Sci-fi games don't always have to be about big guns and marines fighting aliens, as ION LANDS' exploration adventure Phoning Home shows that there can still be some storytelling innovation in the genre.
The title might be reminiscent of a certain extraterrestrial being stranded on planet Earth and uttering the famous line "E.T. phone home", but this time it's an exploration robot called ION crash-landing on an alien world, and one can't help but feel watching an alternative version of Wall-E. Soon ION meets ANI, a female service unit, that is stranded there as well, further highlighting the influences of the Pixar animated movie. Having an A.I. from the crashed ship help out and prodding the robotic hero in the right direction of gathering resources and trying to find a way to contact home adds a third likeable character to a setting that is very hostile with all sorts of creatures making it difficult for the two to survive.
It's certainly a touching story and despite its cinema references feels surprisingly fresh in gaming. Gameplay revolves around crafting tools from resources, traversing the harsh surroundings, discovering clues to an alien civilization, but also solving puzzles and fighting enemies. In how far all these elements fit together to create a coherent whole remains to be seen, but suffice to say that the game looks gorgeous and sounds even better with some great voice acting and music, something that is rather impressive considering that it was done by a German indie developer and not a big studio.
The game is now available on PC with a 10% discount that ends on February 14, 6PM UTC. It's possible to buy it on its own, together with the soundtrack or get them separately.