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A disappointing survival experience where bad AI makes micromanaging feels like intergalactic babysitting.

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My favorite genre in the whole universe is survival. Can you blame me? From taming dinosaurs in Ark: Survival Evolved to being a crazy barbarian badass in Conan Exiles, I can’t get enough of them. Maybe it’s because they let me spend hours listening to scary stories and gathering materials or the strange serenity of crafting a powerful weapon calls to my inner survivalist. You might say that survival is a genre where I can feel right at home – or just build my own. It’s a win-win.

So you can imagine a game like SYMMETRY caught my interest. With a great concept and a healthy dose of resource management I was a ready for a great time…I just didn’t expect it to fall short of my expectations.

A research ship has crashed on an alien planet and you’re put in charge of a small crew of people to help them survive. You’ll make sure they’re well rested, fed, and out gathering supplies in a harsh environment that could possibly kill them. The longer your group of survivors is on the planet the worse weather conditions will become – until it’s impossible to gather resources for an extended length of time.

SYMMETRY forces you to balance the limited resources available since you can’t expand your base. You can upgrade parts of it like increasing the amount of materials a container can hold and having your survivors perform research to improve their efficiency when performing a task. Increased efficiency in skills like lumber means when a survivor ventures out to chop down wood, they complete it faster and bring back more to burn to keep their base warm. The same goes for other tasks like gathering electrical waste that’s needed to upgrade containers and fix components when they break down.

Over time, you get to know survivors from the inner dialogue they share about their situation. For example, one of the females described how her dad pushed her to go on the research mission and how she’d play a role in the historical mission. She regrets going through with the decision and wishes she’d have stood her ground. Another wonders how they will make it through another day. Following these separate monologues was difficult since they scrolled across the top of the screen and I was often too focused on micromanaging them to read them. While intriguing and fleshed them out, but still left a sour taste in my mouth.

That’s where the fun ended for me as the micromanaging these people and dealing with their primitive AI was exhausting. When a character is set to a task like gathering wood they’ll keep at it until they die, meaning you have to keep a constant eye on them. When the weather outside would drop down to deadly levels I had to put everyone on research or rest to keep them inside because they’d be forced to line up behind each other. I had to monitor each person like a hawk and the moment they returned to base made sure they ate and rested the second they walked through the door. My first playthrough saw two characters die within ten minutes because I didn’t realize they literally worked themselves to death.

SYMMETRY sets itself up to be an eerie experience that caught me up in its alien world within the first couple of hours. You’re kept guessing till the end whether the planet itself is real or it’s all a simulation for a training exercise, which was nice. Not so nice was realizing that spending several hours doing what amounts to essentially babysitting survivors gets old fast; factor in the lack of survival elements (you don’t even get to explore a map) and it only gets worse. The only goal you’re given is to finish a spaceship and escape the planet, but even then the experience is disappointing.

About the Author: Nia Bothwell