Signs of Life is an Early Access game in development by Sweet Dog Studios, It is a sci-fi survival sandbox platformer, similar in style and play to Terraria and Starbound.
Stranded on an Alien world, after some currently unmentioned accident or disaster on your ship. You start off in your escape pod, and after finding an area where it is safe to land, you start the game properly.
As is standard survival game fare, you will have to construct the various tools and weapons to endure this visually pleasing yet strangely dangerous place.
You are not totally alone in this strange Earth-like world, joining you on your mission for survival is AGIS, your AI “Friend”, imagine Marvin from The Hitch Hikers Guide To The Galaxy.. but a tad more chipper. He serves as a reluctant guide and source of information on the equipment and resources you find. Letting you know what new equipment can be constructed when you have found the relevant materials.
Other than survival your goal is to discover the fate of the inhabitants of the research station “Pioneer 1”. Something happened that caused the station to release a distress signal that summoned your ship… along your journey of discovery you will find data pad’s containing snippets of what happened and hints at locations of importance. It’s here you will find terminals to upgrade your key cards and various blueprints to obtain special weapons and tools.
The creature designs are varied, ranging from sheep (though why are there are sheep on an alien planet?), flying creatures, chickens (same question as the sheep) & boars, to giant ants, moving sulphur plants, and things that look quite happy to remove your head via your backside. There also a few mech’s thrown in for good measure.
Pretty much everything drops items that can be used in the creation of your tools for survival, at times this can feel like a grind, especially when you are trying to find that last bit of rose quartz you need to upgrade your MEG.
The MEG is your wrist mounted computer, with this you can mine for minerals and resources, gather fallen items, scan the area to create and update your map. It can even be used as a small flashlight. Of course, this runs on battery power and if your energy levels drop too low nothing will work, leaving you alone and in the dark whilst you wait for the energy to recharge. This is where the various tools come into play, for every action your MEG can perform, there is a tool. Want to dig deep into the earth? Create a pick or use the MEG. Light up the area? Get some Sap Torches or use the MEG.
The only thing your MEG can’t do is be used for defence or attacking the local wildlife. Luckily Signs of Life has a large variety of weapons, from the trusty 9mm Pistol all the way up to the mighty Rocket Launcher. From the faithful Bow to the awesome Energy Shotgun.
The game world is a decent size, whilst running in one direction it is possible to completely travel around the world and end up back where you started in around 5 minutes. For a procedurally generated game is a good amount of time and, of course, running along the surface is a lot easier than trying to survive whilst mining deep underground.
Signs of Life is a combination of procedurally generated worlds and a very entertaining story told in data pad form. To say this is shaping up to be Terraria with a proper story is a mild understatement. And as it is in early access there are more things to come, including the tutorial back story which explains just how you ended up in the escape pod. The latest update (0.50) introduced multiplayer, so now you can team up with friends to make the ultimate base and survive the alien wildlife.
If you are familiar with Minecraft,Terraria or Starbound you know what to expect, but those unfamiliar with these games may find Signs of Life too much of a grind. The constant search for materials, the frustration of that one misstep that sends you plummeting to the bottom of a mineshaft leaving you to respawn in your base with nothing more than your underwear. Not really knowing what you’re supposed to be doing with all the copper you have mined on your journey can lead to frustration and confusion.
But for those of you familiar with the genre (if we are being honest.. who hasn’t played any of these great games?) will find Signs of Life an entertaining waste of your evening, that “just one trip into the mine” turns into an hour of your life disappearing as you try to outrun something that wants to eat your face whilst trying to mine the hard to find Anthracite
With more bosses, items and story content planned, Signs of Life is one to keep an eye on, and one I am more than happy to revisit after the next update.