While it lacks some of the polish you'd find on a AAA title from a big publisher, Lifeless Planet is a simple yet engaging experience that draws you into its ever developing plot the further into the world you explore.
"While seeking life on a distant planet, an astronaut discovers an abandoned Russian town. He suspects his mission is a hoax until a mysterious young woman saves him from a strange and deadly phenomenon... Lifeless Planet is a third-person action-adventure that features an old-school sci-fi story and spectacular environments in the spirit of classic action-adventures. After a hard landing on the planet, the astronaut discovers the planet that was reported to be rich with life is instead a barren wasteland. When he goes searching for his crew, he makes a more startling discovery: evidence that humans have already been to this planet years ago!"
Without giving away too much of the story (since the story is what'll draw you right in), you begin having crash landed on a seemingly desolate, lifeless, inhospitable world. You were supposed to be landed on a planet teeming with life, but instead you find yourself alone, low on Oxygen and supplies, in a bleak, desert like wilderness. As you begin to explore it doesn't take long to realize that the planet hasn't always been lifeless when you stumble into a town. More so, a town previously inhabited by settlers from the Soviet Union.
As you continue to explore you will discover you're not alone on the planet, drawn to a mysterious woman who leaves green footprints for you to follow her. Except she doesn't want you to follow her, but later on, your life depends on it. Following her eerie green footsteps as closely as you can keeps you safe from some pretty nasty things going on beneath the surface.
The game world is expansive, but the game play is still pretty linear. There's a ton of space for you to explore, but ultimately you're directed to complete certain tasks, in certain places at certain times. Filling up your Oxygen supply, for example. This is one of the first things you need to do, with a replenishment lasting 8 hours. But you only ever begin to run out when you're in the vicinity of another tank to do it all over again. It's not totally straight forward as you still need to find them, but there are some visual clues to help you on your way.
It's a great pick-up-and-play experience with extremely straight forward controls. You can run. You can jump. And you can jump with a little bit of jetpack boost. At first that's pretty much it. As time progresses you pick up new tools, like a robot arm, and enhanced jetpack abilities, but it's very, very simple. There's nothing on the screen, either. Just your little Astronaut and the environment. Nothing distracting, nothing unnecessary.
But the story is possibly the single most exciting part of Lifeless Planet. It's been wonderfully written to the point where each little part of the world you're exploring opens it up a little bit more while raising another series of questions. What is the "Green Fire?" Who is this woman? And what were the Russians doing out here in the first place? And where is here?
For an indie title, Lifeless Planet is very nicely done. I mentioned it lacks some of the polish you'd find from a big developer, and that's true. The graphics can get a little glitchy with items sort of disappearing into the ground and the frame rate can struggle in places. But, given that this is an ID@Xbox title, it generally looks fantastic. An immersive, well designed world.
So, is it worth spending $20 on? Only you can decide that but so far I'm not at all disappointed with the price or the experience. In a world of flashy, online multiplayer focused titles from big publishers, this is a refreshing alternative. A thoughtful, well designed single player game with a truly immersive story. And it shows once again how strong the ID@Xbox stable is becoming.