The survival horror genre is not for everybody, but some titles are too intriguing to ignore. This is how it feels to come across Signalis by the team at Rose-Engine. Developers need to follow certain rules need to be when creating a good survival horror game, and this title follows them closely. However, it still stands apart with its take on visuals, sound, and narrative which is more than enough to risk the fear. With the endless potential provided by sci-fi elements, there’s a lot to investigate and horrify within Signalis. How far will you go?
Reading The Signals
Sci-fi can be overly complex, especially when it starts making up its own science. That’s why it needs to pace itself so the audience can keep up. Despite all the new ideas introduced in Signalis, there’s a clear story to follow. You play as Elster, a sophisticated android who resembles an adult woman. She performs maintenance duties on interstellar ships during voyages of exploration and surveillance. After her ship crashes, she investigates a nearby structure only to uncover a mysterious tome named The King In Yellow. After picking it up, she finds herself in a desolate facility ravaged by an unknown infestation with the goal of finding someone named Alina. Although she’s not a combat android, she’ll need to take up arms in order to continue her search.
When working with radios and any sort of connection, the stronger the signal, the better. Signalis brings across a lot of strengths through gameplay and presentation. It starts off with some pretty nice aesthetics. It has the PS1 horror feel while still having a modern style to it. The characters have rigid and precise movements which sell them as androids, not humans. By contrast, the enemies have sharp and erratic movements and you never feel safe even when you’re carrying a shotgun.
The distinct lack of music adds to the overall tone of isolation and dread. It also highlights the various sounds and ambient effects which create a rich atmosphere, and whenever there’s silence, the fear grows greater.
Then there are the recognizable survival-horror controls. The fact that Elster is not a battle android sells the idea that she’s totally against her element. This point is further strengthened when other androids show more combat prowess and those that are made for it are terrified by what’s going on. You can give Elster natural or tank-like controls, but both show her cautious nature. Whenever she does have a weapon, the controls make her wield it as if she’s trying to ensure that she’ll land a hit. To add to this, she has no unarmed defense when it comes to combat except to run and hide.
Puzzles And Combat In Signalis
Another aspect of the slow pace of this horror is the puzzle-solving. Even though Elster is trying to stay alive and look for someone, she’s also trying to understand what’s happening around her. In order to do this, you’ll need to guide her around the different areas to find and learn as much as you can.
There are documents providing clues in cryptic ways as well as those providing lore to this sci-fi world. There are very few characters that you can talk to and very few of them are stable enough to help you. This is why the notes tie everything together and give you insight into characters who were still of sound mind. All of this feeds into finding the clues you need to access different areas and collect the items you need to understand the situation even better. Every little piece of the puzzle that you collect is satisfying and your map is helpful enough to record all areas and points of interest so you don’t lose track.
Finally, there’s the survival part of the survival horror in combat. The base enemy type is zombie-like androids that walk aimlessly around contained areas. Some are glitchy while others are solid, but all of them have an unsettling air about them. They frequently appear along your path with the intent to target and hunt you down. This means that there will be times when you have to fight and there’s only so much prep you can do. You need to balance your weaponry with disposable melee and determine which fights you can’t avoid. Above all else, you need to value your own health as each careless move could be a fatal mistake.
Losing Contact With Signalis
Waves are fickle things, and a strong signal can sometimes drop without precedent and destroy a connection. Signalis maintains a solid network in general, but one thing disrupts it even after you get used to it. I’m talking about the inventory system.
Despite being an android, Elster can carry little, literally having space for six items at a time. However, one or two slots will always be full of weapons and spare ammo. Then there are multiple keys or pieces of broken objects that take up multiple slots. This means there will be moments of a lot of back and forth as you try to make sure you have space for the story-related items.
Luckily, there are orange storage boxes that are connected to each other and can hold quite a lot, but you’ll need to make multiple trips to them as need be. You’ll likely have to give up carrying too many health items which forces you to be even more cautious.
Signalis Is Scary Good
Signalis is a 3D isometric survival horror game about a maintenance android looking for someone amidst cosmological horror. It has a high-quality presentation, and fitting gameplay in terms of puzzles and combat. There’s rich world-building through atmosphere and text, this is a sci-fi universe with mysteries you want to risk uncovering. The slow pace works well, but it’s extended by the very limited inventory space that encourages a lot of backtracking. Despite all this, if you’re looking for an intriguing scare, you should tune in to this signal.