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June 2024

Arctic Awakening

Platform(s): PC, PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X
Genre: Action/Adventure
Developer: Goldfire Studios
Release Date: 2023


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PS5/XSX/PC Preview - 'Arctic Awakening'

by Cody Medellin on May 3, 2024 @ 12:45 a.m. PDT

Arctic Awakening is an episodic first-person adventure set in the mysterious Arctic North where you and your robotic companion, Alfie, must search for your co-pilot... and a way home.

It's difficult to create a preview or demo build for a narrative adventure game. As with any other demo, you want to provide the player with a good idea of what your game is about and what makes it enticing. With a narrative adventure, there's added pressure to know where to stop and what to reveal, since that's the main hook of the game in the first place. Arctic Awakening is a narrative adventure game coming out sometime in 2024, but it has had some coverage in the past few years. We took a look at the latest build to see how it's all coming along.

Arctic Awakening takes place in the year 2062. You play the role of Kai, a pilot who's flying over Alaska to deliver supplies to survivors. When flying through a snowstorm, your plane gets cut in half, forcing your friend to jump out while you try to land the plane alongside your robotic companion. The landing is rough, but you manage to survive. The supplies are scattered everywhere, so your job is to find your friend and try to get rescued while solving the mystery of what took you down in the first place.

For the most part, the gameplay mechanics should be familiar to almost anyone who's ever played a narrative adventure. Navigation is done from a first-person perspective, so some may call this a walking simulator. There are a good number of items to pick up and look at or store for safekeeping. You don't have to worry about managing or interacting with your inventory, since the game automatically knows what you need to use when the situation calls for it, so each action is context-sensitive. There are a few instances where dialogue choices need to be made in a timely manner, and your choices steer the adventure in a different direction.

The mechanics in the demo are fine. There's the mystery behind what tore the plane in half and the main objective of finding your friend, but the demo doesn't spend too much time making progress on those things. You'll craft a fire, chase away a bear, and explore to eventually find a satellite, but the demo ends just as you're approaching the structure. It's prudent for the developer to hold back on major plot points since the story is what adventure games are all about.

While the demo might be limited in terms of what it can show off, the demo is still interesting because of the various background elements. Some are obvious, such as the mystery behind Kai needing to have a court-ordered therapy bot with him at all times. Others aren't as obvious, such as references to both characters being in the military and being involved in wars — or passing mentions of places like Florida suddenly being underwater. Some are even more subtle, such as a radio message about entering restricted airspace that can mostly be heard if you block out the main conversation. Considering that the game is set in the near future, the mystery behind these elements is more fascinating because the demo is trying its best to keep the main mysteries a secret.

As far as the presentation goes, Arctic Awakening is reminiscent of Firewatch. The cartoon style of the characters mixed with the colors look nice, and the environments are simple but still look good. There's not much in the way of music, but the voice work is good. The banter between the three characters feels natural, even though one of those characters is a floating robotic orb. For a narrative adventure game, the overall package does enough to hook you.

Arctic Awakening is intriguing because of its background elements. We're confident that the main questline is fine — finding your friend and finding out what's in the arctic wilderness — but the other background elements are much more interesting. After a few years of previews and trailers, we're hoping that Arctic Awakening does come out this year, so we can see if the full experience fulfills its promise.

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