This week, Sunless Sea and Fallen London developer Failbetter games is spearheading the #loveindies event, where everyone is encouraged to celebrate the indie games they think are special, important, or just a grand ol‘ time. LPVG is getting involved in this by bringing you a whole week of coverage dedicated to the games we’d otherwise not be able to share with you!
Snow has always had a presence in horror. Whether it’s the snowed-in hotel Jack Torrance terrorises, the Antarctic base under siege by the Thing, or even the abandoned wreckages of Dead Space 3’s Tau Volantis, snow adds a wholly unique dimension to any horrible situation.
Yet it’s very rarely the main threat. Snow is often used to hide a greater enemy, despite it being a horrific thing in its own right. Snow slows you down, it’s blinding, and the freezing cold sets a very short deadline on your survival. Screw zombies, aliens and murderers, it’s the fluffy white stuff that’s the real threat.
It’s this simple idea that Orthogonal Games uses in Near Death to great effect. A survival game without the hunger and thirst meters, it drops players (literally, from a helicopter) into an abandoned Antarctic base and tasks them with fixing and modifying a Sno-Cat to escape.
It sounds simple, especially with the station’s power still working. But standing between you and rescue are bitterly cold winds and blizzards that make moving around almost impossible at times. Careful orienteering, map-reading, making trails and identifying landmarks can help to a certain extent, at least until the snow picks up and seeing even a metre in front is nigh-impossible. Finding safe and heated rooms (the ones that haven’t had their windows and walls broken by the storms) is the single most important thing for survival, and every warm haven feels like a well-earned, but brief, reprieve.
Near Death is a short game – I finished it in about three hours – but its radically different interpretation of videogame survival has stuck with me. Thematically, it feels a lot like Andy Weir’s novel The Martian, where survival, and eventual escape, is an active fight against the elements. There’s no base-building or hording supplies in Near Death; if you don’t fix the Sno-Cat, you die. It’s brutal and cold, but also beautifully simple.