Managing your hunger and thirst, shielding yourself from the elements and filling your living space with vanity items isn’t exclusively something we do in our day-to-day lives; it’s also integral to a video game genre with tremendous staying power. Survival games like ARK, Rust, Valheim, and so many more draw players in with the allure of starting with nothing more than a loin cloth and a dream, only to end up riding a dinosaur and declaring yourself ruler of the land.
The point is that the market is flooded with excellent survival experiences, so newcomers need to come to the table with something fresh in terms of setting or systems to stand apart from the crowd.
Polish developer Far From Home is looking to enter this space with their debut title, Forever Skies, a first-person survival game set hundreds of years after the downfall of human civilisation. I recently had the opportunity to play the opening hour or so of Forever Skies which provided a taste of the open-world adventure to come.
As a lone scientist, you find yourself pulled back to Earth hundreds of years after an ecological disaster has ravaged the planet, leaving it barren and unrecognisable. Landing at Sagittarius Station II, your mission is to follow in the footsteps of a long-dead researcher looking to make discoveries about a mysterious virus that could hold the key to humanity’s continued survival.
The planet’s surface is covered in a toxic dust cloud that will cause almost instantaneous death to the player, at least at the beginning of the game. To scrounge together resources and piece together the mysteries put in front of you, you’ll need to traverse the dilapidated city skyline, littered with decaying skyscrapers that have been reclaimed by nature.
Like many other survival games, my first moments were steeped in discovery. Using a scanner, I rummaged around in the rusted wreckage, uncovering the properties of dirty water, metal debris and various mutated fruit. A guiding objective gave me a nudge in the right direction, but I was left mainly to my own devices. As I rustled through helpless notes dropped beside lifeless spacesuits filled with bones, one thing became clear; I needed to reach and repair my airship.
The airship is more than just a mode of transportation; it’s a versatile tool, a safe space and a home. Most survival games will have you gathering resources to build various bases and outposts, but Forever Skies tasks you with expanding and improving a mobile base, one that can easily be craned into a building and severely damaged.
To prepare the small aircraft for flight, I needed to hunt down and scan various components to uncover the blueprints, allowing me to recreate them for my use. Scavenging metal and synthetics, I crafted a small engine and the required fuel, and I was ready to take to the sky. Starting off as nothing more than a box tied to a balloon, your airship can be expanded upon and improved, eventually acting as your mobile quarters and laboratory. I didn’t have time to go full Home Improvement during my preview session, but my attachment to my tiny flying home grew every time I made an addition.
Once I had left the confines of Sagittarius Station II, I was let loose into the procedurally generated open world. Split into two biomes, above and below the dust cloud, the locations where you can land and explore are denoted by blinking orange lights in the distance. My curiosity got the better of me every time I spotted a beacon in the distance, even though its signal drew me toward yet another derelict building just like the last. Having only played a small slice of the game, I can’t speak to the overall variety, but I hope that the promised journey below the dust cloud provides more and not just more of the same
Par for the course, you’ll need to manage stamina, health, hunger and thirst as you explore, with many of the corrupted consumables found lying about raising one bar while lowering another, so you’ll need to keep a keen eye on your equipment and overall wellbeing. The toxic environment is also rife with viruses that adversely affect the player, each with specific cure requirements. Status demands can quickly become infuriating in survivals games, but here I never found my hunger or thirst getting in the way of progress.
The desolated Earth environment is eerily quiet and sad, with the lives of long-deceased denizens briefly told through abandoned items, notes and environmental queues. Looking out at the sea of deadly green fog feels alien, with the crumbling man-made structures peeking above the clouds being the only reminder that humans once roamed the planet. I wanted to know more, to the extent that I played through the same hour-long demo three times in hopes of finding new information.
The game is still in development, so it’s hard to comment on performance, as I did run into plenty of framerate issues. Still, the general art direction is interesting, tempting you to explore and uncover more about this ravaged landscape.
If I didn’t already give it away by admitting that I played through the demo three times, I’m keen to see what Forever Skies offers past its opening moments. The hallmarks of any survival game are here, but the intriguing setting and reliance on a mobile base of operations give it a unique edge. Combined with the promise of co-op, combat and additional biomes down the road, I will undoubtedly be coming back when it launches into early access.