Phoning Home

 

I bring you Phoning Home, a new game, from Ion Lands, a small Berlin based game developer. It releases on the 8th of February on Steam.

Before I go too much further, I will give you an option. One could continue to read through this article, which I hope explains everything accurately, or one could watch my first video review, which I have posted below. Or, alternately, one could do both.

 

 

I would class Phoning Home as an open-world exploration adventure game. One takes control of Ion, a small mobile unit from a crashed ship, to explore the world to find resources, craft items and uncover the story.

 

Graphics and Style
From a graphical perspective, it looks good. It isn’t the best I’ve seen, but those that are better are generally from triple-A games. Texture details are nice and the lighting works well. There are also good weather effects that are specific to zones, such as rain in the forested region, and sandstorms in the desert. Perhaps because it is still in beta, the world does seem a little sparse right now. Other than the resources you collect, you won’t see many differing ground clutter items, and lots and lots of grass. My frame rate was generally constantly high at 60 (because of V-Sync), but I did have a few times when it did dip significantly for short periods of time.

It has what one might call a realistic style. It is made to look like the real world rather than anything else, not cartoon-y or cell-shaded.

 

Phoning Home

 

Sound and Music
Overall, sound was really quite good. I had no issues with any of the SFX or music. I was quite surprised at the detail of the atmospheric sounds when I loaded this game up. The forest zone had a lot of ambiance, with wind and insect noises and the occasional squark of something unseen. In contrast, the desert zone had little atmospheric noise, which was quite fitting. The music, instead of being constant, seemed to be reactive. It came and went throughout the game, sometimes randomly I think, but also in response to certain events, like combat. And when the music was there, it suited the scene nicely. All in all, it was of high quality and fitted the game well.

 

Gameplay
In Phoning Home, one controls a small robot, called Ion, and maneuvers it throughout the world to do various things. It plays the same as many other open-world resource gathering style games, with a similar control scheme of WASD for directional movement and mouse for visual movement. Ion has personal resources that have to be managed, mainly health, battery level and thruster fuel.

The crafting system is part of the inventory; one just has to select what item to create, and as long as the resources are within the inventory, the item is made. Collecting resources is as simple as finding them lying about the place and activating them. There is no mini-map, but there is a compass, and once a resource has been collected for the first time, icons for close by resources of the same type will appear on the compass showing which direction they lie. As one progresses through the game, more technology is unlocked (such as a teleporter or a photon blaster) to help solve new problems.

Ion’s hull can be compromised through several means, such as dropping from heights, contact with the edge of level deterrents (poison gas, lava or very thorny plants for example) or the various hostile creatures that one can come across in the game. Repair kits and other items can be crafted to repair Ion, as well as battery packs and fuel canisters to replenish those personal resources.

 

 

Story
As I mentioned before, the basic premise of Phoning Home is to control the mobile unit of a crashed ship and eventually find a way off the planet. There is, of course, a bit more to the story than this.

The ship, and Ion, come from a planet called P1, which is implied to be completely electronic and mechanical, with no organic life existing on it. The ship and its on-board AI, along with Ion, had been dispatched to search for resources when they crashed upon an unknown world. Ion is sent out to locate resources and to try and send a message to P1. Along the way, Ion discovers another ship from P1, but whose mobile unit is missing. Ion must locate this unit and with its help, find a way off the planet.

There is an air of mystery about the planet, as resources exist naturally that the ship AI did not know could occur naturally. Ruins of a previous civilization can be found along the way, which raises even more questions about where these previous inhabitants have gone.

There is one thing I haven’t really touched on, though I should – one of the main objectives in this game is to find the other mobile unit. While I didn’t get to that point within the game, I’ve seen this in the trailers and screen shots. There are a couple things I very much dislike with games, and those are QTEs (quick time events) and escort quests. I have enough trouble just keeping myself alive, let alone protecting something else that I don’t have any control over. I would really like to continue to play this game and experience the very interesting story, but having that escort quest ahead of me really turns me off. Luckily, not everyone thinks the same as me.

 

Some Links:

Phoning Home on Steam
Phoning Home Website
Phoning Home Facebook
Ion Lands Facebook

 

Reviewed On: PC

Review System: Nvidia GTX 1070, i5 4690, 16GB RAM

Playtime: 4 hours

SUMMARY: Phoning Home is a good looking game with a very interesting story. Part adventure, part exploration, part open world with some action, crafting and problem solving thrown in, it ticks a lot of boxes. While mandatory escort is something that I don’t enjoy, others might not mind it or even like it. Looking beyond that, Phoning Home is a very capable game.

SCORE: 80%

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