– Charlie Braithwaite
Corpse of Discovery is a new sci-fi exploration game by Phospor Games. The review for this game may seem a bit bi-polar as I enjoyed parts of the game, but was very underwhelmed with others. In Corpse of Discovery you play as an astronaut working for the Corps of Discovery (see what they did there?), your ship has crash landed and you have no signal to contact home, from there things start to get a bit more intricate. As always I will do my best to avoid spoilers in this review.
The gameplay in Corpse of Discovery is basic, in fact it is very basic, it’s essentially a walking simulator, which as we’ve discussed, isn’t a bad thing. . You wake up, wander around your ship, interact with objects, listen to a sad message from your family and then explore the planet. Your objectives consist of visiting multiple sites on the planet and in some instances avoiding the radiation of the sun. Sound simple? It is.
The planets are beautifully designed and often feature a lot of plants and creatures, yet they still feel empty. As you jump, double jump, and later thruster jump around the planet, it feels void. There is enough variation in planet types for there to be lots of amazing content, but it isn’t quite realised. The fact the game isn’t properly optimised doesn’t help this. During my planet jumping sprees I often landed on what appeared to be solid ground to only fall, or found phantom patches of grass floating around. If you have frame-rate OCD you may also be upset with drops during fast paced action.
Another issue is the lack of warmth. On one exploratory mission you have to document wildlife, which sounds awesome, right? However, when you spot and approach an alien animal it does nothing, they are just living scenery that repeat the same animations.
The bland wildlife is particularly noticeable when your robot sidekick, A.V.A , tells you to stay away because it looks dangerous. I literally jumped on the alien rhino’s head hoping it would react. That being said, perhaps there is a reason the wildlife is so inactive, which brings me to the game’s story.
I won’t try and summarise the plot as it will probably give too much away, but essentially you are stuck in a Groundhog Day scenario. Each day you are told the same message by the Corps, do this last job and you will be able to retire to your family. Each repetition presents you with a new planet to explore and a new set of objectives. Should you deviate from your objectives you may find some objects that begin to tell you things aren’t as they should be.
Finding a bar, pizza boxes, historical speeches, or even an entire bedroom on a planet may seem odd, but as you progress things start to make a bit more sense… sort of.
The story is enough to keep you going with the game, however in the final act it gets extremely obscure, and there was one set piece which was almost certainly directly modelled off of an iconic Star Trek prop. That being said, it was still a decent story and it’s worth playing to get it.
As always in mysterious games there are a few things that still need explaining after the credits role. One such example is the game’s antagonists. The main enemies, for lack of a better word, are large ghoulish shrimp creatures which search for you. I would love to say encountering them is scary, but they just aren’t threatening enough. If they do find you, you do die, but it is such a rare occurrence that they pose no real threat aside from cuing ominous music. If they were more like the titular alien in Alien: Isolation, things would be different, but their AI is simply not advanced enough for them to be a problem. Also, you never find out what they are! Are they important to the story? Or are they just a generic enemy?
Apart from the shrimp antagonists, there are other characters that flesh out the world in Corpse of Discovery. The robot A.V.A in particular has its moments, but is so much like GLaDOS from Portal it’s almost like a parody.
What the game lacks it playability it does make up for with atmosphere. There are often quirky little videos that you can find on the laptops scattered around the space station, including one of chimps riding bicycles, which is both cruel and adorable.
Aside from chimp videos there are also aspects of the space station that are altered each day, making you question your sanity, I won’t say too much, but keep an eye on the fish tank.
It took me just under three hours to complete Corpse of Discovery, but by the end the walking/jumping had overstayed its welcome, so the credits were a relief.
Overall I would say Corpse of Discovery is worth playing if you are a sci-fi nut, but I’d probably wait for it to go on sale, I don’t think it’s quite worth the US$14.99 price tag.
Pros: Good atmosphere, engaging story.
Cons: Poorly optimised, forgettable gameplay.