Diversity can lead to weird and fascinating experiences. Even if every title isn’t a hidden gem or underrated experience, games like Anarchy Reigns and Spelunker HD have a lot to offer. Other times they remind us that things can be better. Left Alive has a lot going for it, large budget, stunning artwork from Yoki Shinkawa and a familiar experience. With so much going for it, does Left Aliverise from the grave or is it a question how this title was left alive in the first place?
Left Alivetakes place in the Front Mission universe and takes place during a war. From there the story is told from three different and distinct perceptions that showcase the struggle they all face to simply make it out of this experience alive. The serious moments are broken up with jokes or silly comments, preventing the title from being too serious, though the real issue is finding the desire to make it to the end of their journey.
The core problem with Left Alive is how mechanical, underwhelming, frustrating and inconsistent it is. Most areas are largely empty, outside of patrols, with the main struggle being a quest to find resources. It’s entirely possible to have arguably too many passive resources, such as a bottle to distract people, without enough to really solve problems. More often than not you can throw a can in another direction, they’ll turn around and then you can make a mad dash to the next area.
Players will likely struggle with the mechanics behind every situation. Shooting enemies, especially on higher difficulties, is a massive resource sink. I could realistically use every bullet I found in the first chapter on the enemies at the end and maybe kill two of them. The more likely result isn’t victory, as much as dying to another enemy shooting you while trying to kill them. This forces you to be tactical but even that is hit and miss.
I found the best tactic was to create an explosion near hostile forces, run in and finish an enemy off. It didn’t always work or even kill them but it was the most reliable way to overcome challenges. Where things start to get really bad is actually trying to melee someone.
Not only is it a clunky experience that requires entirely too many hits, it opens the door to them attacking you for missing. This could be overlooked if there were stealth take downs or other more tactical ways to overcome enemies but instead we’re stuck with either avoid or attempt to beat in combat.
Regardless of how much better avoiding is, there are sections that require combat and times where tactics won’t do much. One of the most frustrating parts of my journey occurred on the second mission. I threw a can to distract one of the mechs, only to have it stand still and then attempt to kill me.
The worst part is a lot of this stuff can be overcame with perseverance, trying enough tactics or dumb luck. This doesn’t make for a fun experience, it doesn’t even make for an enjoyable time, you basically just keep playing until everything works out and repeat it until the game ends. This effectively ruins the experience, as does the hit and miss mechanics.
For instance, if you know where enemies are located, there are a lot of spots where you can simply run past them without getting caught. There were times I rushed past mechs without a care in the world and even zoomed past enemies in a way where I should’ve got caught. Where this could be an understandable mechanic, there are certain sections where enemies will just act differently and it will work against you.
Largely, where the biggest mess occurs is how none of these elements really come together. It’s entirely too easy to have a surplus of resources and as previously explained, avoidance is more advantageous. It undermines large parts of the concept and makes it more of an avoid confrontation simulator than anything to do with survival, action or war. And, at the end of the day, it simply makes for an unenjoyable experience.
Left Alive is surprisingly simple, yet somehow manages to get so much wrong. While the story has its moments, gameplay never quite clicks. Either you’re trying desperately to use endless bottles or resources on enemies or you’re battling with one awful mechanic or another. In the end, the best policy is almost always avoid every situation, something that would be fine if that was the design but certainly does not bode well for a game centered around survival, gunplay, tactics and stealth. At best it’s a challenge to do even the simplest of tasks and at worst it’s a needless slog through awful design choices. So, unless you really want to spend hours trying to figure out the best way to avoid fighting or fight equally hard, due to how poor they are, mechanics, Left Alive should just be avoided.
[Editor’s Note: Left Alive was reviewed on PS4 platform. The game was provided to us by the publisher for review purposes.]