I honestly had high hopes for Eden Tomorrow. What I’d seen of this first-person adventure suggested it would be a sort of alien Jurassic Park. There are elements of that in the full game. But any magic is squandered by its other more disjointed factors.
Eden Tomorrow carries a premise familiar to VR veterans. You crash land on an alien planet and must survive the hostile landscape as you find out what happened and why. You’re accompanied by an A.I. companion named Newton and can switch between yourself and the drone to solve puzzles and whatnot.
At it’s best, it’s a game about connecting with unknown nature. Eden Tomorrow’s environmental design is largely barren but it makes up for it with some imaginative critters. It embraces both the tranquility and threat of the animal (alien?) kingdom to good effect. There’s just as much to be said for marveling at the majesty of a long-necked E.T. dinosaur as there is for cowering at the uncomfortably jagged jaws of a flying dragon. Pacing often leans on the latter; you’ll sneak past sleeping nasties and avoid giant worms that burst out of the ground. There’s a horrifying brilliance to having to remain perfectly still under the gaze of a monster looking for food.
It embraces the squeamishness of VR to good effect. I often cowered in fear as things roared in my face or tried to peck at my eyes.
But the game rarely capitalizes on its best ideas. At one point a minefield of ground-swallowing plants block the path between you and your objective. You have to navigate the sands being careful not to trigger them. The game conveniently ignores the fact there are rocks to the sides and middle of the map that would let you safely clamber over. You can’t climb on them despite easily navigating such landscapes earlier.
One particularly inventive creature emits a light that attracts deadly insects. You only encounter it once whereas dragons feature throughout. The game features an entire ecosystem waiting to be discovered. Sadly you’ll only scratch the surface.
Newton is by far the game’s biggest hindrance, though. If you played the demo, you know that Newton likes to talk. Not only does he babble on, but you often have to stand still and listen to him. I was hoping this would only happen in the opening sequence but no; Newton doesn’t shut up. He talks and talks and talks. If there’s the slightest plot development, he’ll tell you. Not following your objective, Netwon’ll bring it up. If you so much as sneeze, boy, will he’ll let you know.
It doesn’t help that his voice over work is immensely irritating. If you think Portal 2’s Wheatley lays on the Britishness thick just wait until you hear Newton. He sounds like he’s trying to parody every line he delivers. Dialogue is also painstakingly drawn out. At one point a dragon stares you down and he shouts “Run!”You can’t actually move until it’s explained where you should run to and why you should run there. All the while the dragon stands there licking his lips.
Add in reused lines (in one sequence he literally repeats ‘stand still’ over and over without pause) and it gets to the point of farcical. He’ll even shout “Look behind you! Turn around!” in chase sequences, which is almost certain to get you killed. Worse yet, Newton’s gameplay segments often result in scanning massive areas for hidden power cores to charge a shockwave. You have to scour areas with a fine toothcomb. It’s head-bangingly dull and I was often tempted to throw in the towel.
Sadly things don’t pick up much when you push Newton aside. Eden Tomorrow feels assembled from pieces of different puzzles. It’s got a sweeping score of epic proportions that’s most often utilized when you’re plodding through the desert with nothing much going on. And there’s a whole lot of plodding; environments are massive but with very little to see. Some areas feel designed to pad the game out. It lasts an unwelcomely long 5 hours. As for the plot? You have to stop an A.I. construct known as Mother. Do you know how Newton comes to the conclusion she’s an A.I.? It’s because she’s called Mother. There’s no irony to it.
Ridley Scott wants his A.I. back.