I wake up in a vat. Cables are floating around me, and through the oxygen bubbles and blue liquid, I manage to see a monitor counting down.
Either I just escaped The Matrix, or I’ve emerged from a deep cryosleep.
Seconds later I’m laying on the floor, coughing and disoriented. The coughing quickly passes, but the disorientation sticks with me throughout my entire time with P.A.M.E.L.A.
Pamela is a sci-fi “first-person shooter open world survival horror” currently on Steam Early Access. You are a “Sleeper” – one of the residents of the utopian city of Eden. Well, former utopian city. It’s kind of a mess right now.
Someone is talking to me; a woman by the sounds of it, but I’m not really listening. I’m far too busy trying to figure out how to open the trashcan in front of me and pick up the health hypo inside.
There are so many buttons and menus and tutorial windows popping up I… Wait, hello? What am I supposed to do?! Helloooooo…
Damn. Now what am I supposed to do?
Apparently, what I’m supposed to do is explore and pick up everything I can find.
Pamela might be labeled as a “first-person shooter open world survival horror,” but the emphasis is really on just survival.
You need to manage your health, stamina, fatigue, hunger, thirst and inventory space. You do that by regularly eating, drinking, injecting and generally avoiding trouble.
Trouble comes in the form of zombie-like creatures who used to be the other residents of Eden. I’m not entirely sure what happened to them, but they aren’t glad to see me, let me tell you.
The combat I experienced was mostly melee. You and your opponents dance around each other, swapping punches until one of you falls over. I’m not a big fan of the combat in Pamela. It’s clumsy, very repetitive and the punching (and even the shooting) lacks impact.
At some point in my aimless wandering in the dark, I find a pistol. After more wandering around some more, I decide to try my new gun on a cute little flying robot I come across.
The little bastard immediately summons a Sentinel – a hulking android that acts as a sort of peacekeeper. They tend to appear whenever you trigger an alarm or do something naughty.
Firing my entire stock of ammo into it and punching it a few times didn’t seem to bother the mechanical man in the slightest, and it kills me with relative ease.
On top of being a first-person survival game (I omitted the horror part since the game isn’t scary in the slightest), it’s also a rogue-lite of sorts. At least, it has rogue-lite elements.
When you die – you die. You don’t reload a save, but you also don’t lose all your progress. You respawn as a new Sleeper – another occupant of the futuristic city of Eden.
But before you jump right back into the confusing survival sim that is Pamela, you get to upgrade your new character with the XP you earn in your previous run to make your second life a little easier.
I wake up in a vat in a room right next to the one I first started. This time no one is talking to me, and I quickly make my way to where I was killed. Items don’t respawn when you die, so looting my predecessor’s dead body seems like the logical thing to do.
Sadly, I never make it. Items may not respawn, but enemies do.
That means that every time you die, the game gets a little bit tougher. On the one hand, that’s a little bit annoying, since your upgrades don’t balance out this new challenge. On the other, it does force you to pick different routes and try new things, which I did.
I got to see a new beautiful area where zombies and sentinels were fighting each other (guess who won). I found new items, tried my hand at hacking and even got to upgrade some of my gear.
However, through it all, one thing kept bothering me – I had no idea what the heck was going on or what I was supposed to do. Some people might enjoy this lack of direction and the freedom to just explore, but I like to at least have some overarching goal apart from “don’t die.”
Maybe it’s because I missed that tiny bit of exposition at the beginning of the game, or perhaps it’s because the developers are more focused on polishing all the many gameplay mechanics instead of on delivering the story. Whatever the reason, I failed to connect with Pamela.
It doesn’t help that the game has so many menus, stats, and tutorials to keep track of, or that there’s nothing exciting to do in the first few hours apart from exploring huge, empty environments.
It’s hard for me to recommend getting in the game at this at this stage. NVYVE Studios obviously know exactly how they want Pamela to play, but I found very little to keep me engaged. Hopefully, as development progresses, there will be more things to experience in the game.
We’ll be back with a full review once Pamela escapes Early Access. If you don’t want to wait and are eager to explore Eden, you can already play it on Steam.Some of our posts include links to online retail stores. We get a small cut if you buy something through one of our links. Don't worry, it doesn't cost you anything extra.