There have been many games released that have the moniker “walking simulator” thrown at it. Gone Home, The Vanishing of Ethan Carter, and Dear Esther all have this in common. Usually reserved for titles that feature more exploring than actual game play, these walking simulators have been debated whether they should be called games at all considering the lack of player-driven narrative. This is where we find Corpse of Discovery created and published by Phosphor Games and released on Steam. While Corpse of Discovery does fall in line with other games focused more on the journey, fans will be happy to find that it does take a slightly different approach to how the story unfolds. Players control Major, a space explorer tasked with one final mission that will see him make discoveries on an uncharted planet. The reward for this is the promise of going home, seeing his family, and retiring comfortably. However, you find out quickly that things aren’t what they seem. 3
Soon the final mission turns into another one, then another one, making the comparison to the movie Groundhog Day very apt. Every “final mission” starts out in the spaceship where Major calls his home. At first everything is clean. Those who like to look around every nook and cranny can find an on-ship greenhouse, a chicken and fish tank, a history module, and other cool little objects that bring the world around you to life. There’s also a chamber where you receive messages from your family back on Earth, letting you know they miss you and cannot wait for your return. Once you learn of your task, it’s into the spacesuit and off into the uncharted planet. A neat feature Corpse of Discovery brings with it is a floating talking robot companion called AVA. She serves to guide Major to all the different checkpoints scattered around the planet, each containing whatever happens to be the objective for that mission. She will also encourage you by giving reminders of how happy your family will be that you are coming home, or that you will be remembered for generations after discovering brand new species. It’s a very nice touch that becomes very entertaining as time goes on, even if for all the wrong reasons.
After completing your final mission for the first time, you end up back in your shuttle confused but determined to find a way back home. However, things begin to seem very different. Your family’s message is a lot less optimistic. The halls are a little dirtier. Your briefing continues to insist that this is the final mission before you can retire. AVA starts acting a lot less like a guide and more cynical during your travels, even insisting that you are worthless and that your family is better off without you. If this interests you at all, rest assured this is only the tip of the iceberg concerning the story laid out in Corpse of Discovery.
Aside from what is summarized above, players can also head off the main checkpoints to find other points of interests that further the confusing, yet interesting narrative of a man who may or may not be going crazy. While it’s not a long tale by any means, what’s there to discover brings out a lot of questions, and players who decide to explore off the beaten path will find a little bit more depth and lot more cynicism from AVA. Now while the story enjoyment is left up to how the player feels once the credits roll, there is no denying how amazing the various planets looks, each showing off its own identity and personality. Ranging from lush plantations to lava filled mountains, each is a joy to explore and it’s obvious the designers put a lot of heart into how they looked.
Sadly there are a few issues within this amazing accomplishment. For starters there is some unfortunate clipping issues that will see you get stuck within objects. There are also instances of floating grass and plants that look really lazy and hopefully get fixed in a future update. A final issue is the draw distance, as there will be times that you could be high enough to see the ground disappear, or far enough that the ground does seem to pop up out of nowhere. Thankfully these issues aren’t major nor game breaking and don’t take away from the joy of exploring these vastly unique planets.
Exploring is pretty straight forward, utilizing the main FPS controls like WASD and Spacebar for movement and mouse for camera. Notable features include a double jump that does get upgraded to a jet pack in later missions and a holographic map from Major’s wrist that helps do away with an immersion breaking HUD. Instead, your HUD only consists of your suit’s radiation level, its armor percentage, and your jet pack's energy.
Corpse of Discovery is partly a survival game itself so keeping an eye on your radiation and armor level is mandatory. A few levels feature a blistering sun that will raise your radiation until you start losing armor, while the majority feature a floating sentry-like monster that will drain your armor down to zero if it catches you in its spotlight. While avoiding getting burnt to a crisp, there is also a huge reliance on platforming, especially during later missions featuring floating islands and mountain landscapes. These don’t become very difficult once you get the hang of the jet pack, which should happen naturally through the course of game play.
Finally, let’s talk about sound. Corpse of Discovery opts to go with the less is more route, letting the vast landscapes and wildlife do the talking for it. Every piece of sound serves to make you more immersed into this world. From Major’s steady breathing while walking to heavy breathing while running, and from AVAs voice changing from encouragement to straight disapproval, the voices and surrounding ambiance features as a strong point here.
Overall there isn’t a huge fear of dying cheaply nor are there any moments where you have no idea what to do next. Aside from some weird graphical issues and draw distance not being optimized, Corpse of Discovery offers some enjoyable planets to explore, some amazing voice acting and sound that bring you closer to this setting, a journey that does wrap up nicely for those who see it through, and additional insights into the narrative for those who wish to truly explore the world around them.
Corpse of Discovery was obtained from the developer and reviewed on the PC platform