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5 Jun 2023

REVIEW: Away: The Survival Series on Xbox

Review by Jon Donnis
I was asked to review Away The Survival Series for its Xbox release, although the game has been out on other systems for a while, the Xbox release should be the best version with all bugs ironed out, as well as the addition of being able to control cats being a selling point.

The game is separated into two modes, Story mode, and Exploration mode. Story mode plays a bit like you are watching a David Attenborough documentary, but you get to control the main animal character.

You play as a young sugar glider (a small, omnivorous, arboreal, and nocturnal gliding possum), there has been some kind of apocalypse on planet earth, and only the animals are left, somehow the sugar glider survived, and he is tasked with following his mother and younger sibling as they try to survive. All the time you are being narrated to like a documentary. The narrator will give you clues of what to do next to further tell the story, for example catch a lizard, kill spiders attacking your family, catch butterflies that will act as a cure to a spider bite, as well as traversing from one area to the next through beautiful and dangerous paths.

While you play the story, you can go off and explore which will unlock other things for you to do, and allow you to uncover all of the game's mysteries.

You will also have to fight large predators as well as small ones, and you will need to use tactics to achieve your aims, or else you will get killed, luckily if you do get killed you can start again at the last check point. And if you choose the Easy mode, you will also have your energy and food supply refilled.

Talking of energy and food, you can eat almost anything, including mushrooms and the small animals that you might need to get past. And should you get lost or lose your mother, you can use a kind of special instinct mode, bit like in Assassin's Creed, where you can sense where they have gone, as well as find animals and so on.

The story mode is the main way you will play this game to get out of it everything the developers want you to.

There is also an exploration mode, which will have you at first controlling a bit of floating fungus, which you can use to "possess" any animal you choose, once you possess an animal, you will be able to use it as if you were it, control a snail, and you will basically be able to do nothing but move very, very slowly. Control a butterfly and you can flutter about, and in the Xbox version there are also cats you can control.

In this mode you are tasked with possessing a certain number and type of animal. Hence why it is exploration mode. At any time, you can leave the possessed animal and return to the floating fungus, to allow you to better search, or you can jump directly from one animal to the next.

Now the idea for the game is great, but how is the execution. Usually, I am very kind to Indie games like this, but because it was initially released a few years ago, I feel like that they have had plenty of time to improve it for the Xbox release. The game does have a few problems. The controls feel clunky, whereas gliding should feel great, it doesn't, it feels a bit awkward, and landing where you want isn't as easy as it should be, although there is an aim method that only adds button pushes to what should be the most fun part of the game.

The camera is also a bit of a pain at times, usually when you are moving in small confined areas.

Combat is rather limited, and not animated as well as it should be, neither are the eating animations.

The game does have a few graphical bugs, as well as bugs with regards to the animals, especially in fight scenes. There are no excuses for any bugs like this a few years after release date on other systems.

The Good
The idea for the game is great, I liked the narration, and it really did feel like you were taking part in a documentary.

The Bad
The graphics at times are a bit basic for the Xbox Series S which is what I was playing it on, graphics are more Xbox 360, unfortunately, a game like this really needs super high detailed graphics to help tell the story. Some textures look a bit dodgy, and the animation is a bit poor. You will probably complete the story mode relatively quickly, and I wasn't a fan of the exploration mode at all. The addition of cats doesn't seem to add anything special to the game, I prefer using the humble cricket instead.

A great idea for a game, but perhaps hampered by a lack of ambition. Maybe there is just not enough money and man time available to make this game what it should be, which is such a shame as I like the concept. It is just poorly delivered. And with initial release on PC a few years ago, I don't hold up much hope that the bugs will be fixed any time soon.

To release this on Xbox, the game needs to be perfect, and the graphics much improved.

I wish this game was better, I want it to be better, but as it is, I score Away: The Survival Series on Xbox a sad 6/10

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