Vortex: The Gateway – Steam Backlog Bonanza [Blaugust 8]

709 words.

Yesterday on the Steam Backlog Bonanza, I tried out a survival game from 2016 called Vortex: The Gateway which I got for $9 in a sale. (I think it’s probably a universal constant that all of the games in everyone’s backlog are games from a sale.)

Surviving on an alien planet that looks like a nice camping trip.

I only played for about 40 minutes because of a looming thunderstorm, but I tried the two different game modes. The first one is called the “story mode” where it plops you down on an alien planet and asks you to survive. It’s got all the standard survival mechanics; eating, drinking, chopping, gathering, building, and wandering monsters. The building mechanics are styled after The Forest, where you plop down a blueprint and then feed the materials into the blueprint one at a time to make a finished product. (That is my favorite method of building in survival games so far.)

I was able to build a campfire, cook some meat, drink some water, and kill all the wildlife around me. It seemed that I “won” the game in the first 15 minutes because I didn’t feel like my safety was threatened in the slightest after that. There were no resources I required, and I was given no story reason to move.

I imagine I would have eventually run out of food or water if I’d stayed there, and I imagine if I’d started looking around the area I might have found the reason I had been transported to an alien planet in the first place, but I was pressed for time with the looming thunderstorm and wanted to try the other game mode, so I started a new game.

The UI was serviceable if not amazing.

The second mode was a little more interesting to me, because I don’t recall seeing it before in a survival game. It was called the “survival mode,” and it was similar except you were stranded with a guy named Mike with an injured leg who couldn’t move. Your goal here was to keep Mike alive by bringing him food and water and so forth, and protecting him from occasional creatures that attacked. Mike was pretty chatty and talked to you whenever you returned and sometimes over a radio if you were too far away. It actually added a really interesting twist on the survival formula; I felt more invested in keeping Mike alive than if I had been by myself.

Of minor note here is that I did not see any “horror” elements in what was billed as a “survival horror” game. There were no jump scares or creepy tentacle monsters in the time I played.

To be honest, there are much better survival games out there. The aforementioned The Forest is one of them. ARK and 7 Days To Die are two others. This one looks like StormCube Games’ first project. (It turns out it was, though the team members have apparently worked on other titles before. They now have two followup games in which I would imagine they have learned from the mistakes of this game.) From that perspective, it wasn’t a bad game. But it still looked like a first-time game, almost a prototype. It needed a lot more polish before it could be considered a top-tier game.

One thing that did stand out to me, though, was a rousing piece of music on the title screen, in the vein of the WildStar theme. Much better than what you would expect from an indie game like this.

Will I play more? I doubt it. I liked the idea of keeping an NPC alive in the survival mode, but it’s just a bit too clunky to tolerate for long periods of time. I’m not sure I could say this game was worth the $9 I paid.

Live Stream - Vortex: The Gateway

Stream Production Notes: It was a quick stream that I started early because thunderstorms were on the horizon, and thunder rumbled throughout the recording. It turned out that the downpour began right as I ended the stream, but luckily the lightning passed me by. My favorite part of the game was talking to Mike.

Previously on the Backlog Bonanza: NEO Scavenger.

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