You’re a lonely astronaut, floating around in space, attempting to deliver your dead grandfather’s ashes to a mass galactic funeral. Then there is a terrible accident – your ship explodes, killing everyone. Except you. Somehow you survive and watch your grandfather’s ashes slip into space. But now it’s all about survival, keeping fed and watered, and ensuring your oxygen levels are kept high. Oh, and you’ll need to try and fix that broken ship with the help of a live chicken who has fast become your best friend. Did I forget to mention that Breathedge is a comedy? Well, welcome to its wacky world – one that is unlike any other. Would you like to take a spacewalk with me?
From the outset Breathedge is going to be one of those games which you are either going to fully get on board with, or are going to hate it – and that’s all thanks to the comedic tone; like a mixture of Borderlands mashed up with the Portal games.
You start things off in your crashed spaceship, with an annoying/funny AI who will guide you around, providing you with endless quips and jokes relating to your perilous situation. On the whole, I think it works well and there are some very funny moments, including some brilliant visual gags. The standard of writing and narrative construction is strong as well, with an interesting and intriguing piece of world-building that should be loved. But essentially none of that matters – it’s all about trying to get out of this alive.
Breathedge is played in the first person and is actually, funnies aside, quite a hardcore survival game. You are first placed in a shuttle compartment which has one thing that is vitally important – the space equivalent of a crafting table. Here, once you get hold of some blueprints and resources, you can make pretty much anything you want. The bad news is that most of the resources are out there in the big black that we call space.
Once you leave the shuttle you are floating in the unknown, left to view the huge crash site left from the accident. Streams of debris are strewn across the galaxy, huge blue cooling streams are frozen in place, and bodies of dead crew members are found everywhere you look.
That is the least of your problems though as once you are out of the shuttle you have to keep an eye on your oxygen levels. You see, initially you can only go out for a few minutes at a time, before you have to quickly scarper back to get more air. As you’d expect to hear, this can becoming annoying, limiting your travel as all you want to do is go out and explore the space between the stars. Patience is a requirement for this game and I’m afraid some people might not give it a chance.
If you do though, soon you will be building better oxygen tanks that last longer and being able to utilise portable oxygen boosters. Soon you can build whole oxygen units and compartments that provide a rest point between the journeys you are taking, as not to be stranded without air again. You’ll certainly have to plan every journey carefully though, because there is a lot of back and forth between the shuttle to get used to.
The key to Breathedge is that everything becomes easier as you build more wacky inventions and keep progressing. You need water and food, and you need to build complex space systems and weapons for drilling, blasting, grasping, and extracting. Resources can be gathered, mined and collated. Everything you need is out there in space – it’s just a question of finding it.
Your main objectives are shown on the HUD and that humourous AI will happily inform you of what you might need to do. But finding out how to action it can get tricky at times and some resources that are needed to build things can feel impossible to locate. It’s another difficult element that won’t keep the newcomers to the survival genre happy; instead leaving them too confused to carry on.
Visually and Breathedge looks very pretty and overall the graphics are of superb quality. Outer space has never looked so attractive whilst the interiors of the ships are vibrant and fascinating. All the reading material you might find dotted around has a fun sort of retro space feel to it too, like a 1950’s B-movie aesthetic, which works brilliantly throughout. The colours spring out of the screen and it’s a world I have enjoyed spending some quality time in. All while trying not to die.
The soundtrack comes with a mix of jazz music while you’re inside the shuttles or other interiors which you can switch off if you like from the radio onboard. Outside in space, there is a much more trippy, calming piece of audio that works delightfully with the action. The voice-over work is very good when it appears, with the AI’s comedic tones fully on the money.
Breathedge on Xbox is a hard game; one that requires patience before rewarding with a deep, funny, and intriguing space survival adventure. It’s a lengthy old journey too, with six chapters to complete in all, with more hours found should you wish to just go out there and explore. I do however think that many may well struggle with this from the get-go, but as long as you give it time, you’ll find plenty of enjoyment from heading to outer space.
The comedy, visuals, and soundtrack are great and so if you liked the film Gravity but felt it could have been funnier and had more chickens in it, then Breathedge is the game for you.