AWAY: The Survival Series [official site], if you can pardon the unwieldy name, looks kind of cool. For a video game starring an animal, anyway. In it, you're a sugar glider. It's a possum that's unrelated to flying squirrels, but operates a lot like one. Naturally, finding your place in the food chain makes for some very relevant stealth-action gameplay. Eat that dragonfly! Hide from that dingo! Is that a Banded California Snake? I don't know. Looks dangerous. Stop tailing that condor, little sugar glider. Are you trying to test the autosave?
Yes, I hinted that I'm not fond of games with animals as main characters. But I'm broadening my horizons to the environmental storytelling possibilities. Take this game, for instance. Normally, seeing a banged-up wind turbine on a beach isn't much cause for alarm. But in AWAY, they're scarecrows of a civilization (a human civilization) that did too little too late to curb their own extinction. In any regular old first-person shooter, finding an ammo crate would arm you with a way to eliminate another player or character from the map. But in AWAY, a blue crab is sidestepping up to a dungeness crab over a box of ammo and it doesn't look like any kind of loot crate. Hitch a ride on the back of an elk in the middle of a lightning storm. Watch your home go up in flames in a fire tornado.
AWAY has nature documentary narration revealing the storyline. They even snagged an award-winning musical composer that's experienced with nature documentaries. The game won a Best in Play award from GDC in March.
Inspired by nature documentaries, AWAY is the first game from indie studio Breaking Walls. Three years in the making, Breaking Walls is made up of veterans that have worked on Assassin's Creed, Prince of Persia, and Far Cry. Obviously some Ubisoft Montreal ex-pats doing their thing.
AWAY: The Survival Series is coming to PlayStation 4 and PC. Breaking Walls is working on a VR expansion, too, where you get to explore the world of AWAY through the eyes of a bearded vulture.