Survival horror is a genre that has thrived with the indie scene in recent times. Small teams can help capture and replicate the classic feel of old school horror games, with titles like Stay out of the house, Faith, and murder house, being more recent examples. The genre shines when players are left in the dark and forced to piece together a puzzle with little to no information, and this is what makes it perfect for smaller development teams to work on. The ability to craft these wonderful experiences with minimal resources forces developers to look at how they might approach the story they wish to tell.
Signalis is a perfect example of what happens when an indie development team puts their focus in all the right areas while keeping sight of what makes for a good survival horror experience. Rose-Engine is the team behind the game, with it launching on modern consoles and PC on October 27th. Signalis is a love letter to classic horror games and features a lot of staples of the genre, including optional tank controls, limited ammo and health items, and classic puzzles that will put the player’s skills to the test. These elements mix well with a(?) chilling story, making for an experience that would fit in right beside the greats that came before it.
Signalis is a game that doesn’t reveal anything without a slew of cryptic messages and puzzles for the player to push through. Our first playthrough was around 13 hours long, including the copious amounts of notes taken as puzzles were tackled and solved. With 3 endings for players to find at the end of a short story, the run time may be perfect for those looking for a smaller adventure.
Signalis puts players in control of Elster, a replika who’s ship seems to have crash-landed on a strange, snow-covered planet. Elster soon realizes that the other member that was aboard the ship has gone missing. With no information about her current surroundings, Elster embarks on a journey filled with mystery and dread.
Throughout the story, players will stumble across notes and diaries from various characters that will give the player more information about the world around them. As the story unfolds, players will find themselves trying to put all the scrambled pieces together, and notes found later in game really go some way to drive home that feeling of unknown horror engulfing the world.
It is important that players are aware of what is going on around them, since the endings take into account the playstyle used during each run. A playthrough where Elster takes out every enemy and hordes items will have a different ending than one where she is more cautious.
Signalis is an isometric horror game that has you navigating narrow hallways while trying to find out what the next step to finding their crew mate is. Elster has a limited inventory and since puzzles may require multiple components, the 6 slots will fill up fast. Much like other classic survivor horror titles, safe rooms can be found, and each one will give players a place to save their game as well as store any unnecessary items. Signalis will automatically dispose of any items that no longer serve a purpose.
With limited resources, Combat is another puzzle that players will have to tackle. Once Elster enters a room, she can choose to either walk or run to her next destination. Running will run the risk of alerting an enemy of her presence. Walking on the other hand will allow you to sneak by. Should Elster get too close, then the monsters will let out a horrifying screech, and It’s up to the player to make the next move.
Elster can aim her gun at enemies and move at the same time, but her speed is greatly reduced. This means that if a player opts to fight the monster or is facing a boss, they will have to keep in mind the distance management to ensure they survive the encounter. Elster can push enemies away if they get too close, and has a stun rod to temporarily disable enemies and reposition herself. As players aim their weapons at enemies, a small square reticle will indicate if a shot will hit or not. If players let Elster focus her shot, then she will do more damage, but this means making sure that she has that breathing room to allow for that.
Players can also choose to run away from the monsters and, with a well-thought-out plan, this means chances are greater that they will make it to another encounter with a lot more resources available. To this end, utilizing the Map in the inventory screen is crucial to planning out escape routes as well as deciding where to go next. As Elster comes across different puzzles and rooms in the facility, the map will update itself accordingly. One complaint was the map not indicating what locked door required what specific key. This usually resulted in moments where I had to go through locked doors in search of the right one.
Certain puzzles will require players to gather different trinkets to piece it all together, while others will give players a simple explanation in the form of emails and letters from maintenance. An example of this is an electronic lock pick that is left in a door early in the game. There is a note right next to it that explains what it is for and even explains why it was just left there, and this bit of story telling really helps with world building. Pen and paper will be useful for players, as some puzzles will require reworking a certain image or even memorizing a certain radio frequency so that a sound can be transmitted to a specific lock. Signalis does a wonderful job at giving players just enough information to succeed without holding their hand the entire way.
Signalis is the best example of what classic survival horror can look like in the hands of people who love the genre. Players who love the genre should pick this up and prepare themselves for an unnerving experience that is bound to stay with them for a long time. Rose-Engine did a phenomenal job with Signalis and have proven that they are capable of creating a game that stands above the rest in the horror genre.
Have you had the chance to play Signalis, or are you interested in indie horror titles? Let us know in the comments or over on our discord!
- The pixel artwork enhances the eerie atmosphere
- Notes found throughout the game add more depth to the story
- Captures the feel of classic horror games without sacrificing its personality
- enemies can damage you simply by touch causing you to take unnecessary damage.
- The map does not feature as much information as it could.
Xavier grew up playing classics like Final Fantasy, Legend of Zelda, and Silent Hill, so the indie scene has been full of love letters for him.
A perfect day for him includes hours of grinding out levels and exploring creepy hallways in scary games.