Developed by NVYSE Studios, P.A.M.E.L.A. is a sci-fi survival game recently made available via Steam’s Early Access program. Events are viewed from a first-person perspective and gameplay elements resemble a cross between Metroid Prime‘s location scans and Bioshock‘s urban-fantasy environments.
What Is P.A.M.E.L.A.?
The title is set in the fallen city of Eden: a futuristic, once-utopia now overrun by its deranged citizens. Players experience the world through the eyes of a “sleeper,” an individual who evaded the initial cataclysm thanks to cryosleep. Awakened and dropped into utter chaos, your task is to navigate Eden and survive its anarchy long enough to find answers as to how things could’ve gone so, so wrong.
In contrast to its dazzling, hyper-futuristic U.I, the title’s gameplay feels remarkably restrained. Heavy emphasis is placed on building ambience. Dim corridors and a minimal score magnify the impact of every stimulus you encounter. Outside of tracks that accompany enemy confrontation, most in-game time is spent listening to your echoing boots bouncing off cavernous facility walls. This rhythm is occasionally broken by a whiz of your scan-gun, the beeps of an automated cleaning-bot or the guttural hiss of a citizen who has long since lost their humanity.
The developers credit Bioshock as one of their major influences and it shows. Both works include failed utopias which serve as centrepieces to demonstrate the dangers of over-consumption. Much of P.A.M.E.L.A.’s backstory is currently unknown, but our playthrough yielded some answers. In-game documents suggest that an over-dependence on pharmaceuticals in tandem with toxic societal pressures led to civil unrest.
These design choices suggest that NVYSE Studios intends to craft a product rooted in atmospheric storytelling. Many games don’t trust players to become invested in the narrative without cinematics and scripted segments to explain why they should care. P.A.M.E.L.A. instead opens with a five-second scene of your avatar drowning, a fade to black, the sound of spilling water and then finally your vision returns to reveal that you’ve just been expelled from an artificial womb. From there, you’re on your own. You’ll have to scan every trash can and locker just to find something to eat. Sometimes you’ll find stale crackers, but other times you might find a public health notice that warns of new side-effects attributed to a popular drug. On your way to the next area, you then might pass the inert corpses of some disfigured citizens as if they were mannequins in a Halloween store.
Regardless of what you encounter, the priority remains to survive. Any plans to decode Eden’s history or otherwise will hinge on your ability to stay hydrated and fed. That isn’t to say combat is negligible. Weapons, bio-enhancements and special abilities play a role in self-preservation, it’s just that the bare-necessities are just that. Although there’s an unhealthy amount of corrupted humans wandering through Eden, the long spaces between them mean you better stock up on juice and crackers. We know we’ll be.
Those looking to experience a futuristic take on Bioshock with hints of Metroid’s focus on ambience can purchase Early Access to P.A.M.E.L.A. via Steam.