Prepare for a journey inspired by real-life polar exploration in The Pale Beyond. You’ll take on the role of Robin Shaw, a first mate hired by Captain Hunt as you travel to The Pale Passage where you will find a missing ship. Belluar Studios and Fellow Traveller have brought us one of the best narrative-driven survival simulation games that we’ve experienced so far. Here’s our spoiler-free review of The Pale Beyond.
Being an audiophile, I don’t usually start my reviews by praising the game’s sound design, but I’m giving this game the exception. The moment I launched The Pale Beyond, I was immediately pulled in by the soundtrack, bringing me into the frozen depths with the right amount of immersive audio.
The sound effects are thrilling that make you feel like you’re part of a real-life polar expedition. You can hear the deck creaking, the furnace in the boiler room, and the sailors coming together to eat dinner. I also liked the sailor shanties that you can hear in the background in the latter part of The Pale Beyond.
Although there is no voice acting which is a shame because the trailer has voiceovers, the soundtrack plus the atmospheric soundscapes make up for it, giving you a hair-raising experience.
Story & Progression
The story of The Pale Beyond follows Robin Shaw, an adventurer in search of a job, who is then recruited by Captain Hunt to become the first mate on his ship, the Temperance. The objective is to find the missing Viscount ship stranded on the icy shores.
Later on, Robin Shaw takes the reigns as the captain after finding out that Hunt has gone missing during the expedition (this is not a spoiler by the way, it’s literally written on their Steam page).
The game’s plot is effective as it encourages you to uncover various events as the story progresses through branches.
The Pale Beyond toys with your emotions as if you’re riding through waves. You will have to make tough decisions that have an impact on the story, like allocating resources to ensure your crew’s survival each week. There are also special scenes where you need to ransack rooms below the ship decks. Once you decide which equipment you will scavenge, the room you’re in will eventually be wrecked.
Gameplay and Resource Management
In The Pale Beyond, you need to take note of the following if you want to increase your chances of surviving the freezing cold:
- Decorum – This serves as your entire crew’s morale. If this drops to zero, expect the game to be over.
- Fuel – This is responsible for keeping your crew warm from the icy temperatures. Not having enough of this resource can lead to your crew getting Freezing and Frostbite effects.
- Food – This increases your crew’s chances of staying alive. If you lack this resource, your crew can get Malnourished, Scurvy, then eventually die. So you have to go on hunting expeditions to have enough food supply.
- Dogs – These are an important resource as well since they are frequently used by your crew to scout the area and hunt for prey around the ice.
You will have to tend to the sailors’ needs, so effective resource management is the key to keeping your crew afloat. Mismanaging resources can lead to the death of your crew members, which can be disheartening.
The Pale Beyond features an intriguing hand-drawn art style for its characters, each of them having its own flair. It also blends well with the 2.5D environment, which isn’t always easy to pull off, but it feels quite natural here, also thanks to how easy the UI is to navigate.
Writing your own captain’s log in the journal adds a personal touch to the overall story. Taking note of every scenario that happened in the past weeks gives you a wandering question of “What could have I done differently?”
If the crew’s Decorum hits zero, the game is over, and you will have to explore the story branches and revisit the week that hasn’t led to your crew’s pitfall. This can become repetitive, and it would have been better if there was a way to skip over events that you have already concluded.
We have a guide that will teach you how to disable the Decorum in the game’s settings if you’re have a hard time managing the crew’s morale.
Getting To Know The Crew
On board the Temperance, you will meet a lot of sailors with different backgrounds. There are some key characters called Specialists that will help you on your voyage to The Pale Beyond. The overall interaction with the crew takes a visual novel approach, through point-and-click dialogues. Also, the way you solve problems for the crew will be a factor in determining if they will remain loyal to you in the long run.
Every week, you as a captain will take on crew requests, where your leadership and decision-making skills will be tested. These requests vary from letting them keep their personal effects like weapons and food to resolving conflicts between the crewmates.
There are some tasks that will require a number of sailors so it’s best to handle your crews’ requests first before sending them out on a hunting expedition.
The Pale Beyond has an amazing and immersive soundtrack that brings the characters and events to life. You’ll grow attached to the characters and experience a wild ride of emotions as you play.
Even if you finish the main story, you’ll be curious about what other story branches you can explore had you done things differently. There might be instances in your playthrough where some of your sailors will actually die during unfortunate events.
Some characters you’ll love, while others you’ll hate, and the game will challenge your decision-making skills especially when it comes to resource management. Overall, The Pale Beyond is a unique and emotional experience that’s worth playing.
What did you think of our Pale Beyond review? Share your thoughts in the comments below.
This review is based on the PC version of The Pale Beyond. The key was provided by Bellular Studios and Fellow Traveller.