I Am Alive has had a troubled past. The game was announced at E3 2008 but quickly went silent and in 2010, the project was scraped and re-started by Ubisoft Shanghai. This transformation meant that game then became a third person downloadable only game. Has this long development time been detrimental to the outcome or has the development troubles been a blessing in disguise?
I Am Alive is a game set in a post-apocalyptic world. You take the role of a nameless man returning home after spending a year getting across the country. It has been one year since the entire world has suffered a catastrophic event simply known as the event. Your character has returned to his home town of Haventon to be reunited with his wife and child. Haventon has not been spared by the event and has been devastated with bridges collapsed, skyscrapers crumbling, and the surface covered in dust.
I Am Alive feels like a survival game more than most games in the genre. The world feels desperate, desolate, and lonely. There is a real sense of “every man for themselves”. There are plenty of games that may come to mind as comparatives to I Am Alive but the best comparison would be Cormac McCarthy’s movie The Road. Gameplay is slow, depicting as much realism as Ubisoft Shanghai could, where every single action is substantial.
You will spend more time on your own, battling the destroyed landscape than anything else and although there is a real sense of desperation and loneliness, you are not completely alone. Throughout your travels, you will encounter NPCs is a similar situation to you. Some of them are afraid and just want to protect what little they have left; but others are ruthless and hostile. When you begin the game you have a pistol without any bullets but throughout play you will be lucky to find a couple of bullets and many encounter require you to be strategic with you weapons. When these aggressors are coming at you, knowing which enemies pose the biggest threat is essential. Taking down the enemy with the gun, or the superior in the group is a sure-fire way to make the others think twice about running at you. The gameplay is simple, but strategic. The impact of just shooting one enemy is pretty powerful. Bullets are scarce and treasured.
The other major aspect of the game is traversing the treacherous landscape. Sticking to the realistic gameplay, you have a stamina meter that needs to be watched very carefully. As you run and climb, your stamina depletes and only by resting does it replenish. When stamina runs out when climbing, you can mash on the right trigger to exert an extra push but this will decrease your maximum stamina that can only be refilled by eating food you find throughout the environment. The climbing gameplay can be thrilling at times with the music ramping up the pressure when you are running low on stamina. Unfortunately, the gameplay can be weak at times in this regard. There are time when you’ll be low on stamina, trying to climb and the game will perform a different action which can lead to some frustration.
After all that has happened, the game is probably better as a downloadable only game clocking in at about 3 and a half hours. I Am Alive shouldn’t be played for its gameplay. The one thing I Am Alive gets spot-on is the atmosphere. You are alone and scavenging really feels like it should. Enemies don’t always drop bullets but when they do it’s truly a gratifying feeling. It doesn’t fulfil its potential but I Am Alive shows a lot of promise for another iteration to hopefully fix all the small problems. I Am Alive is worth playing, but you will spend your time thinking of its potential rather than what it is. The great atmosphere is hampered by the sometimes frustrating climbing.