Houston, we have a problem…
It may come as a surprise to know that, during my day job, I work at a game studio doing marketing and game design. The game I work on was made by a solo indie developer who decided to make a game in his spare time; it ultimately exploded in popularity to a point where a small team is required to maintain it. It’s a badge of pride to work on a game that was made by a single person that appears to have been made by a much bigger team.
It’s this exact sentiment that sold Antares for me; of course, its beauty can’t be denied (gotta love Unreal) but hearing that this Dead Space x DOOM survival horror FPS title was crafted and published by a single developer made it something I immediately wanted to support. To Sonaloux Entertainment, let’s just get this out of the way: I am absolutely sold on premise and potential and firmly believe you’re someone to keep an eye out for.
Onto Antares itself — first up, I’m going to say it again: Antares is gorgeous. The far-flung research space station setting shines through, the minimalist, sterile feel providing an eerie backdrop against the science experiment gone wrong. The graphics boost the fear factor, as the eye-popping environments make everything seem more realistic. At one point, I just kind of stopped exploring and stared at the very in-your-face star — the game’s namesake, Antares — and really got into the main character’s situation mentally. Here I was, on a one-man investigative mission, to find out what happened to this research outpost. With no help from home other than a trusty AI following me around, I was completely and utterly alone, and the atmosphere absolutely nailed that feeling.
Speaking of that one-man investigative mission, that’s why you’re there — literally. Scientists were up in space, researching, when the outpost went offline. After some time, it mysteriously came back online, and you were sent to investigate why. It’s immediately clear that you are, in fact, not alone — a voice will occasionally boom out, taunting you as you dig deeper into what happened. As long as you keep your wits about you, he shouldn’t phase you, but his presence is definitely not a welcome one.
Now, I’m not someone who often has a lot of guts when it comes to survival horror games, but I found Antares to be one I could actually get into. The enemies (linked to that aforementioned science experiment gone wrong) will chase you around as you explore the outpost, but they don’t truly go ham until the power-down sequence is initiated and your noise level is too high; luckily, your trusty AI companion will warn you when that’s about to happen, so you can always mentally prep yourself before go-time. Now, predictability does not often do well in a survival horror game, but the tension/release model that the power-down cycle provides is enough to keep players on edge and should provide for some psychological exhaustion.
As for the enemies themselves, players will find pretty early on that the enemy diversity simply isn’t there. From a game design perspective, this can be rationed away fairly easily — the science experiment only went to shit fairly recently, so perhaps the monsters haven’t had enough time to evolve in a super diverse way. From a gameplay perspective, however, it can get a tad bit stale when it comes to seeing the same four types of enemies (with one type being the overwhelming majority).
One thing I really enjoyed was finding all the scattered logs from people related to the space station. Instead of the standard spiel from scientists that would talk about their life’s work going fine, then going to shit and being really scared/confused about it, it was more realistic and spoke more to the human psyche. One employee, bored to tears with the daily log assignments, would read Wikipedia articles to fulfill log quotas, indicating that there wasn’t a whole lot going on in the day to day lives of those stranded in space. Another account depicts a researcher so starved for a natural Earth environment that he talks about breaking protocol to lie under a tree in an off-limits test forest, perhaps hinting at why the station went offline in the first place. I really enjoyed the psychological aspect of what it would feel like to go mad in space simply by being isolated for long periods of time, as I really don’t think it’s explored enough in space games.
As I explored the haunted hallways and worked to uncover the mystery surrounding Antares, I recognized that this space survival game isn’t exactly a perfect sell. I could say Antares isn’t made for veterans of the genre, but some might find its overall simplicity appealing, as setting it to an easy difficulty level could result in beating the game in a few hours. With a mildly confusing UI, I could say Antares isn’t made for newbies, but since it isn’t shit-your-pants terrifying and the predictable power-down cycles help players prepare for waves of enemies, Antares is actually pretty well-suited for those of us who typically play with hands over our eyes. The only people this isn’t made for, in all honesty, are those looking at the graphics and expecting an AAA level game; there’s a reason why it’s been hammered home that this was made by one person, and that’s to help players manage expectations.
I am beyond impressed that Antares came from one person, and I am always here to support indie developers, solo or otherwise. As a developer, I really do think Sonaloux is someone to watch; as a game, Antares is not without its flaws but is still absolutely fun. Gorgeous graphics depict a creepy atmosphere, and although the predictable, slightly homogeneous enemies don’t always deliver on the scares, the core concept is solid. With difficulty settings enabling the player to choose for a quick burst or a long haul, Antares arguably shines best to both scaredy-cat newbs and pressed-for-time veterans on the easiest setting. If you’re looking for a space survival FPS that’s new and gorgeous without needing a huge time investment, Antares is definitely something to check out; for anyone else, consider watching some playthroughs before investigating this spooky space station.
Final Verdict: 3.5/5
Available on: PC (reviewed); Developer: Sonaloux Entertainment; Publisher: Sonaloux Entertainment; Players: 1; Released: February 27, 2020; MSRP: $14.99
Full disclosure: This review is based on a Steam review copy of Antares given to HeyPoorPlayer by the developer