Phosphor Game Studio’s Corpse of Discovery has you weighing risk versus reward.
Corpse of Discovery released on Steam earlier this week, and at PAX Prime I had the pleasure of getting some hands on time with the game, as well as the opportunity to speak with Phosphor Game Studios Co-Founder and Corpse of Discovery Creative Director Chip Sineni about the evolution of the story of the game, the creation process, and what it means to him.
Corpse of Discovery is a first person planetary exploration game that touches on some very deep themes, including loss, identity, sacrifice, and the ever-present struggle of balancing work and personal life, in the most extreme setting possible – outer space. Corpse of Discovery is a sci-fi twist on the Corps of Discovery, a real unit of the U.S. Military that operated in the 1800’s. Only, you know, in space.
The game is full of existential dilemmas, with the player assuming the role of an astronaut traveling across a multitude of stunning procedurally generated landscapes on his “final job,” which includes exploring planets and surviving a variety of environmental hazards, with the ultimate goal of getting home to his family. “One last job” is the primary villain of the game, with retirement dangled over the head of your character during the course of gameplay. Meanwhile, you receive regular messages from home, reminders of everything you are missing over the course of time.
The game doesn’t just give the player a task to complete, it also gives the player an incentive to complete the task – outside of just beating the game, of course.
Throughout the game the character is constantly reminded of what they have given up in order to complete their mission, with the question of “was it worth what I sacrificed?” constantly resonating as a theme in the game. You meet an AVA “AssistBot” that accompanies your character on the journey and constantly reminds you of your importance to the Corps, effectively capturing the struggle of importance of work and importance of family.
Sineni stated that the game originally was not intended to be so story-heavy, but that through the course of development it had struck such a personal nerve with him that the team decided to make the story a more integral part of the overall gaming experience. The story of Corpse of Discovery was heavily influenced by Sineni’s experiences as a developer, spending long hours away from his family. In fact, Sineni incorporated his family into the game with imagery and voice-overs.
On the Steam page, the company outlines how the game makes you reexamine your priorities, stating “Corpse of Discovery looks at our lives under a symbolic microscope and examines the inner workings of the choices we make, ultimately culminating in the crucial question, “What sacrifices will we make to be successful?” As you struggle to complete each mission for the Corps, you are forced to grapple with your humanity, who you are as a parent, a spouse, an employee, and a human being.”
Most people can relate to the concept of sacrifice, be it leaving their families or jeopardizing their personal lives for work. Success is something that must usually must be earned, with Corpse of Discovery forcing you to pause and ask “at what cost?”