Recently I had the opportunity to have a very short journey in A Long Journey to an Uncertain End - that is to say, I had about twenty minutes with it. In this time, its vision and goal became clear but that vision still feels limited as of yet. Drawing from the likes of FTL, it has some novel concepts but hasn’t hinted at much larger. There seems to be a lot of space to do much more.
Not knowing your name, appearance, or gender, you awake after a crash or catastrophic event to the friendly sight of a holographic talking dog named C.O.R.G.I. You get your bearings, tell them your name and how to address you and customize your character. Customization is fairly limited with a handful of body types and a few options of basic components like eyes, nose, mouth, hair, etc. It is basic but works well enough to add some sense of self to your character. The customization stops here as you find a crew, board your ship and really figure out what’s going on.
What is interesting about the central premise of A Long Journey is you play the role of a sentient hologram who controls your own ship. In the liminal space between death and holographic reincarnation, C.O.R.G.I and Aylah ( a crew member) managed to round up a small crew of scavengers, nomads, and others to join you on your missions. Like FTL, there is this constant sense of dress as you discover and run away from forces on your tail. You must move from planet to planet, getting enough resources to continue for just a little bit longer.
Resource management happens in a few central ways. You have fuel, supplies, days, favors, and more. Your fuel and supplies are what keeps you running in the short term whilst the days affect your long term goals. As you might guess, the days are how long you have until you are swarmed by the imminent threat of baddies on the horizon. You have to make pitstops on separate worlds to gain enough to keep on moving. To do so, you must take jobs in towns by assigning crew members to them and making decisions based on their outcome. Each crew member has certain skills that make them work for certain missions and you have to pick tactically who to send and who to keep on board. After you’ve sent them out, you must pass time, wasting those precious days waiting for the mission to finish.
The key to mission structure is the likelihood of success is determined by your actions in tangible ways. A wheel spins and lands on good, ok or bad, determining what you receive. This gives a sense of immediate pay off which may remove a little bit of the mystery of decisions but gives something concrete and objective to improve on subsequent runs. You can reroll with the use of a favor but these are a precious resource like everything else. Unfortunately, mission decisions and layout are a little tame as of right now. There seem to be fairly limited options and the missions end up feeling rather formulaic. Click on the mission, skip time, get rewards. It would be nice to see some non-linear designs and consequences that are strange or whacky. What makes the design of FTL so addictive yet rewarding is the scope of it all. It’s a simple-looking game with a lot of depth. There are options and choices that bear hideous or great consequences. It organically produces watercooler moments. This is something I’d like to see for A Long Journey to an Uncertain End but I just don’t yet.
The base formula for A Long Journey to an Uncertain End works providing a choice-based romp through an augmented post-gender galaxy. Unfortunately, it adopts some of the aesthetics of a game that offers more choice than it actually does. Outside of your main character, none of your crew are customizable and they tend to feel a little static. Your actual choices on each planet feel a little dull as it doesn’t reward bad decisions with new stories. Instead of adapting failure into the tapestry of your character, it pushes it aside and you just have to recover through better choices in the future. A Long Journey to an Uncertain End offers something in its title that it doesn’t quite offer in the demo. Real freedom of choice.
TechRaptor previewed A Long Journey to an Uncertain End on PC using a copy provided by the developers. The game is set to release sometime in 2021.