Symmetry reminds me of a sci-fi based survival game akin to ‘This War of Mine’, only a lot harder. Coming from developer Sleepless Clinic, it’s a game that thrives on simple interactions and very basic mechanics as you try and overcome various challenges and events in order to help a crew escape from a hostile planet. Now, I’m just going to throw this out there – in ‘This War of Mine’ I very often had everyone dead before day seven so you can kind of imagine how I did at this game! Although, I did keep on trying and I got better each time, so that’s good. The question is though, did I have fun whilst playing the game?
After a brief introduction, delivered in the form of a storyboard, you are given three random crew members – the randomness is key as each time you play it will be a little different as people have different skills and talents but ultimately the experience will be fairly similar. Your first goal, upon being placed upon the freezing planet, is to satisfy three key elements – heat, food and scrap. Heat is created by going outside and chopping/gathering wood, food comes from farming/synthesising, and scrap is just lying around outside. All three parts are important but I realised that scrap and heat are the ones to go for first and food when they begin to get hungry.
The game doesn’t stay this straightforward for long though as you begin with a -30 degrees temperature outside which is fine for a few trips in and out as you don your suit and go off collecting wood or scrap. However, before long you will begin to see drops to -60 which is suicidal to go out into, even in your suit! As such, you must always be micromanaging and aware of whats going on in regards to the environment and not just what your people are up to. My first run of the game basically had one of the crew members freezing outside so I had the others eat him (that’s an option) as I forgot to get food. Then the generator broke and I had no scrap and it was too cold to go out in, so another man went outside and died and I stupidly clicked the icon above my last survivors head which was the ‘kill yourself’ icon. He took his own life and my game was over within 30 minutes.
The goal of the story mode is to survive long enough until you can escape the planet – I honestly can’t say how long that takes as I’ve still yet to make it that far – but I’m having a fun time trying!
Each character starts off with enough ‘skills’ to do the above basic actions and sometimes more skills in other areas. This only matters in regards to giving you a head start as everyone can increase their skills in-game via the computer. It will only increase certain things so far, but you can make them better at gathering or technology or even new skills which others may have but they don’t. You can also upgrade the items as well as the crew, but this only increases the storage spaces and not the efficiency – so no fast-tracking performing actions.
That’s pretty much the gist of Symmetry, if I’m being honest. The days get harder as the weather gets worse as collecting resources from outside the building becomes almost impossible once you have already retrieved all of the resources from around your site. There are other survivors who will pop up from time to time and offer to lend a hand if you have managed to last a while – I found this useful as they tended to turn up when one of my crew has died or is almost dead, so they acted as a replacement!
The main thing you need to do is stockpile the scrap so you can repair your ship and escape but the constant weather issues and lack of resources along with the generator being about as reliable as UK trains and having to be repaired every few minutes, really makes it hard work! On top of that, you will also encounter earthquakes and extreme cold effects which will randomly break various machines and cause you to waste scrap on them as well. The last game I played was going alright until I realised I had no wood for the fire, I sent out 2 people to get wood and they both died within seconds of exiting the base – you really do need to do as much as possible before the storms kick in!
As you’re playing through Symmetry, you will find that the various survivors will interact with each other and it will display conversations for you to read – these are here to move the story along and gives motivations and backstories to both the various characters you start with and the ones you encounter later on. I found these segments interesting but I did accidentally let some people die whilst I was reading them! There is a lot of multitasking required in this game and I seem to be pretty bad at it!
Luckily though, you can pause the game whenever you want in order to read things, take a look around and issue commands – I had started doing that after a few playthroughs like I do on FTL on PC as it gives you more control over what you are doing if nothing is moving or progressing whilst you think. The controls also aren’t amazing but they work – they aren’t The Sims level of bad (I don’t think anything is!).You can zoom right in and out and you can see the characters health status’ and happiness’ at a glance, which is always handy as you can work out who to prioritise support for first.
Another thing the developers have added which also adds to the difficulty of the game is no manual saves – the game is all autosaved. This means that one wrong move or one slight overlook and there is no going back on this particular playthrough. If you quit quickly and reload just after someone has died then you will be greeted with the moment they died once again – there is no cheating death in Symmetry. From what I’ve gathered – from people better at it than me, you can beat the game in around 2-3 hours so I’m not that far off as I usually get to around 70-80 minutes and then I die but I am determined to see the ending one day!
Graphically, Symmetry looks great with a colourful yet minimalistic style. Even just the various tones of white for the snow really helps to makes the environment a lot more interesting and layered. One thing I had an issue with though was the font sizes – There have been a few games with this recently and I don’t know if it’s the PS4 Pro and the Supersampling, as it may be scaling the fonts incorrectly if the game thinks you’re on a 4k TV when you’re not, but the font is pretty small and easy to misread from a normal viewing distance.
My first playthrough – no commentary:
Symmetry is a very unforgiving and hard survival game that will have you screaming at the TV when you accidentally send someone to their death. It’s very addictive with its interesting story and solid gameplay which always leaves you with a “one more try” attitude once you inevitably die. If you like survival games or micro-management ones like This War of Mine, then I can’t recommend it enough. There is enough here to challenge anyone and even though the gameplay is a bit repetitive, your experiences from one game to the next won’t be.
- Very nice minimalist graphics
- Interesting story
- Creepy, yet calm atmosphere via ambient sounds and music
- Has the "just another try" addiction about it
- Can be very brutal if you miss something or do the wrong thing
- Due to the small area and low amount of interactions, it can get a little monotonous
- Not a lot of variety