stops. It never has that, “see that mountain, you can climb that mountain,” moment where the player is driven by their own desire to explore as opposed to just wanting to win. The game never hands the story over to the player. There are no mechanics that let you say, “This time I’m going to just build a cool base,” or “I’m going to go for broke and see how much of the world I can discover before I die.”
Each playthrough is exactly the same. You essentially have three jobs as the player: Make sure your astronauts don’t die from exhaustion or hunger; assign your five astronauts to one of three resource gathering jobs; upgrade and maintain your base using said resources. The game tasks you to do those three things for as long as you can, with no change in gameplay from start to end. It requires very little forethought and there is no room for creativity. It’s just micromanagement at a very mundane level.
What Symmetry is more appropriately described as is a linear story containing survival inspired mechanics. If you want survival, go play Rimworld or something.
Once, I purposefully avoiding beating the game wondering if perhaps something new happens the longer I survive. Instead, I found there is no difference if you win after 30 minutes or 2 hours. There is no point to surviving indefinitely. You are really deciding how long you want to play before winning. It’s a bit turned around and doesn’t work well as a mechanic.
The story does reveal itself the longer you choose to survive. I say choose because there is a definite way to win the game. If you fix your spaceship you escape. However, if you do that too quickly, you miss the story. This does have an in-game purpose, as it ties into the character development of your crew. Some want to study the mysterious AI, some want to strand themselves to prevent the AI from spreading, and other wants to escape ASAP. I really like the concept.
But, in practice, those story beats and character developments don’t actually show themselves in gameplay or have any impact on your strategy. Your crew will do everything you tell them without any conflict. If you wait too long to escape, the game does not reflect the choice. All you get is some text every 5 minutes describing a crew members feelings or thoughts. Even the cutscene and voice over of your escape is exactly the same.
This game contains a cool a premise, but absolutely no follow through.
Symmetry is available from:
Symmetry was played on PC via Steam using a code provided by the publisher.