Early Access and survival sandbox games are the new hotness nowadays. It’s becoming challenging for games of this type to really stand out despite the variety of themes and settings that could fit the sub-genre. So where does the Osiris: New Dawn early access build stand? As this preview is about to explain, it currently plants itself firmly in the crowd but at least has a few ideas that could make it stand out.
Two things have struck me in my time with Osiris: it is a remarkably pretty game and a remarkably boring one all at once.
Graphically, Osiris: New Dawn is a gorgeous piece of work. The desolate landscape of the planet you’re plopped on is both alien and intriguing, causing you to want to see what’s on the next rise while also feeling uncomfortable. This is helped by the variety of xenomorphic creatures that scuttle along the surface from wriggling, flatworm-looking horrors to spider-like creatures and an immense sand worm that can occasionally leap out of the ground to swallow you whole in cinematic fashion.
Unfortunately, all of this beauty is swept aside when you square off with these enemies in combat. With the exception of the indestructible sand worm, every creature in the game can be engaged, and every creature tries to inspire fear with erratic movements or hard-charging aggression.
Taken at face value, their attacks are effective until you realize that you have something they don’t: a jetpack. I swiftly learned that fighting enemies was merely a case of firing a few shots, leaping in the air away from any retaliation and repeating. The brain-dead AI problems were only exacerbated when I fired out of the window of my Habitat at a small swarm of monsters while all they could do is leap fruitlessly at the wall.
Boredom isn’t relegated only to combat either. The point of the game is to survive, but I never really felt like my life was in any level of jeopardy as basic human needs like air, water, food and other things were never a factor or were otherwise not implemented yet. The game boiled down to sessions of checking recipes for an item, running further and further from my base camp to try and find components and running back. It was, essentially, No Man’s Sky with one planet and no hazards. About the only punishment this game offers is having to retrieve dropped inventory from your dead corpse.
Crafting only makes matters worse as you merely go to a Forge, have the necessary ingredients in your inventory and click a button. This underwhelming system is only made more annoying by an inventory management system that brought me back to my old days of Diablo 1, where I had to manually shuffle things in my bag. It’s a small inconvenience, but one that made crafting an exercise in managing bag slots instead of actually creating an item.
Playing Osiris in multiplayer mode was not much better, as entering a public instance of the same planet brought the challenge of merely taking a few steps before my arrival was met with blaster fire. This sort of behavior is perhaps to be expected, but the instances also have limits on how many structures can be built, meaning that arriving in someone else’s world will leave you without any means of creating shelter. There really is no reason to try and play with others in the game’s current state.
What’s Good Out Here?
With all of these complaints, it might seem that I have no reason to keep interest in this game. However, that’s not entirely the case. As of this build, the game does a solid job at a few things that make me think it could become more.
First of all, nighttime is truly a dark place, with only a small flashlight able to give you a view of what’s out there. Seeing one of the planet’s creatures wriggle by just inside of your flashlight’s field of view is definitely an unnerving experience.
Secondly, the game does a good job of forcing you to chart your own progress. There’s only one or two points of interest that you can use to navigate, but otherwise you’re on your own with only a map device that you have to hold in your hand. If you want to find something, you have to go out there and find it, and if you want to return to a location then you have to craft and plant Beacons. As far as exploration goes, Osiris: New Dawn has the right idea in its hands-off approach.
For all the systems that under-deliver, Osiris: New Dawn did give me a sense of progression as well. Managing to scrounge together enough materials to craft my own little space habitat was a rewarding experience, especially since you begin with a tiny inflatable tent. With more recipes, features and buildings, Osiris could make starting a space colony really feel like an accomplishment.
Osiris also provides some excellent FPS combat even if the enemies are dumber than Jeff Foxworthy’s jokes. While weapons don’t deliver a solid sense of impact, the movement and aiming is tuned well and allows for precision shots to take down large targets with steady aim.
Finally, starting your own single-player instance does give you a variety of sliders to adjust your experience, with changes to mineral frequency, creature frequency and other factors . This gives your experience a wholly custom affair and opens the potential for making the game as hard or as basic as you want when enough systems are in place.
Eyes on the Horizon
Osiris: New Dawn has a lot of work ahead of it, but it’s still a game in development and could see a lot of improvements. It needs to improve enemy AI to make encounters feel more harrowing. It needs to make crafting more worthwhile beyond being able to stick things on to a hexagonal house. Survival needs to offer the challenge of living marooned on an alien world.
As it stands right now, there’s not a lot of reason to pay for this game. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t keep your eyes on it though. Given some more time and more complex systems that engage and involve, Osiris: New Dawn has the potential to really make a name for itself as the standard for sci-fi survival games. Plans are already moving forward to improve what’s here in the single-player and multiplayer space as well as expansion of the game’s universe. The foundation laid here is solid enough, it just needs a lot more construction.
I’ll likely visit this desolate little red rock later, but right now it’s far too much of an early access game to crown it anything more than that. I’m curious to see what the game will expand upon, but I hope that they’ll improve what it currently has first.Related: Early Access, Fenix Fire Entertainment, Osiris: New Dawn, Preview