Being the first astronauts to test out a new propulsion system would be a daunting experience, so how would it feel to be sat in a vessel designed to jump instantaneously between stars? What kind of people would dare such a thing and how would they come to terms with the fact that their experimental jump drive just deposited them on the opposite side of the galaxy?
This is the predicament your crew find themselves in The Long Journey Home
, once your ship has finished careening across the galaxy you are stranded far from home with a crew that is barely competent enough to run safety checks, never mind pilot a vessel through hostile alien territory or negotiate successfully with peaceable but bizarre races.
Daedalic Studio West has brought a ton of ambition to this game. It mashes together a lot of systems that mostly work together. You jump from star to star exploring and forever seeking resources and ship upgrades to make your journey home easier.
Whilst in a star system you use a rudimentary simulation of gravity to travel between orbiting objects and in turn get yourself in to orbit around them. This consumes fuel that you'll need to mine and process. Many of the objects you find in these star systems are other alien ships you can hail and converse with, acquiring objectives to help or hinder your progress.
When conversing with aliens you have to feel your way through the dialogue, choosing carefully what to ask because you only have a limited amount of choices before the alien loses interest and dismisses you. If they ask something of you then you also have a limited period of time to achieve what they want. Failure could result in anything from zero consequences to a peaceable race turning hostile.
The concepts behind the systems for much of the game are far better than the actual execution, though. An example would be the lander you have to pilot across a planet's surface. You have to fight against gravity and atmospheric conditions, but the controls can present an even harder battle than the conditions you are faced with.
The lander's orientation is determined by your mouse and your thrusters only go in two directions - forward and backward. The number of times I've flubbed a landing because the controls are so infuriatingly sloppy is what eventually drove me to stop trying to play the game. Once you do manage to wrestle your way to a landing spot you can either mine resources, visit settlements or salvage technology, but usually none of the rewards feel worth the damage you did to your crew member or lander.
Strangely the controls that fail utterly planetside work rather well in space. It feels satisfying to pilot between worlds even if the controls can still prove inadequate at times. Combat was something I mostly managed to avoid, but in practice it is very arcadey and fun (but punishing).
There is so much to discover in The Long Journey Home
, but sadly most of it will never get seen by me because of the shoddy controls and the way resource management works. I'll probably return to this six months down the line to see what's changed and in what direction the developers went after receiving player feedback, but for now I can't really recommend it. There is as much potential as there is ambition, but it needs to go back in the oven for a while.
+ Interesting setup for a cosmic survival adventure
+ I like the Saturday morning sci-fi aesthetic
+ Interesting in-game lore
- Abysmal Lander controls
- Difficult to manage resources
SPOnG Score: 6/10