Away: The Survival Series is a flagship for the PS5‘s capabilities, minus the haptics. From the moment the titles hit, it’s instantly bewitching with better visuals than looking out at my decrepit back garden. Accompanied by a brilliant audio track that’s not quite Attenborough, the presentation element hits the mark.
Scratch past that glitter, and you’ll find a game encumbered with glitches, inconsistencies, lacklustre combat and such platforming imprecision that it has been one of my worst experiences this year for games. I take no pleasure in being this harsh, as this was a game I’ve been excited about for some time.
What’s so bad about it? The gameplay. Away: The Survival Series is an on-rails experience with little to do other than repeatedly dying from shifting camera angles or entertaining yourself by unshackling the skill tree by eating 125 mushrooms. I did that first, so that kind of sums up the experience.
Away: The Survival Series Review
In the game, you play a 6-month-old sugar glider, part of the flying squirrel family. After a cataclysmic event known as The Shift, which wipes out humanity, your family is split as your father is lost in a storm. Left with your mother and younger sibling, you’re introduced to this often hostile climate, learning some survival skills in the pseudo tutorial.
Once you’ve passed the test and experienced stealth, gliding, excessive eating and combat, your mother and sibling are snatched by a vulture. Rather than gulping them down, it’s holding them hostage long enough for you to rescue them – the objective of the game.
This arc wasn’t necessary as Breaking Walls could have crafted gameplay around a series of set pieces, as seen in a nature documentary, instead of having this Disney rescue mission. The narrator dictates throughout the journey, occasionally some of the audio tracks overlapping, so even if the narrative were stripped down, players would still be aware of what was happening.
Away: The Survival Series does not disappoint in the visual department. The lighting and crisp, vibrant colours of the island are astounding in many areas. There were definitely wow moments throughout, even while getting disgruntled with the performance.
The glitchy elements of the game showed up immediately, and I had to restart the game from the very beginning – literally the moment of taking command of the little joey, who we’ll call Joey. Instead of walking, he’d float along a tree without being animated. The restart fixed this, but this was the early sign that it would never fully connected with the environment.
Joey has the turning circle of a bus, and to have a chance or targeting anything correctly, such as the number of mushrooms and bugs to consume, you need to move the stick ever so slight – anything else seems heavy-handed. The sugar glider will snap almost like 180º button the Resident Evil series, and for the 3D platforming, this proved incredibly frustrating.
Automatic For The People
If camera angles sound bad, wait until you jump. Away: The Survival Series makes first-person jumping look like a parkour masterclass. It’s inaccurate, ineffective, and through progression, obsolete as you can perform an automated jump by holding L2 and X. Why would you attempt anything different?
I hate being negative, but this doom cloud continues with combat – some of the worst I’ve experienced. Like jumping, it’s inconsistent. Holding L2 will lock on an enemy, but the camera jumps around so violently that it feels like a social experiment on motion sickness and patience levels.
Pair that with disappearing and reappearing enemies, and it isn’t a pleasant experience in the slightest. Even when against formidable opponents, you’ll have to dodge and counter-attack, but the lag is ludicrous when paired with the animation.
The Strongest Survive
It’s very rare for me to say, “I’ve had enough of this game”, but that’s what I genuinely said, thoughtfully capturing it here. Away: The Survival Series is such a disappointment as this was a game firmly on my watchlist, expecting it to be like no other.
In many ways, that rings true as the presentation is remarkable, and the narration spot on, pending it doesn’t overlap. But the fundamental gameplay is so diabolical that it feels like an afterthought. That’s a shame as it’s evident that a lot of work went into this game, but it feels like it skimmed over the gameplay last minute.
Away: The Survival Series wasn’t as informative as a documentary, but if you’re interested in nature, go observe it or read a book. This is a game, and in that context, it’s failed for me. It’s ok not to like a title, whether that’s constructive or not. But this was a game I desperately wanted to love and instead felt almost the opposite. Regrettably, it’s not something I can recommend.