Phoning Home (PC) – Review

"Life should be more self-explanatory."

In a marketplace flooded with survival, crafting, and exploration games, it’s sometimes hard to find a game that offers something new and different. So many of these games have massively open worlds, countless resources, and a fairly steep learning curve. Ion Lands, a small developer based out of Berlin, Germany, gives us a refreshing break from the norm with Phoning Home.

Phoning Home is a sci-fi crafting game with elements of survival and open world exploration. Even though this game has a few quirks, there are a handful of things that it does really well that provide a really enjoyable experience.

Story (Spoiler Free)

You are ION, the robotic mobile unit for the ship called EU_18TR289x65 (TR2 for short), who looks a little bit like one of the robots from the movie Wall-E. All you know at the start of your adventure is that you’re stranded on a strange planet that has some strange secrets. You quickly come to learn that the planet is rich in resources that your home planet needs desperately. Your mission is simple: gather enough resources on this strange planet to “phone home,” so they can come mine the planet of it’s valuable resources. But is it really that simple?

It’s unusual for a crafting game to have much of a story, and even more unusual to have one that is deep, meaningful, and even emotional at times. Phoning Home develops your relationship to all of the characters that you encounter and gives you a sense of purpose and choice as you progress through the game. Even though the game is somewhat linear (which many would argue is not a bad thing) in terms of story, there are often many ways to get through the story.

Environment

If you’ve seen any video or screenshots from this game, you already know that the game has a very cool art style. The game feels open world, even though the planet is sectioned off into distinct sections. Each section of the planet has it’s own unique environment that presents a specific set of challenges for the player. Some environments feel very welcoming and safe, while others feel hostile and dangerous. I would be a fool to talk about the environment of this game without mentioning the INCREDIBLE original soundtrack. The soundtrack was composed by Caleb Blood, and adds an enormous amount of texture to the game, making those dramatic moments more exciting and the tender moments even more emotional.

Game Mechanics

Most of the mechanics in this game are quite enjoyable, from collecting materials to the progression of craftable items. However, there are some downsides to these mechanics as well. Early in the game there is this magical moment where you find a new resource, and then that resource appears on your radar. At first you’re thinking “Great! This is going to make crafting so much easier!” and it does. And then you realize that after finding all 9 resources (that’s right, there are only 9), it takes away some of the purpose of exploring the world. That is to say that you only have to explore as far as the closest resource that you need.

Recommendations: For $19.99 on Steam, you get fun, whimsical game experience coupled with a deep, well developed story. In addition, you’re getting a great introduction to the crafting/survival game elements, for those who are not familiar with that genre of game.

Author: Josh Thompson

My name is Josh Thompson. I love Jesus, I love video games, and I fart a lot. That’s exactly what I said to my wife when we started dating, and for some reason she still married me.

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