PS4, PC, PS5
September 28, 2021
AWAY: The Survival Series is an odd game to label. Essentially you are put into the shoes – sorry – paws of a Sugar Glider as you travel about your home island in search of a new nest and home for your family in the name of survival of the fittest.
The title is set out in a mock-documentary fashion, with someone attempting their best David Attenborough impersonation narrating your journey, which at first is quite charming and unique, but quickly wears out its welcome as you become increasingly frustrated with the unpolished gameplay experience and loose controls. And I don’t want to spoil anything story-wise, but a couple of twists along the journey were not expected given the serious nature vibe the title was emanating.
The graphics and world of AWAY are a little rough around the edges, with some textures being a little muddy, but the visuals of the creatures and critters themselves being well done, with the Sugar Gliders offering a cute design that has you empathising with their natural plight. The glider’s animations often feel robotic and unnatural, with odd leg movements and constant clipping through the map, strangely enough for a title that is going for a nature-based approach. The first time I performed a jump took me off guard as my glider instantly jumped what seemed like 100 feet in the air before slamming into the ground with no damage.
As a sugar glider you must traverse the landscape, eat mushrooms and various bugs, fight off spiders, snakes, and scorpions, all whilst sticking close with your family to achieve the ultimate goal: surviving. But the clunky controls work against you for most of the journey, making traversing the landscape feel loose and inconsistent as you slide about and constantly get caught in the terrain and on objects whilst attempting to tame the loose camera controls and tight field of vision. You are able to climb and navigate trees and other objects to reach higher or further terrain, but again, this is just clunky to perform with multiple attempts being required in some sections to get the angle just right. Gliding sounds fun in theory, but the action of which is quite limited and just not fun to execute. You will often find yourself attempting to glide to a nearby destination only to find yourself rapidly trying to course-correct yourself or more often than not miss your mark entirely.
An oddly vague tutorial section is offered at the start of your journey, with prompts with minimal information often popping up then disappearing, leaving you scratching your head at what it was for. Stealth sections instruct you to hide amongst small plants and move slowly, but there is no visual indicator that you are hidden, leaving you sitting in the underbrush hoping that the AI enemy doesn’t notice you. Likewise, the map is another vague aspect that offers little in the way of information to actually guide you anywhere usefully, you can fast travel to certain destinations though which is a positive I guess.
A lock-on mechanic assists with jumping to certain areas, but performing this somehow feels unnatural as your glider jumps into the air and magically lands on the intended destination. During the previously mentioned tutorial section, I was instructed to lock on and jump to a nearby log that my mother was also on, upon doing so I landed right on top of her causing her to suddenly vanish from the game and reappear on another ledge. Combat is equally frustrating, offering a basic attack, a dodge mechanic, and a lock-on mechanic that unfortunately doesn’t really help with making combat any fun. Attacking your foes just ends up with you mashing the attack button as your glider furiously and aimlessly swipes at the attacking spiders and other enemies, one section in particular tasks you with defending your family from an incoming swarm of spiders that is more frustrating than it needs to be.
“Gliding sounds fun in theory and is an often-used mechanic as to be expected, but the action of which is quite limited and just not fun to execute.”
A bountiful amount of mushrooms and berries are littered around the environment for your glider to feast on, which will refill your stamina, health, and hunger meters, along with your glide meter. Though one confusing problem is only some mushrooms are edible, with others being purely decorative scenery that cannot otherwise be engaged with. The edible ones are red, so you can distinguish them easily enough, but it is an odd design choice nonetheless to also include mushrooms and plants that you cannot interact with just to fill in the scenery.
AWAY is reminiscent of games that may have come out during the PS2 era, offering a left-field perspective and unique approach for players to enjoy. Like these games of yesteryear, a lot of the fun comes from the unpolished feeling and utter insanity on offer, though at the time this was often expected, whereas in this day and age it just feels like attempting such an experience should be a far more cohesive one. The title feels like it needs a lot of work, from the clunky controls to the oddly empty world, to the numerous glitches that you will encounter. I have no doubt that the developers are trying to offer a unique and exciting time for gamers, but the execution is a little muddled and comes off as mediocre, enough so that it really sours the entire experience, especially one that seems to take itself seriously.
A game that does all of this a lot better, whilst adding some levity to the experience is Maneater, which strikes the perfect balance between nature documentary and an entertaining game to play through. AWAY attempted something different, and if it had struck more of this balance it could have been a unique little break from the norm.
- Narration is a nice touch, offering some fun facts throughout the journey
- Art direction is decent
- Clunky controls
- Lack of direction for the player
- frustrating combat and platforming
- An unpolished experience
I wish I had more positive points to speak about, but AWAY: The Survival Series just isn’t that fun to play, and being a video game this is one of the most important aspects for the developers to nail. The experience feels unnaturally empty and shallow, and whilst the good intentions are there, the execution makes it a hard title to recommend spending money on, at least in its current state which feels like an early access title, despite it being a proper release. If this title piques your interest, I would suggest waiting to see what the developers end up fixing and tweaking as they have promised to fix multiple issues and provide constant updates to offer a more polished title.