There aren't very many survival games that capture the fun and challenge of Raft, but developer Far From Home has a serious contender in the genre. In this preview, I'll show you why Forever Skies is a game worth checking out -- especially for fans of survival games.
Forever Skies puts you in the shoes of an unnamed human landing back on Earth. A mysterious virus has clouded the surface in "dust," a substance that rapidly destroys anything in its path. The survivors have taken to living on top of tall towers. Now, it's your turn to explore what little remains of humanity.
Returning to a Ruined Earth
The start of Forever Skies is fairly light on story. Your drop pod screams through the sky in a pre-rendered cutscene that gives you a vague idea of how badly civilization has collapsed. You're on the ground in less than a minute -- Forever Skies lets you get right into the gameplay.
Forever Skies is a lot like Raft, and that's not a bad thing.
As with most survival games, you have some basic stats to worry about. The standards of health, hunger, and thirst are all here. You also have to sleep to maintain your energy. Unique to this game is the "Immunity Circle," a stat that is the sum total of your other needs. The lower it gets, the worse symptoms you'll suffer from the various viruses in the game.
You're kind of stuck on the first tower you land on, and you have limited supplies. Fortunately, a partially-constructed airship is resting on the deck. You simply need to build it and fly out into the great unknown.
It's Like Raft (But with an Airship)
Let's get the elephant in the room out of the way: Forever Skies is a lot like Raft, and that's not a bad thing. If I told you this game is "Raft, but with airships and towers instead of boats and islands," it would be more or less accurate.
It's a powerful combination. Whereas many survival games depend on you learning the terrain of an area, both Forever Skies and Raft throw that whole concept out the window. You are a permanent nomad, moving from place to place and never really returning to somewhere you've visited before
Instead, your ship is your home. And, just like Raft, you can customize your airship in both form and function. You'll need rooms for your workbenches and chests, engines to move them through the sky, and turbines to help them fly higher.
A particularly unique addition to the genre is the weight mechanic. The balloon you start with can only support so much weight. Every piece of the ship's structure and every piece of furniture -- whether functional or decorative -- adds to your weight total. Reach the limit and you're effectively stuck until you lighten the load or increase the size of your balloon. Eventually, you won't be able to expand the size of your single balloon and you'll have to add more balloons to your airship.
By the end of my 87 hours in Forever Skies, I had a pretty hefty airship with two fully-upgraded balloons. The game was starting to get a little laggy and the ship would occasionally start shaking for no reason; I hope that these are Early Access growing pains that will eventually be ironed out.
A Towering Task
Of course, having your very own airship isn't worth much if you don't have somewhere to go. In the case of Forever Skies, you'll be spending most of your time traveling from tower to tower.
There are four main types of towers: Radio Towers, Wind Farms, Greenhouses, and Elevators. Radio Towers and Wind Farms each have four or five different variants -- some rarer than others, and some with unique loot. Greenhouses and elevators only have one type each.
The resources in these towers are critical to expanding your airship and building the tools you need. Interestingly, you can craft some of the more advanced resources from basic materials once you've researched them, allowing you to save yourself the trouble of docking at every last port. Some critical items -- such as Solid State Batteries -- can only ever be looted.
These towers are also an important source of food. Water is easy enough to get through collecting rainwater or gathering condensation, but food is somewhat harder to come by; your only solutions are Forever Skies' equivalent of fishing, gathering plants on towers, or finding old food rations. With the exception of the Old Food Rations, your food items will eventually spoil, making a lack of food a constant concern.
Diving Down Below
The endless skies full of towers will make up much of your gameplay, but I suspect that they won't be the sole focus of story content. The biggest challenge thus far isn't in the sky -- it's on the ground.
You'll progress through four types of towers. The Radio Towers can be reached with the default ship setup. Wind Farms require you to add at least one turbine onto your ship. Greenhouses and Elevators are difficult to reach without at least 3 turbines on your ship. It's this last tower type -- Elevators -- that serves as a gateway to greater adventures.
The resources in these towers are critical to expanding your airship and building the tools you need.
The Elevator towers by themselves have nothing much of interest up top. They do, however, have an elevator that will take you back down to the surface. The mechanics change a bit here with the introduction of an oxygen meter. (As you might expect, you'll die if your oxygen runs out.)
Forever Skies seems to be pretty early in its development from what I can tell. Heading to the surface -- the "Underdust" -- just barely introduces the second tier of equipment. I'm sure that there are more cool gadgets to play with on the horizon.
The Underdust also serves as a heck of a hook for the next update. Toward the very end, you encounter what is clearly intended to be a challenging, hostile threat. You're spared from any major combat this time around, but I can see these enemies turning into a serious threat in subsequent updates. It's a tantalizing preview of what Far From Home has planned for the future.
Forever Skies Preview - Final Thoughts
So, is Forever Skies worth your time? As it stands right now, I'd estimate that you would get 5 to 15 hours of gameplay if you focused on progressing your Tasks. It's certainly not a bad way to spend a few evenings.
Building out your ship and decorating it is a heck of a lot of fun, though, and this system is fairly robust, even in this relatively early version of the game. You can easily double or triple your playtime if you decide to tinker around with your ship design. Critically, the developers told me that, like many Early Access games, they'll make every effort to ensure that you won't have to start a new save game. They were careful to say that they can't guarantee there won't be any wipes, but it's not a half-bad idea to make a nice ship now in anticipation of a future update.
Forever Skies is the game for you if you're looking for a new survival experience with an interesting setting and mechanics, especially if you don't mind that the story is only getting started
As with all things Early Access, the value of Forever Skies -- and consequently, its success -- depends on the ability of the developers to rapidly deliver meaningful updates. If they can keep a good pace, I can see Forever Skies carving out its own little niche in the survival gaming space.
Forever Skies is the game for you if you're looking for a new survival experience with an interesting setting and mechanics, especially if you don't mind that the story is only getting started. If you're hoping to find something that you can spend weeks or months playing, though, it would be better to wait for some more content updates before taking the plunge.
TechRaptor previewed Forever Skies on PC via Steam using a copy provided by the publisher.