Top positive review
Highly Recommended - Fun, Creepy and Engaging
Reviewed in the United States on May 21, 2017
I'm nearing the end of the game (about 23hrs in) and felt like I could write a pretty cohesive review at this stage, though I'll likely update when the story concludes.
As an overall synopsis, the game is excellently put together and very enjoyable from the start. Graphics are superb in the environments you spend most of your time within - Talos I's interior is beautifully appointed and the lighting is excellent across the board.
Cut scenes are average and character animations in those are sub-bar, but I expected this given it's Bethesda (think Fallout 4 and Wolfenstein which both have the exact same blend between excellent landscape/interior graphics and awful character animations. As a minor example of where the attention to detail hasn't been placed in the character animations, I noticed some texture popping in within the minimal cut-scenes (e.g. when you administer medicine to Mikhaila in one of the side missions).
Where this game shines is in its' atmosphere, gameplay and sound. The soundtrack, and effects, are superior to just about any game I've played this year; a masterclass in how to create edgy, creepy atmosphere (lots of random noises, creaking, squeaking) and make the player immersed in the environment.
Gameplay is really smooth and the skill tree is wonderfully put together and easy to navigate. As a comparison, I found fallout 4 to be clunky and unintuitive in navigation, control and gameplay. This is a vast improvement over that system, albeit it's a similar structure.
The ability to recycle junk you find around Talos I and on bodies of crew and aliens is a key component to gameplay (and success within the game), and something you'll want to pay attention to. Bullets are hard to come by and easily spent, so the ability to recycle junk into various forms of matter, in order to use the Fabricators to create bullets, med-kits, suit repairs and other useful objects, is incredibly important to your progression through the story.
Similarly, the ability to upgrade your own skills, as well as the features of your suit and Psychoscope (and scanner you find a few hours into the story), is nicely put together and impressive as you start to acquire new ones.
The 'aliens' are a mixed bag. There are a couple of forms of mimics (standard and "greater") and the Psychoscope helps you scan those and other aliens in order to learn more about them, AND (importantly) unlock the skills they possess. Phantoms come in (I think) 3 forms (e.g. voltaic, and then there are other beasts (Technopaths, Telepaths, Weavers and Cystic Nests) and even Poltergeists (the first you encounter in "Crew Quarters") to contend with.
The first encounter with a Poltergeist is spooky as hell as things start vibrating in the room and it lifts you up. These are all vulnerable to bullets/wrench attacks, so the Shotgun and pistol are highly valuable weapons to have. The weapon upgrade system is something you should also pay attention to. The ability to increase damage, accuracy, dampen recoil and so on, will help you deal with larger, less vulnerable enemies faster. The downside to this is that you will invariably find yourself running back and forth to areas to collect recyclable materials just to run to the recycler and fabricator nearest to you to manufacture. This does, as the game wears on, become a bit of a pain. There were times for instance, that I was in the Arboretum (top of the ship) and had to travel back to other areas just to find some materials I could recycle. That took about 30-40mins all for some ammo and no story progression.
In terms of the PSI skills/attacks, I've so far found the Explosive ones (e.g. Kinetic Blast) to be more useful (e.g. the "Mimic" ability is very rarely of use so I'd suggest foregoing that in favor of something that will do some severe damage to enemies).
As far as the story goes, it is fairly intriguing, but for such a long game I felt there should maybe have been more cut-scenes, more regular story progression to keep it interesting and less side missions randomly pop up as a big story progression is unlocked. Most are not even cut-scenes at all, but rather you watching videos that Morgan/Alex made in the past. The "lost" memories that are revealed as you progress create some twists through the story and some are certainly interesting.
In summary, on the upside, gameplay is excellent, in-game graphics are fantastic, atmosphere is creepy, chilling and wonderfully put together. The skill tree and upgrade system, recycling/fabrication process are superior mechanisms that are intuitive and rewarding.
On the downside, gameplay can be repetitive, side missions are not always fun or rewarding or indeed, well-timed, and the game feels longer than it probably should be by a number of hours (of course that is subjective, I just felt it should be at a conclusion around now, being 23hrs in and not having completed all of the sub-missions.
Overall, I have to recommend the game, it's a really different title for Bethesda and was innovative, fun and pretty intuitive. Definitely worth a $59 tag in terms of gameplay, value and length of title.