Developer: Three One Zero
Publisher: 505 Games
Available on: Windows, PS4 (reviewed), Xbox One (releasing later)
After Adam Orth’s departure from Microsoft in 2013, he and his team at Three One Zero began working on a first-person adventure game called ADR1FT, which recently released on Windows and Playstation 4. Finding inspiration within his own life experiences, Orth wanted to create stories and characters that the player could relate with, despite the concept of space travel providing the low hanging fruit of a sci-fi narrative.
Going against the grain is a noble idea, but unfortunately these stories and characters get lost in the mix sometimes. However, despite this, ADR1FT’s stellar atmosphere, composition, and thrilling sense of space exploration make for a memorable and mostly enjoyable experience.
As the sole survivor of a space ship explosion, details are brought to the surface by way of computer terminals and audio diaries, which, while well acted, were sometimes hard to follow. I found the volume of the voiceovers to be a bit troublesome without the use of subtitles, but they were so small that attempting to read them proved to be more a distraction than an immersive addition.
Throughout my awe inspiring journey, there were only a few memorable moments within the storytelling. After listening to one of the deceased’s audio diaries, I felt a rush of emotion as I later stumbled upon a flyer for his daughter’s piano recital. There it was, floating in his bedroom, seemingly folded and unfolded, read and re-read, numerous times.
However, despite its narrative shortcomings, ADR1FT is definitely a must-play experience. Pardon the pun, but there’s just nothing else like it on the planet.
Exploring the remains of the space station in first-person is handled extremely well, with the player given full control inside of its 3D, zero gravity atmosphere. In what I assumed going in would be a cumbersome experience, I was more than ready to float, roll, and thrust my way through ADR1FT’s gorgeous environments immediately after its brief tutorial.
The space adventure does push a fairly repetitive, linear objective path, largely consisting of item location and repairs in order to unlock additional suit upgrades, but I found plenty of opportunities to venture outside and explore the wreckage from the loneliest place in the universe. Those curious and brave enough can travel well off the beaten path to locate additional lore items, unlock trophies, and really soak in the highly detailed scenery.
Few things are as astonishing as floating around in space and looking down on Earth from hundreds of thousands of miles away. It’s beautiful, even within a virtual environment, and accentuated tremendously by the luminous composition of Adam Orth himself, along with a little help from the band Weezer.
While exploration will please anyone that ever dreamed of being an astronaut, an aspect that I can see being divisive is ADR1FT’s oxygen mechanic. Not only will Alex Oshima’s oxygen deplete over time, but it’s a shared resource used by her suit to boost and thrust about the space station. Having a resource to keep track of can definitely feel limiting in an exploratory adventure game, but it wasn’t problematic once I learned to build momentum and let inertia take control.
Without spending precious oxygen on aimless thrusting I could make a canister spread like the remnants of a mustard jar, and for whatever reason mastering this part of the game made me feel like the most accomplished astronaut on the space station. Wait, nevermind. That’s a bad way of putting it.
With all of the moving parts that make it whole, ADR1FT is in an interesting position.
There’s a narrative at play that didn’t wow me, but I still found myself scouring the wreckage for additional information. There’s a resource management aspect that I’d normally loathe, but ended up embracing as a way of building tension, stress, and challenge. It’s a beautiful game that works in tandem with its expert composition, performing a holistic sensory love making dance with the audio and visual sections of my brain. I was also surprised by how intuitive the controls were, navigating the artist formerly known as space ship like a fucking professional, despite its unhelpful map system
ADR1FT may share similar features with other first-person games, particularly the non-violent exploratory narrative types, but it’s an experience all its own. And a good one, at that.
*So where’s the final score? There isn’t one. I spent a lot of time conveying my opinion in the above text, and I hope that’s worth more to you than some arbitrary number or a sequence of shaded-in star shapes. Basically, I’m not a fan of scores so I no longer use them. Read the review and judge for yourself if the game is worth your time and money.
Full disclosure: This review was done using a PS4 copy of Adr1ft provided by one of the game’s developers, Adam Orth. While I’m sometimes given games to review, I pride myself on providing unbiased reviews to fellow consumers, along with constructive feedback to hard working developers and publishers. Whether or not I pay for the game is completely irrelevant.