Average Playtime: 3 hours

Near Death review
by Katana

"In the face of overwhelming odds, I'm left with only one option. I'm going to have to science the s**t out of this."

I've described Near Death to some people as an excellent video game adaptation of The Martian; a story of a scientist alone in an incredibly lethal environment, fighting against all odds and incredibly poor luck to stay alive. It's definitely scary, in fact many other readers have tagged it as a Horror Game. But for once, it's really really cool to have a horror game in which camp-enthusiasts are not encouraged to laugh in jest at the weirdness of the tentacle-faced monsters you face. Near Death's only opponent is the cold - temperatures below 100 degrees celcius, and winds that have the power to turn a sprint into a 1-foot-per-second crawl.

Progress in the game involves a long series of fetch quests through the facility's many buildings. Any room without a total vacuum seal against the outside is freezing cold, meaning that sometimes your progress through buildings may have to be taken in steps, and some rooms have such large breaches that you'll need to rush your looting to avoid freezing.

The game is actually quite brutal just in the challenge of getting between buildings. Mercifully, you have a compass, but even with that, it's very easy to lose your bearings in such total darkness, and even high winds reducing your speed. You can redeem yourself by planning ahead and crafting light / rope poles to make return trips easier, but even these can go wrong. More than once I made a stupendous trek through the snow, found the building, got inside, only to find out that through my desperate run, I ended up at the wrong building (or, even, the back door of the building I had left from).

Sometimes, I thought "F*** it. The doors here are frozen over?? This turnout feels unfair. I want to give up. Kill me so I can go back to my last quicksave." But...something about the theming of the situation made me reconsider. I thought about moments in The Martian where Mark exhibits just about the same feelings. It made me want to turn those situations around. I knew I wouldn't reach the building I was aiming for, but I kept going, kept trying to recover my goals, because a person in this real situation wouldn't get a second chance. I certainly did die a few times, even playing on Easy Mode (I first tried Hard Mode, but found myself rushing so much to get warm / not waste kerosene I actually missed an important tutorial message - Easy still gave me much of the intended feel of the game)

Near Death is very short, so buy it if you tend to not have enough spare time to finish off most games in your Steam backlog, since you could very likely easily binge through it in one gaming session. I felt like it was unique enough and well-executed enough to be worth my time either way.