Breathedge (Nintendo Switch) Review

By James Grech 05.07.2021

Review for Breathedge on Nintendo Switch

While transporting his dearly departed grandfather on a luxury space vessel, Breathedge's protagonist is thrown into survival mode as the ship crashes and gets destroyed, sending his grandfather's coffin out into space, as well as everyone else on board. With no food, tools or means of communication, he then must use whatever resources he can scavenge to find a way home. As novel a setup this may be, Breathedge is a poorly designed survival game where developer Redruins Softworks's focus on tedious gameplay loops, jokes that wear out their welcome and an unsatisfying shift in genre, makes for an astronomically boring journey.

Published by Hypetrain Digital, Breathedge has the makings of a tense, interesting, and funny, story-driven survival game. The issue, however, is in how it is filled with the worst tropes of the survival genre. The unimaginative HUD design and controls are poorly explained right off the bat. It takes time to get used to how the game feels, which isn't difficult by any means but is still tedious. Inventory menus also feel like work to trudge through. It's a shame that from the get-go its most basic design choices are mediocre.

As space exploration begins, it becomes clear that the core resource that needs preservation is the player's air supply. Leaving a safe zone and slowly exploring the depths of space quickly consumes oxygen levels, and a return trip to a safe zone is one of only a few ways to refill the tank. This back-and-forth loop means that there is such a small window of opportunity to gather resources and reveal new areas before players need to backtrack to safety. The game attempts to remedy this by providing tank upgrades and quicker means of travel, but as the game expands, so do the explorable areas. There is no true sense of progression as every time an oxygen upgrade is crafted, the next area in need of exploration becomes large enough to quickly consume that upgrade. What was perhaps designed to invoke a sense of dread, just creates nauseating frustration.

Screenshot for Breathedge on Nintendo Switch

This irritation is only exacerbated by the means of resource gathering at the players' disposal. Floating bits of ice, metal and other materials require a precise position to pick up. As aiming is affected by the floatiness of the spacesuit, and only one thing can be collected at a time, there are often ventures that are cut short by depleted oxygen after collecting only a few of the most basic resources. Furthermore, breaking objects, cutting fabrics, or drilling into debris is also time-consuming. This monotonous gameplay design combined with the countdown clock of depleting oxygen makes for a padded-out gameplay experience. Most of the time played in the first half of the game is just a short trip and trek to safety, only collecting a few things at a time.

Collecting these resources are required to craft new tools which are used to collect new resources... which are used to craft more new tools. Though this is a common characteristic of survival games, the way that Breathedge tackles this is extremely dull. Crafting tools happens over a timer, and while basic things like food packets and water are crafted quickly, bigger tools can take time to be built. The disservice to players comes in making them wait in the menu as they watch their tools be built. These tools also are designed to have poor durability; they break fairly often, which requires players to start this cycle again. There is nothing fun in this gameplay design. Healing from damage is also cumbersome. Resting in a bed heals health, but instead of a short animation or fade to black to quicken this process, players have to wait as the health bar slowly fills up. All of these systems are reminiscent of free mobile games that require real-world time to pass to unlock things. As a paid, single-player game, there is no reason for Breathedge to be as needlessly time-consuming as it is. It takes way too long to gather even the most basic of resources, and the things crafted from these resources break far too frequently. Breathedge is a long game to get through, and it really didn't have to be.

Screenshot for Breathedge on Nintendo Switch

One of the things done well in this game is in its visuals and sound design. The way things are quite literally frozen in space creates a sense of wanderlust. A victim of the crash floating in the distance, or a blinking light that seems inaccessible, drives that need to explore. It's a disservice that the systems in play fight so hard to limit exploration when the art direction is as charmingly designed as it is. Over the course of the game, players will encounter a weird, but admittedly unique mix of music. Russian folk songs, classical melodies, jazz riffs and even European techno music juxtapose the otherwise silent sounds of space. It's hard to determine why these tracks are present, but they do add to the nonsensical tone of the game.

There is a pursuit of humour in this world that is best explored in its environmental storytelling. Finding other ship passengers frozen in silly positions after they were violently killed during the crash is, in a dark way, funny. Little posters and VHS tapes pay homage to classic games and random resources like a dead hamster stuck in a toilet all build the games comical tone. There is such a thing as too much humour, however.

Screenshot for Breathedge on Nintendo Switch

Accompanying the player on this uninteresting journey is a suit AI that, to put it simply, won't shut up. His quippy commentary is chuckle-worthy at first, but throughout the entire game, he bombards players with forgettable exposition and cringy jokes. There is no way to disable this AI and for every moment of immersion in this vast space setting, there is an annoying joke or remark that ruins any ambience that the environments have built. This AI is also needed as it is the primary quest giver. There is a weird self-awareness in this choice as the AI jokes about bad survival game tropes while making players do tasks that give in to those tropes. This ever-present distraction makes it really difficult to focus on the game's score and environments.

About halfway through its campaign, Breathedge all but abandons its survival systems in place of a walking simulator. After hours of playing through a frustrating survival adventure that never grows beyond its tedious design, the game becomes a basic trek through a space station. Within this final arc, there are no new ideas presented, and the story is continued by the annoying AI who, by this point, is more of a background noise that players will have tuned out. It's incredibly disheartening that a world that is so lovingly creative is consistently failed by its gameplay choices.

Screenshot for Breathedge on Nintendo Switch

Cubed3 Rating

4/10
Rated 4 out of 10

Subpar

Breathedge is a game at odds with itself. It tries to tell a compelling story, but the core narrator drones wearisome and unfunny dialogue; the world is beautiful and begging to be explored, but only ever an inch at a time; environments are curated with dark humour, but the gameplay loop doesn't allow time to take it in; and, worst of all, it undercuts players that commit hours to these systems by replacing them with a grim excuse for a walking simulator. For a title set in the vast expanse of space where anything is possible, it just isn't worth the time.

Developer

Redruins Softworks

Publisher

Hypetrain Digital

Genre

Adventure

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  4/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   

Comments

Comments are currently disabled

Subscribe to this topic Subscribe to this topic

If you are a registered member and logged in, you can also subscribe to topics by email.
Sign up today for blogs, games collections, reader reviews and much more
Site Feed
Who's Online?
Flynnie

There are 1 members online at the moment.