The Good: Enhanced visuals look great, foreboding atmosphere, fun climbing, stamina meter makes you think quicker, combat can be fun when it works
The Bad: Very short, so-so story, combat is frustrating when it doesn't work, stamina being drained by ash in the air makes exploring frustrating, not really worth helping survivors
Survival games without the horror are hard to come by, and I Am Alive has a lot of potential. Being stranded after a natural disaster that pretty much wipes out the planet you are trying to find your wife and daughter after getting injured and trekking across the country back to your apartment. You stumble upon a little girl that you end up helping along with her current caretaker. The story has some interesting points, but ultimately isn't all that interesting. The plot doesn't thicken very much and right when it should the game ends. What we are left with is a disappointing cliffhanger.
There are two main elements in the game: Exploration and combat. Each has a huge flaw that makes the game a tad frustrating, but not so bad to where you can't look past it. The exploration is based around a stamina meter that slowly depletes while you climb, combat, run, jump, and pretty much anything you do. This is fine and all except when you are down on the ground in the ash. The meter slowly depletes until you are dead or climb up high out of the ash. This is the most frustrating thing in the game and makes you not want to explore around and help people. Climbing is just fine using this because it makes you think quickly and decide whether or not risking your stamina capacity is worth getting a bullet or healing item. If you start to deplete too much while climbing you can use pitons to recharge or items that give you stamina and stamina capacity. If you run out of stamina you will go into an effort mode where you quickly tap a button and your capacity starts depleting. If you deplete this you're dead. Not once did I ever completely deplete my capacity so don't worry about that being hard.
Secondly comes the combat. Bullets are extremely rare, but you have to intimidate enemies by pointing your gun at them. They will put their hands up but enemies with guns will not. You need to use strategy and decide who to kill first. Some times an enemy will get cocky and speak up. If you kill him first the others may surrender. If not you can order them to back up and knock them into fire or off high ledges. If you put your gun down they will start charging. If you are out of bullets you need to be careful and not pull the trigger or they will know you're empty. This isn't as clever as it sounds because in execution there are problems. If you are completely out of bullets you are pretty much screwed if there is more than on enemy with a gun. You can walk up to him and surprise kill him, take his bullet, shoot another gun wielder, but then you're out of bullets again. You may have two more guys two kill with knives so what do you do? That's the flaw. Each scenario is set up with really only one outcome. Later one the combat gets really frustrating despite having a bow with retrievable arrows. These arrows are so rare that I only found three in the whole game. The combat is great on paper but slightly flawed in execution.
When you help people you will get extra retries, but there are items you need to find to help them. Some want rarer items than others, but in the end the ash issue kept me from exploring everywhere and helping anyone. They abused this stamina meter and should have held back a bit. That's pretty much all there is to the game. You rotate around exploration and combat, but in the end the game could have been a lot more. I love the idea of the combat, but it really needs work in the next game.
Despite those two major flaws I Am Alive is entertaining and when you aren't freely exploring the game is quite fun. The atmosphere is foreboding but the story isn't as interesting as it could have been. At least the PC gets some enhanced visuals with anti-aliasing and anisotropic filtering so the game doesn't look as ugly. For the small price I Am Alive is worth this purchase, but most people may want to download a demo first before buying.
(Based on PC version)