SIGNALIS – First Impressions

I'm not locked in here with you, you're locked in here with ME
SIGNALIS - First Impressions

Publisher Humble Games has teamed up with developers Rose-Engine to provide players with the classic survival horror experience with unique angle and aesthetic, SIGNALIS, coming to Steam in Fall 2022. The developers promise investigation of dark secrets, puzzle-solving, fighting off nightmarish creature, all in the atmosphere of surreal retrotech world of Elster and an aura of melancholic mystery.

We had a chance to try out a short demo provide by the publisher via Steam to share our first impressions. Set aboard a desolate starship, SIGNALIS features unique pixel-art aesthetic and a dense atmosphere that strikes with its slow-paced creeping action and psychologically heavy surroundings rather than sudden jump-based scares.

“Get up” is one of the first phrases you see. As soon as you appear in the game, you have to figure out where you are, what happened and what you will have to face as soon as your character gets back to her feet. Looking around, you can immediately deduce that you are stuck aboard some kind of ship. The gloomy lighting and the lack of living souls around immediately tip the protagonist – and the players – that something is very, very wrong.

As you pass through the hallways, you will notice strange long shadows following the protagonist. Be prepared that it is something very deadly, stuck in the limited space aboard the ship along with you. The fight for survival is imminent.

The insides of the ship are not the only locations you will be slowly traversing, fearing for your life. Soon enough you can leave the confines of the ship and face the harsh climate: storm in an endless expanse of a snowy valley. At first, it seems like there is no shelter against the nature’s fury, and that is where the game proves that it belongs to the “survival” genre.

The atmosphere grows darker and denser due to the gloomy colors, various creepy sound effects as well as the overall psychological pressure. The animation of SIGNALIS is surprisingly fluid for its pixel graphics.

In SIGNALIS, you have an opportunity to test out different types of weapons as well as set out to find bandages or an injector for healing. Admittedly, the 20 minutes or so long demo version was not entirely enough to submerge oneself in the game, be it atmosphere or gameplay.

There are humanoid monsters that you can take on but at the moment they lose out to the overall atmosphere of the game and don’t seem scary at all. Are they locals? Mutated humans? The demo didn’t provide a clear answer. However, your opponents can be easily bypassed by going into another room as they will not follow you, which I have found to be strange. Shouldn’t the predator pursue the prey till the very end?

The demo also didn’t give me a chance to pick up scraps of paper, notes or books, which is likely temporary and will be expanded in the Early Access/full release version of the game. After all, it is an incredibly important tool to enhance the overall darkness and creepiness of the game. On the positive side, it raises many questions about the story of the game which is a good thing. Let’s hope that more content will shed light on why the ship was abandoned, who are the monsters we are facing and what’s going on overall!

SIGNALIS shows all the signs of being something special once more content is available. I was in particular taken with the dense atmosphere that was built with lighting and sounds and claustrophobic tight surroundings rather than jump scares and screamers. The game features unique, smooth pixel graphics as well as retro sci-fi aesthetic that is very pleasing to the eye.

Note: the demo key was provided by the publisher for the purposes of this preview.

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