Adventure Gamers Awards
Sometimes a game’s strategic marketing efforts can be a bit misleading. Such is the case with Benjamin Rivers’ Alone With You, which boasts the tagline “A Sci-Fi Romance Adventure.” While a clear attempt to appeal to a wide demographic, such a description probably pigeonholes this interesting game too much. It is not nearly a romance so much as it is simply a story about isolation, human contact, and the power of emotional connection—all set against an effectively bleak science fiction backdrop. And it’s not really a traditional adventure, but rather a methodical third-person exploration game with very occasional puzzles.
You play as a member of a space crew in the year 2064, a character who serves as a blank slate at the time you create it. You will enter your name at the start and you can feel free to project whatever gender you prefer onto the protagonist; none is selected and your face is never seen underneath your helmet. You are part of a large terraforming mission in the outer reaches of the galaxy, an operation which goes disastrously wrong after what is referred to as the "Rift Event." When you return to the wrecked interior of the ship immediately after the event, you find you’re the only living member of the crew remaining, and your only companion is AF4B/3B, the awkwardly named Artificial Intelligence construct built into the ship. The AI’s sole purpose now, with you as the survivor, is to find a way to get you back home to Earth.
It’s not that easy, of course. There are numerous obstacles preventing a simple shuttle ride home, including problems related to communication, food sources, and engine dynamics. There’s no getting out of here unless those dilemmas can be resolved. Thankfully, your former colleagues on the expedition (a variety of skilled scientists, engineers, botanists, and other relevant experts) were hard at work on many of these issues in their respective stations down on the planet. The action takes place as you venture out to these stations, each quest taking up one day of game time, looking for the information and resources necessary for your AI to utilize in preparing the journey home.
The missions involve you, guided by the constant presence of AF4B/3B, exploring the Agro Domes, Comm Relay, and other related areas to gather the beneficial data required. Your character, totally bereft of backstory, appears to be little more than a colony worker bee—think Roger Wilco without the endearing clumsiness—but thankfully the AI is nearly omniscient in all relevant scientific fields, so the significance of each discovery is fully translated for you in great detail on the spot. These missions are not just about finding science-y stuff, however; each of these stations was fully populated with a cast of human beings with very human traits, for better and certainly for worse. It’s not a spoiler to say that after the Rift Event, not one of them survived, and many died in rather bleak and gruesome conditions. Besides their research, they left evidence of relationship dynamics, love, jealousy, rebellion, rage, and many consequences of acting out on these emotions.
Having no one to talk to about all this would be a bit boring (and frequently is in many other narrative exploration games), so your helpful AI has found a solution for this—each night, after that day’s mission and a brief nap, you can visit an artificial hologram of the leader of the station you just visited. Because each leader’s projected personality was drawn from their life before the Rift Event and their subsequent demise, these holograms aren't aware of the positive research developments that took place on their stations as dedicated scientists and engineers worked to the end—but they also aren't aware of how their staff felt about them or about each other, and certainly haven't processed their own deaths. These nightly conversations allow you to share the discoveries you found so that, ostensibly, the brilliant knowledge of these leaders can then tell the AI how to use them to create a safe and sustainable ride home.
More importantly than a means to safety, though, these conversations serve as human connection points. The crew leaders were just as lonely as you even when surrounded by their subordinates, and still bear the emotional scars of the difficult events that unfolded under their watch. They just need someone to talk to, and their dialogue during these lengthy discourses is extremely well written. Unfortunately that’s not a two-way street; due to the hyper-focus on your character’s neutrality, you have no real personality, and thus you don’t even get complete lines of dialogue, only a constant series of three abbreviated responses or topic choices instead. Not even allowing the protagonist to speak a full sentence is a little too extreme, and the one-sided nature of the conversations is a disservice to the obvious skill of the writer.
Events take place over three weeks, a game-week being five days. Each week's first four days follow the pattern of journey and exploration, return to headquarters, have lengthy conversation with a different crew leader. For the most part, you can do the four missions in any order, which is not a choice you should labor over since there are absolutely no story consequences for any particular sequence. The fifth day of each week is the true moment of player decision. For your off-day, the AI allows you to pick one of the four crew members to revisit for an additional extended conversation. This is clearly where the “romance” referred to in the game’s tagline is intended to fit. It is clear that you’re supposed to pick one of the leaders that you’re keen on and take every opportunity to see them (the game even has an achievement for picking the same person to meet with all three weeks).Continued on the next page...
What our readers think of Alone With You
Posted by Overmann.ita on Dec 11, 2017
What a narrative game should be
A surprising game that executes great into the field of "narrative experiences". Very few and simple puzzles, almost all the value is in the script: you start alone, with an AI that asks you to explore around different sites to gather information about what...