Breathedge arrives on Xbox Game Pass on Thursday, September 9th (2021). Here's what we think of it!
If you put Ark: Survival Evolved and The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy into a blender, Breathedge would most likely be the result. A game which attempts to balance the in-depth mechanics of various survival games, whilst also inviting more players in with its dry sense of humour. It's a tricky rope to balance on, which unfortunately shows in the final product.
The premise of Breathedge puts you in the terrifying situation of being lost in space, as your shuttle crashes and you're forced to use your wits to survive. Oh, and you have a chicken in your pocket at all times. It's clearly a game that doesn't take itself seriously, and the writing is an absolute highlight, perfectly mocking the situation with a degree of dark humour and wit you'd find in a traditional British sitcom. It also has a surprisingly engaging narrative but unfortunately falls apart in the game's later sections.
Breathedge is comprised of two halves. The first section has you playing through a survival sim as you gather materials, balance your oxygen levels and craft new gear to venture further into space. It's an addictive gameplay loop, even with all of its shortcomings. While it does a great job of pointing you in the right direction and incentivising you to complete various objectives, you're constantly forced to venture to and from your base of operations, leading to a ridiculous amount of downtime. There are ways to speed this up, such as building a space bike or a jetpack, but it still happens often enough to become tedious.
Without spoiling too much, the game takes a drastic turn in the second half, throwing away everything found in the early chapters and replacing it with a linear adventure. All of the survival elements you've learned are replaced with linear corridors, in which the game simply becomes a walking simulator with a few FPS moments to break up the tedium. While the humour and narrative are enough to keep you going, it does feel as though the developers at RedRuins Softworks simply ran out of time and money to create the game they wanted.
Breathedge often feels at war with itself. While it introduces some interesting survival mechanics in the first half, it slowly becomes monotonous through cumbersome item management and repetitive quest design. Some items will require a certain amount of one material, which may need to be broken down. To do this, you'll need to craft a tool to then find the items that need smashing to eventually get what you need. It always feels as though Breathedge takes its ideas one step too far and could have benefitted from being edited down for a tighter, smoother experience.
Ultimately, it's a game full of great ideas and some addictive gameplay mechanics, but clashes with some poor pacing and a complete shift-up in the second half that loses all the charm. For an Xbox Game Pass title, there's undoubtedly some fun to be had in the survival space sim if you can look past its flaws. Just don't go in expecting the Lost in Space experience the game tries to sell.