Phoning Home, which launches on steam February 7th, promises players an exploration-heavy survival experience, complete with a warm-hearted story starring cool metal robots.
Played in the third-person, players control ION, a shiny little can of a robot that shares genes with WALL-E and Johnny 5 in equal parts. Top-notch voice acting, combined with thoughtful gameplay and a touching story, may well create an experience to rival even the best Pixar classic!
We've sat down for a preview of Phoning Home, and are excited to offer the details. Wishlist Phoning Home on Steam, and gear up for its release on February 7th.
As with any science fiction survival game, Phoning Home drops our hapless hero onto a foreign landscape without nothing but a trusty starting weapon (in this case, a pipe.) Unlike most survival games, however, Phoning Home boasts allies, and ION will get tips, missions, and sass from his talking (and severely crash-landed) ship.
As the game progresses, ION is joined by another robot, the rolling cousin to BB-8, ANI. While players won't control ANI directly, she'll help ION search the alien world for ancient technology to help the pair blast off into space and freedom. Unfortunately, ANI is neither the fighter nor the agile robot that ION is, leaving the player to protect and guide ANI along the path to planetary escape.
Phoning Home offers third-person gameplay that boasts a keyboard/mouse layout and full controller support at launch, which is great since the gorgeous environments look excellent on the big screen.
There are four primary aspects of Phoning Home's gameplay: exploration, puzzles, crafting, and combat. Exploration is the key feature here, as players must guide ION and ANI through forests, deserts, and mountains, during rain, snow, and scorching heat. A day/night cycle is present, and the world of the night reveals different facets of the alien landscape, such as mysterious blooms of light and iridescent flora.
The puzzles in Phoning Home are woven throughout the gameplay and will challenge players to find ways to unlock alien technology, move to seemingly inaccessible locations, and occasionally work around threatening creatures instead of duking it out with them.
Phoning Home's crafting element is a streamlined affair that unlocks as the story progresses and allows players to collect naturally occurring resources throughout their travels with which to craft items, upgrades, and tools. It is entirely done in the inventory menu through pictures and helps to create a sense of alien-otherness that increases the atmosphere.
The creatures populating the strange world within Phoning Home aren't all hugs and kisses and range from flailing giant ground-worms to screeching pterodactyls that own the skies. Players will have to deal with these dangerous lifeforms and can either find ways around combat or grab their trusty pipe or whatnot and bludgeon any pesky beast into submission. Be warned, though–ground worms love robo-dinners.
graphics and sound
The graphics in Phoning Home are a sight to behold and a truly impressive accomplishment for an indie game, the first from developer ION Lands. Grassy fields wave in the breeze, insects buzz ION's optical lenses, and precipitation falls whenever the hell it wants to. All of these details allow the alien world that makes up ION's prison come to life and create a serene loneliness that's equal parts beauty and isolation.
The character models are well-crafted and animated–monster dogs hop and pounce like their earthly counterparts, ION leans into his turns, then flails his shiny metal arms in terror when you let him plummet off a tall ledge.
The voice acting is professional and crisp, and the game's sounds add to the atmosphere; rain drops pitter-patter on leaf cover, jets burn audibly, and primordial creatures cry in the night. The soundtrack is fitting–often ambient but sometimes orchestrated to punctuate the story.
Phoning Home promises to do something very few indie games do: compete on the AAA level with top-notch storytelling, voice acting, gameplay, and visual beauty.
We look forward to doing a full review of Phoning Home, and until then, you know where to find us. (Sitting on the couch, keeping little ANI from tumbling off a precipice into a beautiful canyon!)
If you want more on Phoning Home, also check out our interview with Marko, head of ION Lands.