Corpse of Discovery
Reviewed on: PC (Exclusive)
You wake up, vision blurred from sleep, to orders inbound from a nearby intercom. A Corps official greets you and rallies you to complete this final mission like a good little lad so that your expectant family can soon welcome you home with warm embraces and tear-soaked cheeks. Corpse of Discovery starts out auspicious enough, but it’s soon clear this won’t be an uplifting tale.
This “walking-plus-jetpacking simulator” pits one space surveyor against the elements, and sadly, the game itself.
I should start by saying Corpse of Discovery isn’t exactly a bad game. I love the space helmet interface because I paradoxically felt claustrophobic while exploring such expansive areas. The persistent breathing acts almost as a reminder for the stakes in play while leaping across chasms and evading radiation. The ambient soundtrack adds an ominous tranquility to each planet, placating tension while subtly building it in your subconscious. CoD succeeds in its atmosphere and high-brow concept, but the burdensome technical issues and repetitive mechanics ultimately outweigh the good.
For an exploration game, I didn’t really feel rewarded for a greater investment of investigation. While strolling through the provisional base, there are some holograms and the occasional—and sometimes peculiar—laptop videos. One such video showcases parkour enthusiasts, which just feels misplaced. After playing through a few planetary exploration situations, the gameplay showed me pretty much everything it had to offer. There’s the occasional “side objective,” which is little more than a sentence or two of reaction to the environment. At no point did I really feel that I accomplished anything in terms of gameplay. The general narrative is kind of eerie, but it doesn’t have a solid connection until the end. I’m patient enough with a game taking its time to deliver the goods; the pacing here though just doesn’t work. Things start getting interesting further down the proverbial rabbit hole to a harrowing finale, and I admire Corpse of Discovery for those very eccentricities. There’s plenty of philosophical meat to chew upon once the credits roll, but the main thing going against the game is that I feel like I’ve been here before. I don’t just mean to say that every procedurally generated level ultimately feels the same—I mean that I’m pretty sure I saw this movie.
It also suffers from a debilitating amount of bugs. The greatest threat wasn’t some power-hungry antagonist nor some unspeakable horror—it was fighting the clipping, load issues and level-rendering problems. During my second mysterious outing, I leapt and bounded across crags in some vague zoological survey while A.V.A. orated cryptic statistics about explorers and family values. Amidst my traversal, I suddenly dropped through the hillside, plummeting to what I thought would be my demise—until I realized I was stuck in post-death purgatory, unable to proceed unless I manually loaded a checkpoint save file (which only worked some of the time). On top of that, in the same area, I continually had to stop and wait about a minute or so after exploring about 400 yards just so the region could finish rendering.
What it boils down to is that Corpse of Discovery just isn’t that fun to play, primarily because it doesn’t feel finished. More than anything, it feels like a slapdash demo with pretty cool atmosphere suffering from myriad technical issues and design flaws. Phosphor Games has an uphill battle here to make this title relevant, which is a shame because of its quirky beat and heady threads. CoD’s biggest narrative setback is that it follows so closely to inspiration that it feels unoriginal. I certainly can’t fault Phosphor Games for their imagination: Corpse of Discovery is weird and doesn’t argue the point. There’s an overall dryness to the humor and tension built throughout the game which emphasizes the indomitable human spirit. This game boldly goes where some men have gone before, and glitches through a planet or two along the way.