I’m not the biggest fan of hardcore survival games; it’s not my kind of fun to spend a lot of time in menus and messing around with resources, crafting items while simultaneously not being able to carry all the resources. However, even if Expedition Zero has some of that, it mixes it nicely with horror and exploration elements and I enjoy most of what I played in the demo.
Expedition Zero sends you into an anomaly zone in the heart of Siberia. A soviet research facility did something here, and now it’s been blocked off and left to rot, but you’re here, for some reason, looking to uncover the truth and then escape.
After sneaking up to the wall that blocks the way out of the anomaly zone, I meet the only NPC that isn’t trying to kill me in this game. He passes on the task of uncovering data about what’s happening in the forest not far from there. Travelling there with a rifle, a handful of ammo and a flashlight, I soon discovered that strange creatures were following me from tree to tree as I explored the abandoned campsites. Sometimes they’d attack, and I would fight them off; often, it seemed best to move quickly from destination to destination while attempting not to let the rustles of trees above or the creatures’ weird growls scare me too much.
The sound design in Expedition Zero is excellent, so the audio around me was often scarier than seeing these creatures hanging from trees. They have glowing eyes, four limbs and looks like a bat and human combined. They turned out not to be the biggest threat in Expedition Zero, which is instead the cold, harsh conditions and a lack of a big enough battery for my torch.
I didn’t click onto how all of the games’ systems were working at first, but as you explore, the cold will deplete your suits defensives, while using your torch or scanner to track areas of interest in the forest will use a battery. You can charge the battery at camps, but charging your suit back up proved a bit harder. At one point, I was mere seconds away from death as I realised there was an oven in a church that was letting me start a fire if I had a piece of wood, which, fortunately, I had picked up earlier. Pairing this with the crafting machine there let me create a module that turns heat into energy for my suit, and I had a way to save my life. A similar moment happened to me later, and I was left being more scared of the cold in Expedition Zero than the monsters in the dark.
I didn’t finish the demo properly, even if I was trying. As I was exploring for what I think was the last data point I needed to find, I died to the cold and respawned at a save I’d made right near the start of the demo. I learnt that there’s no autosave; you need to stop at camps and sleep in beds to save! I’m not sure if Expedition Zero is totally for me, but I am intrigued to see how the whole game plays out when it releases on March 24th.
The demo for Expedition Zero will be playable for everyone during Steam Next Fest (21-28 February).