Hands On Preview: Alone With You
Benjamin Rivers’ Alone With You is a beautiful game, let me just tell you that up front. It’s beautiful in both its looks (which screenshots alone cannot simply do justice), and in how it builds relationships between you and that game’s characters. To better illustrate this to you, let me lay out the game’s premise and E3 demo.
Alone With You puts you in the space shoes of a genderless protagonist, the lone surviving crew member of a failed terraforming colony. The mysterious (to the player) failure has resulted in the entire planet imploding in only 21 days. Your only companion is the station’s AI, who wants to escape the doomed station just as much as you. Your only hope for survival is the station’s escape pod, which is of course, is not functional and will need some modifications to make the lengthy flight you’ll both need. The only problem is that the crew members who have the knowledge to make these modifications are dead. To remedy this issue, the AI is able to use the stations holo-sim to recreate holographic versions of the crew members to walk you through fixing the ship.
While all that is intriguing enough on its own, the game while primarily exploratory, is also a romance game with each of the four pseudo-resurrected crew members being potential love interests. The crew includes two men and two women, all specialists in their departments. Each day of your 21 day quest for escape will begin with a mission, usually to gather parts for the ship, and will usually end with a conversation with one or more of the holographic crew.
The demo I played begins on one of those such days, tasking me to collect materials from the station’s communications relay. The relay was about five floors tall, and was where one of the crew members, Winnie Laurier, spent most of her time. I set about searching each floor for the parts we needed, and while searching for those parts I discovered other items belonging to Winnie. Now, while many open world games have collectibles to be found that add to the main story or give insight into the game’s world, these items gave an extremely personal glimpse into the the mind and habits of Winnie.
From plenty of physical books (even though the station had a full digital library), to torn pages of notes written by her, to even a cot set up on one of the floors, everything I found added to my impression of who exactly this person was. Most poignant among them was a book on how to handle romance and social situations in the workplace.
Once I found each object the station’s AI would pop up to talk to me a bit about each one. Enough dialog to be informative, but not so much that collecting them became bothersome. This balance of having just the right amount of dialog is a common thread throughout the demo and is something Rivers is focused on maintaining throughout the full game.
At the end of my day, I was awoken in the middle of the night with a sudden urge to visit the hologram chamber. Upon my arrival I was greeted by Winnie and got my first true taste of the interaction with the crew. While not too long of a conversation, it felt natural and organic, there was never a time where her response didn’t line up with mine or vice versa. There’s also a certain aspect of choice to your interaction, with me being able to either mention some of the things of hers I found, or not. While the demo wasn’t long enough to really get a feel for the romance aspect, there were a couple of conversation options that were definitely in that vain.
Judging by the demo the game is shaping up to be quite exceptional thus far, with an atmosphere and character to it that feels entirely unique. Rivers is currently hoping that Alone With You will release sometime in 2015.