The infamous walking simulator genre is often unfairly associated with negative connotations. After all, there are some cracking examples of such games being excellent like Firewatch and What Remains of Edith Finch. EDENGATE: The Edge of Life is essentially a walking sim, however developers HOOK have described it as an interactive experience; either way, you know pretty much what kind of game to expect.
But is EDENGATE: The Edge of Life a narrative masterpiece that will keep you hooked, or does it ultimately fail to captivate?
Awakening in a hospital bed, a woman has no knowledge of who she is or what she’s doing there. Despite this unfortunate bout of amnesia, a handily placed ID badge reveals her to be Mia Lorenson, a scientist. Rather bizarrely though, the hospital is abandoned and everyone appears to have disappeared. Isolated and alone, Mia must figure out what’s happened and why the city of Edengate is desolate.
EDENGATE: The Edge of Life is rather mysterious that’s for sure, with you and Mia uncovering memories together which try to convey the prior events. This is mainly done through interacting with items shrouded in smoke, triggering cutscenes each time. Initially there’s a real intrigue about the devastation that has hit the city, but as you progress and recover further memories, you learn less and less from the vague storytelling moments.
The realisation sets in that the narrative isn’t going anywhere and you’re left pondering more questions than you began with. And that’s a shame because the potential is there for a fascinating sci-fi tale involving some form of virus and pandemic raging through the city. However, it never quite reaches a natural point at which you’ll be satisfied. Knowing the actual cause of the disastrous occurrence, understanding the emergence of tentacle-like things, and even why Mia forgot everything, would be a good start.
Shifting focus to the gameplay and it’s mostly a case of wandering around in a third-person perspective, with a fairly linear path to follow. Whether you’re in the hospital corridors or out in the city, various apparatus, vehicles and barriers will guide you. Everything is so lifeless, which I suppose suits the atmosphere, but the lack of interesting interactive items – aside from the memory triggering ones – does nothing for engagement.
There’s a small amount of minimalistic platforming style action at least, where Mia can climb over and under objects. However, it’s slightly confusing seeing Mia get by some things while other obstacles of a similar nature seem to be unpassable. Occasionally a garbage bin might need manoeuvring into a specific position, and kindly (rather too kindly, perhaps) EDENGATE tells you the exact spot to place it. You’re not going to be challenged by such situations.
Nevertheless, the handful of puzzles included may provide a nice workout for the old grey matter. Although that’s very unlikely given the solutions to each are practically gifted to you through the most obvious ways possible. Should you need a code, it’s the only number in the vicinity, while the sequences required to start up a cinema projector are laid out in simple terms. The only other activity to partake in is the shining of a light to make the tentacles disappear.
Visually, initial impressions are that the desolate world is drab and in a state of disarray, which is done to a decent standard. Closer inspection unveils shoddily placed textures and a strange blurring of the nearby environments once in a while. Nothing good can be said regarding the character model for Mia either; especially her wildly moving and colour changing hair.
Ultimately then, EDENGATE: The Edge of Life is an interactive experience providing two hours worth of unfulfilled potential. The foundations are in place with an intriguing sci-fi plot, a selection of puzzles and even – very light – platforming. Sadly though, the narrative is too vague and leads nowhere, while the puzzling is beyond simple. It’s also bereft of noteworthy items to catch your eye as you’re traversing the locations within, which leaves very little to hold your attention.
EDENGATE: The Edge of Life is pretty cheap to be fair, but there just aren’t enough reasons to part with the necessary cash.
EDENGATE: The Edge of Life is out now on the Xbox Store