[Early Access Review] P.A.M.E.L.A – Promising Sci-fi Survival?
Platform: PC (Steam)
Developer: NYVVE Studios
Price: 24.99$ / 22.99€
(Early Access) Release: 9th March 2017
Review Key provided by “Plan of Attack”
P.A.M.E.L.A puts us in the role of a sleeper, a human which awakes after years in cryosleep just to find out, that something horrible happened to the utopian Eden. Infected and corrupted by a mysterious disease Eden is not longer home to humans but to zombies and machines.
The story of P.A.M.E.L.A (from now on only “Pamela”) will be told through various Text- and Audio-logs, like in most of these Indie-games. However Pamela doesn´t just have a story to “have a story” like other Survival games, it´s one of the main focus points, which really shows if you try to dig deeper into it. While I couldn´t figure out really much of the story myself during my playtime, due to the sheer amount of discoverable logs, everything I found added something new to it, expanding it and showed me that this game wants to tell something massive.
Pamela´s story is huge, complex but very good at the same time, just to give you an impression how complex here´s a link to a steam forum´s post which covered a lot of the story. It holds up to its promises of a giant lore for people who are interested in it without throwing it in your face like other games. I found it interesting to discover these logs one by another and reading through this thread because Pamela´s story got me hooked, well I´m a big Sci-Fi fan too after all. And to hear that they plan on improving the storytelling during its Early Access phase and continue working on the story makes me very happy!
Yet Pamela won´t make it easy for you to discover its story, it´s a Survival game after all. You will have to fight zombies and other things in order to survive and explore Eden, while collecting enough food to not starve or die of thirst, additionally it “features” a permadeath.
I think I don´t have to explain how Survival games work and Pamela doesn´t throw much new into the mix. At the moment it offers the basics like the Survival elements, combat, different upgrade items to find, the timing hacking game that exists since years and such stuff. All in all they all work pretty good and build quite a solid base for this game and are for sure the most “polished” part on this game yet, although they have some problems, in my eyes:
The weapon-less Combat for example, which will be a big part at the beginning because you won´t find much weapons, just feels boring, since you only have one attack button, a dodge and a block button, making zombie encounters basically a smashing on the enemy, especially since they attack rather slow and never impose a real challenge. Another thing that may sound cool but gets repetitive after a short while is the scanning, in Pamela you can´t just open a box and take the stuff, you have to scan it first, which takes 1-2 seconds before you can interact with it. Looks cool and sounds like a nice addition but after just a little while I got kinda bored of it, since it prevents a rather fast progression even if you already know the area.
In some cases these boxes will have locks which leads us to the last negative point that caught my attention, the hacking. It´s basically the same timing based minigame we know since years, a cursor is moving around and we have to hit a button as soon as it´s in a certain area, the problem here again is the repetitivity and the importance of this mini game. The further you progress the more locks you will find and if you suck at this mini game, well shame for you but you will have a tough time in this game. I would have liked to see a system like in RE7. where you have to find lock picks to open chests etc. that grant you additionally items, make the locked boxes a nice addition that grant you more items if you explore the environment carefully but don´t make everything rely on such a mini game, that´s my opinion at least.
Additionally to these basic things Pamela also offers more advanced systems already like Base building, guns or Shields etc. And while the weapons and especially the different futuristic things like shields or energy swords really look amazing and feel pretty satisfying, when you kill some zombies with them, if you happen to find some of these things, the Base Building doesn´t work that well. At its current state it just suffers from Pamela´s overall lack of information concerning your different tools, since it´s quite a complex system. A lot things you can build work together and often require other buildings or things to be built first, considering the cost of some of these it´s frustrating to figure out how it works. I´m sure this will be improved during its Early Access phase but at the moment it can´t show its full potential due to the lack of informations and its complexity.
As said before, Pamela has a permadeath mechanic, you will loose all your items and progression as soon as you die. Additionally to this classic permadeath it also offers some roguelike-elements. After your death you will keep the “money” you collected, be able to respawn on different locations if you progressed far enough to unlock more cryosleep stations and get XP based on the length you could survive etc. I guess, with which you can level up and earn “skill points”, these can then be spent on a skill tree. Even tho the skill tree only offers rather lame upgrades like certain percent bonuses it works as a little help, I would have loved to see some more creativity tho. Additionally you will be able to upgrade your sleeper with Augment coupons and other things, to survive your current playthrough, a nice addition!
All in all Pamela´s Gameplay might not add much new to the mix right now but already builds a very solid base for the coming months. For an Early-Access game it offers by far one of the most polished Gameplay experiences, as well as giving a good overview of what´s coming or needs improvement. Despite its flaws I really like it!
So, let´s talk a bit about Pamela´s visuals, shall we?
It shouldn´t be a big surprise that Pamela looks absolutely amazing, especially for an Indie game. It does not only offer really stunning lighting effects, quite sharp textures and really cool looking effects, I think you know what I mean. However this would have gone to waste without the best part about Pamela, its artstyle. Between the mass of Jungle like worlds and generic forests Pamela shines with its spacestation not only because it´s something unique but especially due to the style of it. Every area has its own unique architecture and artistic vision, which is amazing on its own due to the amount of areas, while they all share the synthetic, sharp and angular main theme of the station. Everything in this game feels like it actually belong in this world, even the menu, which is basically a hologram on your arm.
The artstyle combined with the amazing graphics and the Horror-like theme of the game create one hell of an atmosphere, that I didn´t experience in Survival games yet. During my time with Pamela I had various situations that just creeped me out or were so well done artistic-wise I´m truly blown away how much it already offers in its current state. Unfortunately atmosphere can´t be described really well, you have to see and experience Pamela to understand what makes Eden so beautiful and unique. To be honest, it´s maybe the best world I´ve ever seen in a Survival game and to hear that it will get expanded over the Early-Access phase makes me kinda hyped!
So, let´s talk about some not-that-great things before we come to a Verdict, the Bugs and other things. And yes I´m aware of the fact that Early-Access games don´t have to run perfect, have bugs and other technical issues, that´s why I won´t talk much about the bad optimization, the giant memory hunger and many other things. However Pamela has so many bugs and problems, that it´s even too much for an Early-Access game. It crashes every 1-2h, making you loose some or all of your inventory, things like vending machines still don´t work properly and the loading time is abnormal, to list a few of these things. It just ruins a big part of the fun if you have to wait ~5min (and that´s with a 1070 and an i7 4790) before you can even play it, they even implemented a warning in the loading screen to not close the game, due to this extensive loading time. Or the various crashes that occur randomly or if you want to quit, resulting in inventory-loss. There are just so many technical things ruining the fun, if you don´t have patience with it.
Luckily these are just a chunk of the issues that existed at launch, since they did a really great job at patching the biggest issues out in just a few days. I´m optimistic that these issues will get fixed soon but I just had to mention them, since that´s too much even for an Early-Access game.
Pamela already offers one of the most unique Survival experiences I´ve ever seen, due to its huge and complex Story and lore, its already good base Gameplay and amazing Graphics and artstyle. I´m impressed and surprised by Pamela, it´s a fresh approach to a milked genre and I´m sure the Early-Access phase will help them to fix the flaws that it currently has and give them the headroom to finish this already very promising base.
However I can´t fully recommend it at the moment, due to its huge amount of bugs and technical issues, which can ruin the fun quite quickly and lead me to stop for-12 days when I lost my inventory again.
I´ll update my EA-Review once these issues are fixed but at the moment I can´t give it the 8/10 it deserves in my eyes.