Signalis, from developer rose-engine and published by Humble Games, is an excellent new survival horror title that released just before Halloween. It’s out on PC and consoles, and we checked out the PlayStation 4 version.
Dubbed as a “classic survival horror experience”, we thought that Signalis was going to feel overly familiar, but it managed to delight by applying tried and true mechanics to a nail-biting atmosphere in an original world full of lore and tension. And while it may be like Resident Evil 2 under the hood, it never feels like you’re playing something that’s merely copying the classics.
That starts with the setting for Signalis – a dystopian future with sci-fi and cosmic horror elements. Mankind has opened a door they shouldn’t have, and terrible creatures now threaten our existence. Sure, it may have all the keycards and ammo shortages that other games had, but traversing a haunting mining colony on the fringes of space with oppressive rulers hanging over you still feels very different.
Part of that is the visual delivery – not opting for fixed cameras or a standard 3D look and feel that would make it look like other games, Signalis sports an interesting combination of an overhead perspective with gorgeous and atmospheric pixel art, PS1-era style cutscenes and PC-esque first person adventure game sections. There’s a unique sense of style to it, and despite the mashup of styles it feels like a coherent whole that’s very effective at creating a sense of dread as you traverse this faraway location. It does hand in hand with a well-written story too, though it’s better to explore it first-hand rather than get spoilers here beyond the fact that you’re a clone that was sent to this abandoned mining location, only to find that lots is amiss there (and elsewhere in the game’s universe).
What makes things even scarier in Signalis is that bad guys are extremely tough to kill – which isn’t saying that combat is hard, but that you need to burn their bodies after combat if you don’t want them to come back to life. The problem? The resources you need to do that are as scarce as the ammo is. And with resources being so scarce, it’s hard to place any kind of trust in the other survivors you run into.
As with other classic horror survival games, it can be wise to steer yourself away from combat, which will regularly lead to puzzles you have to solve in order to progress. Most have been designed quite well, and feel interwoven with the story – which is well-padded with tons of world lore that makes this game world extremely worthwhile to explore. Signalis is a terrific indie take on a popular genre and features a world we’d gladly revisit.