Published on February 22nd, 2013 | by Shawn Long, Features Editor
Games That Could Have Been Great – Episode One: I Am Alive
As the leader of the editorial division at GAMINGtruth, I have decided to introduce a bi-weekly special looking back at games that had the potential to be great–but failed miserably. Games to be qualified in this category must be beyond the ability to patch the game and add additional content.
This week we will look at quite possibly one of my personal biggest disappointments ever: I Am Alive.
What it Did Right:
I Am Alive was about world-ending earthquakes destroying America, and a lone man trying to make it back home to his family. When he arrives to his hometown, it is in shambles, and his family nowhere to be found. Instinct alone drives him to search and explore, hoping to find clues.
The basic story and execution were very well done. Hardly any survivors are to be seen, so the feeling of an abandoned world under dust due to the earthquakes was very brooding and believable. Ammunition is scarce, leading to interesting and stressful combat, which, in this situation, is a good thing.
A stamina system is implemented as well, which adds to the realism and really provokes players to be smart decision making. Finally, my favorite part was the fact that if you get shot with a bullet, your energy life is depleted to the point of near death, which is rare to see in the current age of video games.
What it Did Wrong:
For some reason, I Am Alive became a platformer. You spend more time climbing stuff and swinging with a rope than you do with combat or exploring. Maybe this is more of a personal preference, but I would have liked to have seen more interior exploration than scaling these buildings and swinging from spot-to-spot like an idiotic Spider-Man.
Speaking of interiors, there are not enough to explore. In a barren world, there should be tons of buildings to explore and rummage for supplies, almost in a Fallout-esque manner. Think of Fallout, but in a non-mutant setting. Why not implement those elements into I Am Alive?
Another problem is the lack of color in the world. I understand the land is covered in dust, but, seriously, did the designers just forget there are other colors in a palette? While the main character looks decent, everyone else looks odd, creepy and almost lifeless.
The main problem, however, are those creepy, odd-looking NPCs that inhabit the world. They are either against you, or want your help. Let’s look at how each situation played out:
- Needing Help: You approach the person (let’s say a man) and he complains (over and over using the same phrases) that he needs something. You go find said item, hand it to him and then he stays in the same position you find him in and thanks you. You receive points to add to your score. The end.
- Against You: You walk up, he sees you then tries to murder you.
So, basically, helping people does nothing, and everyone who doesn’t need help wants you dead. This is idiotic. Helping people should do more then give you a “score.” How about they help you on your journey? Or, maybe, give away items to assist you, or allow you to access different areas that you couldn’t without helping them — anything besides some damn POINTS.
It is not like it is easy to accomplish these tasks, either. You are usually scouring areas for an inhaler or a Band-Aid or something. As time consuming as it is, there should be more of a reward for completing side quests.
Secondly, the fact that people who don’t need your help and want to kill you is just as stupid. It plays out the same every time: a group of guys walk up, you put your hands up and then you attack the one with the gun and stab the others. How about some variety? It’s impossible to just sneak past someone, but why not add this option? Or how about you can actually talk to the people and try to either get them to piss off, join you or offer the player a chance to join their Band-Aid-seeking gang? These people are literally standing in one spot with no other purpose other than to wait for you to approach and trigger the quest. Why are they not trying to leave the city? Why are they not trying to better themselves? WHY THE HELL ARE YOU JUST STANDING AROUND LIKE AN IDIOT?
Potential only gets you so far when it comes to a video game, and the amount of potential I Am Alive had was off the charts. Piss-poor execution left a shell of a game that could have been truly great. You could blame not being a full-fledged game as it was digitally released on the Xbox LIVE Arcade and the PlayStation Network, but that does not mean much nowadays.
AAA titles have been released as downloadable games, so there is realistically nothing to pardon this game from not achieving greatness, other than crippling laziness. Perhaps a sequel can improve upon the shortcomings, but, for now, we are left with a game that could have been great, but wasn’t.
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